Through the Eyes of an Educator: Creating Core Memories

by Stacey Ebert / May 02, 2022 /
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When you were young, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? I still don’t, but I do have friends who were certain of the path for which they were destined. 

For some, it was based on experiences they had in their formative years, while for others, it was some sort of feeling, drive, or knowing deep down that propelled them through their struggles to their destination. For me, as a self-proclaimed empath, I think I focus more on feelings, the vibe, or the energy felt when doing or experiencing something and then wanting to reshape that energy again and again. 

As a high school history teacher, I knew for certain that most of my students or club officers wouldn’t remember dates, periods, or quotes from famed historians, but they would remember how coming to my class made them feel, projects they experienced, volunteer services they participated in, and memories they took from our time together. 

So, whether it’s working off of a childhood happening or shaping an environment that feels good, how do we help our next generation create those lasting memories?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Creating Core Memories

It took a few times watching the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out before I truly took to the film. While I have no idea if the mind metaphysics fully stack up to the actual science of brain chemistry and memory, the visual imagery of memories taking on various forms stuck with me. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a story about Riley and the inner workings of her personality, what makes Riley well, Riley, and particular formative experiences that build on that every notion. In the movie, when a core memory—or strong formative experience that reinforces a huge part of Riley’s life—is created, the marble (that showcases the memory) turns gold. Along with a myriad of other varied color memories that are shaped by happy, sad, fearful, and angry experiences, these core memories stay with Riley, and while helping to form her past, serve to power her through the present and onward towards her future. 

Perhaps, through encounters, experiences, and moments, we can help our ‘Rileys’ create those powerful core memories, too.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Creating Core Memories

For me, travel has been a huge part of those core memories. While travel alone might not be the memory, it has been the catalyst and curator of the moment. Whether we’re talking ‘traveling’ to sleep away camp, summer beach excursions, volunteer experiences, my first trip abroad to Israel, or the joy of holding a koala in Australia, those moments large and small were fueled by the essence of travel. I remember how it felt backpacking through Europe and having to maneuver the maps to find our destination. I remember the pure bliss of sandy shores and ocean waves, the humbling joy felt when helping a stranger and the feeling I got when kindness was bestowed upon me, the eruption of emotion when I first landed on African soil, and the pride in independence when I went out on my own journeys. While they took place at various ages and stages, those feelings hold more weight than I ever could have imagined. 

My cousin recently took her daughter on a big city adventure. Still in her developing years, I am certain that the sights, sounds, and scents of NYC will help fuel this memory for decades to come. The magic of Broadway, the lights of Times Square, the unique aromas of The Big Apple, and a million moments they shared together...this core memory of a joyful time with her Mama is sure to remain. And, if there’s ever a time she forgets the name of the musical or the restaurant they ate at, she’s certain to remember every bit of how it felt to have that experience together. 

We’re living in a strange time—one where we’re not all safely able to be in that full-fledged unencumbered travel state of mind. 

In a time of a continuing pandemic, polarizing politics, rising economic gaps, frightening apathy, and a world bully doing his best to stronghold a country to do as he says, helping the next generation supercharge their own empathy and create joyful experiences that will help them forge their paths, steer them towards the good humans they can become, and help them hone who they are and how they wish to enter the world is vital to their growth and development and ours as a growing, global community. 

Travel isn’t one thing. It’s not defined by international flights, ‘round the world adventures, or Disneyworld vacations. Travel is far more than a ticket—it’s hope for adventure, curiosity for something new or different, and a desire to experience something other than routine. 

Whether we take small, new steps in our local community or head mindfully into the great unknown, perhaps we can harness the safe methods and moments of whatever that meaning of travel is to us and use its awesome powers to help our young people create their golden marbles (those core memories) for their tomorrows. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Creating Core Memories

5 Ways Travel Helps to Create Core Memories

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Creating Core Memories

Explore the senses

Science tells us that when any of our senses are removed, the others heighten. So, whether we’re gifted all of our senses or are thriving with heightened ones, exploring those senses taps into our memory banks. 

