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Why Travel is the Best Teacher

One of the most valuable and perhaps unexpected ways to expand your knowledge of the world around you is to get outside of your bubble and travel, whether that equates to traveling the world, traveling the country or just exploring your own state.

A mountain view from a clear and beautiful day at the University of Colorado at Boulder. While a photo of mountain ranges like this are beautiful, there is nothing quite like seeing it with your own eyes.       Photo by Hannah Leahy

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As I stepped out of our big, cozy minivan rental, something hit me. It was the air; it felt different. Humidity had vanished, nothing but a cool breeze now. It felt fresh, crisp with new beginnings. 

This was something I wrote in a creative writing class I took during my sophomore year at St. Charles Community College, which was one of my favorite classes ever, by the way, but I digress. 

The prompt was extremely open-ended, much like on many of the days we would come into class and my instructor would tell us to write about whatever we wanted. So, on that particular day, I was feeling compelled to write about my travels to Colorado during that previous summer of 2018.

Now, what is my point in all of this? Well, it’s simply the fact that getting out and traveling to new places is 100% the absolute best way to learn. 

Bold claim, I know, but there is actual science to support this, along with my own and many other people’s personal experiences as it relates to traveling the country and the world. 

In my own travel arsenal, I’m locked and loaded with trips to various states, including Colorado, Virginia, California, Michigan, Washington, D.C. (not a state, but you know what I mean), Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as two trips out of the country — 10 days in Tokyo, Japan, in summer 2015, and five days in London, England, in summer 2016. 

So, before you think I’m a spoiled brat, my parents’ philosophy was simple for us as kids: We could learn more from traveling than almost anything else with the exception of some aspects of school. 

Why did they think this? Well, their own personal experience, or lack thereof, certainly played a role, but also, there is actual evidence to support this concept. 

According to an article generated by NBC News, there are five significant reasons why traveling is important for the mind, body and soul. Perhaps my favorite is reason No. 3, “Travel Enhances Your Creativity.”

Under that creativity heading lies the quote, “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” a quote written by Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School who specializes in discovering benefits of international travel.

In Galinsky’s studies, he also goes on to discuss the senses that traveling can heighten, particularly the sense of human connection, which is a notable aid in learning.


Overlooking Los Angeles at the Griffith Observatory on a sunny, windy day, taking in all of the views. Photo courtesy of Hannah Leahy


Walking around, coming along this inspirational mural in Norfolk, Virginia, reminds a traveler that art can present itself anywhere, anytime. Photo by Hannah Leahy

He is quoted in another article, found on theatlantic.com, saying, “We found that when people had experiences traveling to other countries it increased what’s called generalized trust, or their general faith in humanity.” Also, “When we engage in other cultures, we start to have experience with different people and recognize that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.”

It really just makes sense when you think about it, because once you get out and open your eyes and heart to the way that other people live — those people who don’t live next door to you or come from the same hometown as you — it truly has the ability to teach you so many valuable lessons you might have never considered. 

A prime example in my life is all the knowledge I took away from being in Tokyo for 10 days. Even though I was only a high school freshman, barely 15 years old, I picked up on many societal differences between the American and Asian cultures, and it was both interesting and beneficial to me. 

Perhaps the biggest contrast to me was the fact that Tokyo, although one of the most hustling and bustling cities I’ve ever seen, was also one of the absolute cleanest.

My family and I opted for public transportation in all forms during our time in Japan, especially train rides, and despite the mass amounts of people cramming into those stations and cars at any given time, there was such a prim and proper feel to all of it. There was no litter, no graffiti, no grime, none of it. It all felt very sanitary and safe. 

Speaking of safety, I also attribute my acceptance of wearing masks to my experience in Tokyo. In Asian cultures, wearing masks in public is a common practice, one that’s at least partially based on the strong cultural value of caring for one another and considering more people’s health than just their own. 

Because I got to see how normal that was in Japan, and because I know the WHY behind it, it makes me much more inclined to wear my mask every day and not look at this pandemic-driven requirement as some huge inconvenience like many Americans seem to. 

So, traveling has the ability to strengthen one’s creativity, compassion and open-mindedness, along with many other benefits that outweigh the costs or lengthy flights and drives. 

Because of this, and a plethora of other reasons that would take way too long to write, it is imperative that at some point in your life you make sure to set aside time, money and whatever fears you may have to get out and see more of our beautiful country and world. 

There is so much more out there than just the four walls that surround you or the street you’ve lived on your entire adult life. We are doing ourselves an utter disservice by not taking advantage of it and exploring it all.

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Hannah Leahy

Hannah Leahy

Hannah Leahy is an editor for MBU Timeline. She is a communications major and captain of the women's soccer team at MBU. She transferred from St. Charles Community College in St. Charles, Missouri, where she played soccer and softball, and graduated with her Associate of Arts degree in May of 2018. Leahy plans to graduate from Missouri Baptist in the spring of 2021, then attend grad school to acquire her master’s in sports management.

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