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5 Reasons Why Traveling Is A Great Kind of Education

After a decade of working (and absolutely loving working) in various forms of education, the one question that I've been asked a more than a few times over the last couple of months is... 'So, um... why would you start a travel company?'

When all said and done, it’s a good question.

If you go by stereotypes alone, the education and youth work arena can feel pretty far removed from images of 50-seater buses, tour-guides and groups with selfie-sticks.

But yet… But yet, here we are. And actually, although there are many reasons and passions that led to us beginning the adventure that is Travel Hokkaido, for me, education is a huge part of it. Learning is a central part of it. And I truly believe that the future of sustainable travel, travel that is good for and gives back to local communities, is in the wide-eyed, open-minded, boundary-stretching kind of experience.

Let me run through 5 reasons that I believe travel is a great kind of education.

1. You get to learn another language

When I came to Japan for the first time as a solo-traveler in the summer of 2013, I spoke a scattering of Japanese (enough to order in Starbucks… kinda…) and knew exactly 0 people. It was a little terrifying, but it was also an experience that also pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to use my scattering of Japanese to try and communicate. Having some books or apps is a great starting point, but real attempts to converse with real people is the steep learning curve. Is it embarrassing at times? Hell yes. Am I fluent at Japanese now? Not really. I’m way better than I was though. Is it all worth it? Yes. Even some local phrases and a little effort go a long way when you travel.

2. You get to learn another culture

Not just language, but culture. I love Maya Angelou’s story about proudly walking all over a large ‘rug’ on the floor that everyone else was avoiding on her first trip to Senegal. And then being horrified to realise later that it was actually the exquisite tablecloth for a floor-seated meal in her honour. I both relate to and remember this story, this lesson, whenever I travel. In an unfamiliar culture, we are the students, not the teachers.

3. You get to make friends who challenge you

The great thing about traveling, especially staying in hostels or taking part in smaller trips that bring people together, is that you never know who is going to show up. Conflicts in the world and prejudices in the media can get deep inside of us, until we come face-to-face with someone and realise that they are actually a friend. I remember seeing two young men who live on different sides of a country consumed with conflict become friends whilst studying and traveling together on a program in Japan. I truly believe that going back to their respective families and communities with that experience would have been life transforming. Community transforming, even.

4. You get to see nature up close and personal

We love adventure travel partly because of its focus on sustainability. Hokkaido’s expansive nature is phenomenal, and it’s one of the parts of our travel plans that we love to enjoy the most. But having an awareness of caring for the world, making small steps towards change and going back home with a greater awareness about how our daily choices impact the planet is one of the great eye-opening adventures that travel teaches us. If you truly fall in love with a place you will do anything to learn how to protect it.

5. You get to discover yourself

Probably one of the greatest things we learn through travel is about ourselves. Not just the person that we are or have been, but the person we want to become. Travel pushes us out of our comfort zones … in the language learning, cultural immersion, people encountering and beyond. Realising how small you are in the face of nature, but how powerful you are when trying an activity for the first time. Gaining new confidence and independence through meeting people and trying things you never thought possible. Becoming self-aware of yourself in a different context. This is learning at its most transformative.

I love education. And I love travel. And I love that they are really two sides to the same coin. When we introduce Hokkaido, we also invite people on an invitation to learn, to change and to adventure. And you are always welcome to join us.

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