Consider how certain aromas bring you back to a space and time, or a particular food sends you to the place in which you first tried it, or how the sound of a specific song transports you instantly to a different location or decade. Travel is an assault on the senses. Perhaps it’s the feel of sand in your toes or a cool mountain breeze on your face. Perhaps it’s the scent of a city or farm or that of a spicy meal wafting down an alleyway. Maybe it’s the sound of buskers in a marketplace or the silent serenity in a natural, wide open vista. Or maybe, it’s the sight of stepping onto a new land and taking in all of the everything around. Travel unlocks our senses, and our senses magnify our memories.

Tap into emotions

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to experience pure, unadulterated bliss. In that moment, the entire body feels different—unstuck, unobstructed, non-anxious, open, peaceful. 

Whether it’s that moment of utter joy or one of complete sadness, people have the capacity to feel deeply. Travel helps. 

Perhaps it’s wrapped in the planning of the adventure, the excitement of trying something new, the undertaking of the potential unknown, the awe at the great wide world, the curiosity of a new culture, the despair of learning about an historical atrocity, or one of a multitude of others, travel helps to expand our emotions. Whether joy or sorrow, travel and its experiences tests our emotions, forces us to experience deeply, and enables us to see with more open eyes. 

Core memories have deep emotions attached—travel can be a huge part of that story. 

Tie in experiences

In the past few decades, we’ve seen an influx of global, intergenerational travel. Families of all ages travel together, often engaging in activities along their journey. Perhaps it’s a cooking class in India, a bike tour around Paris, an orchestra concert in Vienna, a Broadway show in Manhattan, a horseback riding tour in Argentina, a geocaching adventure in Yosemite, a dolphin encounter in the Caribbean, a safari in Tanzania, or one of a million other entities...these experiences become core memories in themselves. 

We recall what we learned, where we were, how we felt—and how whether we knew it or not, these experiences continued to shape our journey well after we had returned home. Experiences stay with us. 

While the memory of all of their inner workings may ebb and flow, the bigger picture remains. So, whether your version of travel includes an overnight flight, a train ride, or a walk outside your front door to a new park or neighborhood, tie experiences into the adventure. You may witness the creation of a core memory. 

Develop strengths

I distinctly recall feeling hopeful when planning my first overseas journey and the unyielding global curiosity that erupted from that experience. According to the VIA Institute on Character, there are 24 character strengths. Each of us, at one time or another, has ones that are strong, some that are part of our story, and others we need to work on. Of course, these strengths mold and change along the way. 

Travel undoubtedly helps engage these strengths. 

With aspects touching on love, kindness, humility, gratitude, creativity, curiosity, and perspective (to name a few), travel and all its elements have the power to help develop those strengths and help us to become the person we need to be in the present moment. 

Perhaps it’s gaining perspective about another culture, practicing kindness to strangers and ourselves, working as a team to meet a moment, or any number of spiritual awakenings that transcend our travel adventure, travel provides the innate capacity of discovery—and in that discovery, we may learn even more about the story we wish to create for ourselves. 

Learn by doing

There are all sorts of learners in the world. Learning by doing is only one way to reach our students. Perhaps they’re visual learners who enter the world through color, light, and imagery. Perhaps they’re auditory learners whose approach centers on listening to the words, notes, and rhythms all around. Perhaps they’re kinesthetic learners whose understanding is fostered by tactile interaction and sensory experience of the wider world. 

In those formative years, learning by doing solidifies moments, instills understanding, empowers striving, and, without question, creates broad impact. 

Today, Serena and Venus are athletic powerhouses, yet their stories began long ago. Encouraging elements of learning by doing improves independence, engages curiosity, fosters resilience, and allows each of us to grant ourselves license to strive. 

Learning by doing also teaches us that not only won’t we be successful at every venture, but that that in itself is more than okay. Sometimes, we do things for the fun of it, for the learning, for the connection, or literally just because we want to—and that alone is a lesson we carry with us into our future development.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Creating Core Memories

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.