Why Every Teacher Should Make Time for Travel

Asako Maruoka's picture

Travel is a wonderful thing. It opens our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to a myriad of new places, people, and possibilities. It relieves us from the constraints of the everyday, of the nearby, and pushes our boundaries in new and exciting ways.

I’m firmly of the belief that everyone should travel. And that everyone should travel solo on at least one occasion (but that’s for another day). 

Why Every Teacher Should Make Time for Travel

But for those people who are happy with never venturing out, who aren’t curious to see how billions of different people live differently, well… they’re missing out. They won’t know what it’s like to experience sunrise in the Masai Mara. Or to float down the intricate channels of the Mekong River. Or to sit on tiny red stools and drink cheap lager with a bunch of smiling locals who can’t understand a word of your attempts at their language. To miss out on such experiences – it’s a sad, sad thing.

Particularly for teachers, the molders and shapers of young minds, the people who help them grow into the doctors, scientists - and yes, teachers, of tomorrow - travel should be seen as a form of crucial research.

Because whether you’re taking in some history in Greece, experiencing geography at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, or discovering new cultures in Colombia, you’ll be learning new lessons all the way...which you can then pass on to those eager minds back home.

Why Every Teacher Should Make Time for Travel

There’s lots of reasons why teachers should make time for travel. Here are just 3:

1) You have the holidays!

A simple fact, yes… but a key one at that. Everyone is envious of teachers for one big reason. (And it sure as hell isn’t the pay.) Whether you’re a primary, secondary, or third-level educator, you get more holiday days than most – so embrace them. Instead of wandering around at home in a daze of “I don’t know what to do,” get out there and see the world. And leave a trail of jealous friends in your wake.

Got a family to think of? Bring them with you! It’s the adventure of a lifetime and some serious family bonding, all packaged up into two months. Talk about being productive with your time. You’ll come home feeling rested and rejuvenated, ready for term to begin again – with a heap of new tales to share in the staff room.

Why Every Teacher Should Make Time for Travel

2) You’ll pick up new skills 

Whether it’s learning a new language, how to cook different cuisine, how to navigate traffic on a motorbike, or even how to be resourceful with space on a packed train, you can’t help acquiring new skills as you travel. And what better way to talk about the ethnic groups of Vietnam but from your own experience?

You’ll learn patience, tolerance, and acceptance of other people, plus knowledge of things you can’t change. Which will come in very handy when you’re a) faced with difficult students or b) burdened by a tricky curriculum. And if you do bring your teaching skills on the road to find yourself leading a class at the other side of the world… well, they’re bound to do things differently there, and it’s always useful to learn new methods! 

Why Every Teacher Should Make Time for Travel

3) You’ll appreciate what you have 

Think you’ve got it bad with a class of 20 students, each one convinced that his/her voice should be heard loudest? Think again. Venture into any classroom in China, South Korea, or Japan and marvel at the sheer (and sinister) silence of the place. In these cultures, the teacher is a god-like figure – to be revered, respected, and even feared. (If this sounds good to you, maybe you’re based in the wrong country.) Students are methodical with their written work, but terrified to speak up… which doesn’t exactly make for great classroom rapport.

In some parts of Africa, you might have 50 students crammed into a sweltering room, with no equipment other than a chalkboard and chalk (and they’re the lucky ones). Whereas go to India and you’ll witness the heroism of teachers there, doing everything they can to bring education to some of the world’s poorest children.

Travel can be an incredibly humbling experience. And you won’t return the same; rather, you’ll find yourself grateful for the freedom of speech, the resources, and even the bureaucracy of the school system back home. Because these things make teaching a helluva lot easier. And they certainly help you to sleep better at night. (Good to know.)

So go out as a student of the world. Soak up whatever lessons it has to throw at you… and become a better, more understanding, teacher as a result.

Why Every Teacher Should Make Time for Travel