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Learning in the Classroom of the World Is More Important Than Ever

A few years ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Long Trail to Machu Picchu: A Family Adventure in Peru.” It was inspired by my many travel experiences, but more importantly my family. My “job” has allowed me untold opportunities to explore this world, first as an expedition leader, and then behind a desk with the chance to often “adventure into the field” to inspect, develop, and stay in touch with our wide range of product offerings for Central and South America.

My wife often rolls her eyes whenever I reminisce about my “trial and tribulation” stories from the road and my work. She is right—to a degree. It is hard work working in the travel industry, but it is also so rewarding and not the toughest way to earn a living. My job also allows me to extend the opportunity to travel to my family. I have three wonderful boys that my wife and I call “Thing 1, 2, and 3” (Sael, Ethan, and Hayden). The article “The Long Trail to Machu Picchu” was written off the back of a trip we took to Peru, when we walked the Inca Trail together, amongst many other great experiences.

My wife and I believe wholeheartedly that travel can equal or outdo certain aspects of a formal education. Life lessons, respect and understanding for other people, dealing with unforeseen situations and different cultures, and the handing of unexpected situations—lessons learnt through travel can never be duplicated in a classroom.

Dad and Ethan at Torres Lagoon. A tough but rewarding day hike.

I started this article in March 2020 while finishing dinner with “Thing 2,” looking out over Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia as the sun set. A few days later, I planned to meet my wife and “Thing 3” in Ushuaia for a trip to Antarctica. “Thing 1” was still in Toronto due to university commitments—to clarify, my wife and I never said a formal education should be ignored. In fact travel and education are the perfect combination of classroom and experiential learning.

Sadly, Antarctica did not come to pass as “Thing 2” and I had to get back home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We got so close to the South Pole, but we’ll be back in the future. You might think that such a crisis has made my earlier sentiments about the importance of learning through travel obsolete, or perhaps unessential, but I firmly believe that these crazy times have only clarified the importance of travel and the lessons learned while travelling. The lessons of life that we learn through travel—that my one son is learning and the other will shortly learn—are priceless. This pandemic has shown how important it is that we take the opportunity to learn these lessons when we can; we have to use the precious time that is given to us.

Gauchos in Chile

Of course, there is a dollar price for this education through travel—even for someone in the travel industry—but the investment in this worldly education is worth every penny; you cannot put a price on the experience and the memories. Airfares cost money. Tours cost money. Antarctic cruises cost money. But travel experiences—the lived education of travelling the world—that is priceless.

I have been in Patagonia many times, but each time I visit I learn something new, see an old site in a new way, and now see it through the eyes of youth through my son. I am blessed. My children are lucky, no doubt (dare I say spoiled?), but in this time of uncertainty (which will hopefully be brief), I am so happy to have been able to share the world with my kids and show them why it needs to be protected and needs to be experienced.

Thus, I invite you to step outside your world once this is all over and visit my family’s “backyard of adventure and experiences”: Central and South America and the Polar Regions. Travel may be paused at the moment—school is out, so to speak. But eventually, that school bell will chime again and the classroom of the world will once again open to the travellers of the world, who are hungry to learn all that there is about this experience we call life.

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General Manager, Central & South America - Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

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