In the quest to give students the tools to secure a successful career, I believe our public schools forget about teaching them what happens once they achieve it.
My friend Maria, a political lobbyist, said it best: “I see students in school today who say that they want to make money. But I ask them: what are you going to do once you have that money?”
Many people are left stranded at a financially successful point in their lives, never having thought about what comes after the stable, robust paycheck.
Similarly, many experienced globetrotters don’t think thoroughly about what comes after their long-awaited journey. We spend a lot of time and money planning our trips, which can lead us to believe that the trip is the end in itself.
In reality, coming home is only the beginning. You’ve had a wonderful trip and learned so much, but what are you going to do with what you’ve learned?
One of the most fulfilling ways to put your traveling experience into the context of a bigger, more meaningful picture is to share it with others.
Most of us come home with great tools for sharing our experience: gifts, stories, hundreds of photos.
The real connections are made from the thoughtful reflections on your experience. Recently one of my friends gave a slideshow presentation about her internship in Senegal to forty of her friends and family at home.
At the end, she summarized by stating several things she had learned: that poverty is not always obvious. That Africa is not hopeless. That you never know what people have been through. That we should share what we have.
These are small but profound lessons. It’s more than ego to tell our stories to others – it’s a responsibility. Education and travel are privileges not enjoyed by everyone. It presents us with an obligation to not let our knowledge rest inside us to wither and fade away.
Ideas for Sharing
Your trip may not have been long or exotic. But you inevitably grew from being in a new culture and place, and what you took is what you also have the power to give.
- Put together a thoughtful collection of your fifty best photos from your trip, and share those photos’ stories to any willing family or friends.
- Keep a trip blog, but use it to reflect on larger issues and themes as well as your everyday experiences.
- Reach a wider audience by writing articles and stories.
- Talk to high school teachers and youth group leaders, who are often thrilled to host young guest speakers who have an interesting story or lesson to share.
In Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency even has a Youth Speakers Program – you tell them that you are interested in speaking about your international experience, and they provide you with the resources and booking services.
Ultimately the world is about something bigger than us.
It’s about constantly and actively seeking to make our communities, countries, and world a better place – righting injustices, caring for self, others, and the environment, and actively participating and cooperating in community life.
Traveling is a profound and powerful experience. But without passing on our knowledge, without sharing our new insights with those who cross our paths, it becomes emptier and its full meaning is lost.
We cannot underestimate the power of sharing these things that we learn.
So don’t just go back to your old life or keep your trip to yourself when you come home – use what you’ve learned to its full extent. Share what your travels have taught you, and you are making the world a better place.
How do you share your travels? Share your ideas in the comments!