The power of learning through travel is amazing and awe-inspiring and where possible, should be considered on our agenda to understand what makes people and different cultures tick and generally have an appreciation of how various cultures had their moments of glory and how transient these moments may be.
We have been geared to value learning through reading (studies and education), reflection (double loop learning), doing (action learning) and the benefits of experiential learning have been lauded.
Whilst all these modes of learning are vital and an integral part of life and necessary for our development, a recent trip to China opened up avenues of learning that I could not have imagined possible. It brought home to me something that I inherently valued and treasured- travel- but it has probably been the first time that I have looked at travel in the light of a mode of learning. Previously it has always been in the realm of experiences and awe rather than learning.
One has read about the remarkable Ming and other dynasties, the Great Wall of China, the Three Gorges Dam Project, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Warriors and other major highlights of China. We have even seen videos and photos of the sites. However, immersing oneself in the moment, and going back in time to reflect on what made the Emperors and other rulers visualise such monumental thoughts makes one understand modern China. It also allows one to see how countries and people have ambitions for bigger and better things. Seeing the largesse and overpowering Three Gorges Dam opened my eyes to why a country can think big- after all, this was the country that built the Great Wall- so ambitious projects and undertakings must be in the countries psyche.
Reflecting on this and other experiences, I now can see why environmental conservationists have this burning desire for preservation of nature for generations to come. Seeing the whales and seals swimming and basking freely in the icy Antarctica waters and the penguins coming up to humans without fear, as it is their habitat and they know it, I realised the confluence of humans and nature and the need to cohabit without destroying nature and other beings.
Reaching into the wilderness of the Andes and coming upon the sight of Machu Picchu made me realise the ambitions of Incas to reach to the stars and build such a wonderful monument in the remoteness of the jungles of South America. The experience was so uplifting that no amount of reading about the archaeological site would substitute for breathing the air and stepping on those mystic grounds. Immersed in the pure air of the lofty mountains one could feel what air quality must mean to us in an industrialised world.
How can one not be in awe of the Egyptians when one sees the pyramids, the Indians when one first sets sights on the Taj Mahal, the French when one sees the Eiffel Tower, the Canadians when one goes atop the CN tower, the Americans when one sees Cape Canaveral, the Arabs when one sees the transformation of the deserts into modern metropolis such as Al-Ain and Abu Dhabi, the Romans when one sees the Colosseum or the Dutch when one sees the Zuider Zee.
And how can one not wonder at the power of nature when one sees the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, Uluru (Ayers Rock), the East African Rift Valley, the Ruwenzori Mountains, the Niagara Falls, the Three Gorges and Antarctica.
Zebras, lions and giraffes co-existing with their natural habitat in Africa, butterflies fluttering from flowers to flowers in Uganda, the beauty of the wilderness, untouched by humans, is something one needs to treasure and find ways to preserve.
But behind these natural and man-made wonders comes the real message- we are here to co-exist with nature and preserve the natural and man-made wonders for future generations. Behind every culture are stories of ambition and achievement, but also of destruction and decay.
Can we learn from the highs and lows of the various civilisations?
There will always be the debate on what is right- the damming of the waters of the Yangtze River and majestic Three Gorges must be weighed against the needs of the energy, flood mitigation, navigation needs of a country in the throes of phenomenal development. Seeing first-hand the needs of the country and immersing oneself in the moment, makes one comprehend the immensity of the decision- and its positive and not so positive outcomes. Tasmania saw the battles to save the Gordon and Franklin Rivers flora and fauna from the effects of building dams for power generation, and a sight worth beholding for future generations.
By walking through the historical sites, one cannot help but feel the need to do something to make this a better world- to understand cultures, people and learn to appreciate the diversity in human beings- and play an active part in this preservation.
Walking through the crowded streets in mega cities of the world, I understand why people migrate to other places for a better life, why they leave behind family and friends and have to fend for themselves in countries at first alien to them.
I see the need to assist those newcomers into foreign lands to assimilate into the culture of their chosen country. I also see the need to build confidence for those who may feel that their culture is being eroded through migration.
This has been the most powerful outcome of travel to me.
I am not sure why it has been this trip to China that has triggered such deep emotions in me as I have always felt invigorated and uplifted by every journey I have made over six decades.
Maybe age (and hopefully wisdom) has played some part in this revelation.
It has been revealing enough for me to add travel in the Learning component of the “Earning, Learning and Giving” 3+1+1=10 life work model ( climpacheco1.com ) that I now live and advocate.