July 24th, 2008
I feel the need to clearify a few of the thoughts in a recent post – the one about why you go abroad. I seem to have scared a people with that ‘leave your friends and family’ line. (I meant it.) And what exactly did I mean by saying that traveling wasn’t about “seeing new sights.” (It’s about so much more.)
Leaving is not abandoning. Take a computer with you. Scrounge for internet. Take pictures. Share your experiences. Cutting all ties from your comfort would take some serious resolve but it would ruin most people’s sanity. But I did mean leave. And let’s be honest, the reason you leave is so that you can come back with a greater appreciation and understanding of both who you are and where you came from. Maybe you won’t come back, but that’s the usually the initial intention.
Here’s another idea to augment this whole concept of ‘leaving’. You are born knowing nothing. You learn from your surroundings. The more you learn the more those surroundings become familiar, even comfortable. The more familiar things become the less you can learn. Think of grandmothers. Mine is 75. She grew up without computers and this World Wide Web phenomenon. She’s aware of it now, the interweb. But she cannot really. She certainly doesn’t understand it. And she doesn’t care. Why should she? She’ll stick with what’s been familiar for 75 years. Now take your parents. They are still young enough to learn and adapt, but their lifetime of familiarity creates friction to that learning. Just as your parents adapted to the advent of the internet to a much greater extent than your grandparents, you probably have an even greater understanding (let’s hope) than your parents – because there’s less adapting to be done.
This is important because the point is this: there is a threshold in one’s life that when crossed, renders learning next to impossible. The more you learn, with the more stuff you become familiar, the more adapting and relearning and unlearning you have to do. So here’s the caveat to my urge for you to leave home, and I’m assuming that I’m talking to students, you must leave and leave now. That threshold is approaching ever closer.