The School of Life

Let me tell you a little bit about some of the behind the scenes things that happened in my journey to decide to study Spanish.

Enter, Andrea and Edward Robinson. They are a perfectly matched, incredibly mature and wonderfully inspirational couple. They are currently on leave / sabbatical from work and are doing a full year of traveling during 2012.

I first met them at The Adventure Travel Company as they were planning to join me on my Peru Through the Lens Photo Tour in February 2012. By that time, they would already be fully immersed in Latin American culture having been in Quito, Ecuador for four weeks studying Spanish and then visiting The Galapagos Islands before heading on to meet up with our group in Lima, Peru.

I regularly followed their blog from December 2011 until February 2012, when we reunited in Lima to begin our 12 day group adventure. Every day, admiring their choice to travel for the year and excited to get to know them better.

I met up with Ed and Andrea the day before Peru Through the Lens officially started as we had all arrived to Lima a day or more early. We headed out for lunch and had a chat where I picked their brains about the process of taking off and leaving everything behind for a year. It was Ed and Andrea who helped me believe that learning Spanish and traveling is an education … far different and far more valuable for many people than your traditional book learning in University. Traveling and language learning while being immersed in culture is the epitome of the school of life. It should not be looked down upon as a lesser education and, if you view it as education, it is worth investing in!

It was the first time ever that I had considered that it might be ok to take out a loan to travel. That if I didn’t have the money saved up, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was the first time that someone had said out loud what I had always been scared to form into words. It was the first time that someone had encouraged me to follow my wandering heart and get an education, on location, in the world … even if I had to take out a ‘student’ loan. Ok, not the real kind of government student loan, but a loan that is equally important because it is a loan to fund my continuing education.

I wouldn’t hesitate to take out a loan for business education … learning better photography skills or business skills, so, why should I not invest in myself and become a better person? Wow. That’s a deep thought for many of us! Have you ever considered investing in yourself? Actually taking out a loan to improve yourself? Scary isn’t it?

For most Canadians, travel is a luxury and a vacation. It is a break from work where you go to a resort, eat and drink as much as you can and be lazy on the beach for a week. Then you return to your regularly scheduled life, until next year.

For me, I really do view travel as an education and vacation travellers can’t really wrap their head around that. This is because I don’t travel like I’m on vacation! I travel like I’m learning, because I am! When I travel I seek out opportunities to learn about the lifestyle, culture, history and hardships of the people of that country or community. I take opportunities to get to know locals, talk to them, tell them about my life and ask them questions about theirs. I challenge myself to navigate airports and public transit in different countries without knowing the language. I go out of my comfort zone and get lost in the beauty of far away places. I learn about the food, the land and the incredible achievements of the famous people from those cultures. It is like a living, hands on, on-location history lesson with 3D images instead of flat ones from books.

And, you may ask, what use is all of this? I believe that by traveling, I have learned skills that can never be taught in school … skills that are mastered through trial and error … ways of thinking that you can only discuss vaguely until they are put into practice.

Travel has taught me to be less judgemental, to appreciate and be grateful for the small things in life, to see beauty in everything, to be less materialistic. Travel has encouraged me to be open minded and open my heart to the differences in cultures, race and religion … that no one is right or wrong, they just have different beliefs. And for me, it is learning about the reasons behind those beliefs that fills me with wonder and amazement.

From day ‘minus one’ in Lima, Peru, I had a great respect for Ed and Andrea as a couple and as people that I would look up to for their clarity in living life. I quickly became friends with both of them and enjoyed many conversations throughout the next 12 days on all sorts of topics about photography (my reason for being in Peru) and about the possibilities of traveling and learning.

For the next 12 days my focus was on the Peru Through the Lens Photo tour, but in the back of my mind I was already starting to think about my next adventures in the School of Life. Where would it take me next? Could I really wrap my mind around funding my travel through a loan?

I guess the answer is that the School of Life is commencing for me in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on July 16th, 2012. I guess I’ve wrapped my mind around it!

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