Bursting the Bubble

The night before we left, we had two friends over for dinner, both of whom have lived abroad in multiple locations.  One of them was homeschooled until he entered college, and I asked him a little about it.  Rob and I are big proponents of homeschooling when it's done by parents who are involved, educated and committed; unfortunately, many times not all three variables are present, which leaves the children with less of an education than they probably would have received at even a low-quality school.  This gentleman is a social butterfly, funny and polite and brilliant, and you never would have guessed about his background from all the unfair homeschooling stereotypes out there: they're socially awkward, they're hard to get along with, they don't understand there's a whole world outside their own lives.  So what was it, I asked him, that made him so different from the rest (besides devoted, but firm, parents?)

He paused for a moment.  "If I ever thought I was missing out on anything by not being in school, it would have been far outweighed by all the experiences I got to have as a kid.  Living overseas taught me so much about the world.  Mostly, it taught me that I wasn't all that important.  There's a lot more out there than just me."

It's hard to improve on that beautifully concise justification for childhood travel.  My parents took us to all sorts of places when we were kids; not expensive ones, but interesting ones, like heavily ethnic neighborhoods where we'd eat wonderful food off of paper plates, wondering what language the proprietor and his family were speaking. The experiences weren't all good ones; many times I didn't like what I had ordered, or it smelled bad on the street, or I complained that everyone ELSE got to go to the beach for vacation.  But I think even those days were good for me -- I learned to keep my mouth shut and make the best out of the experience, even if it meant going hungry or getting tired from walking.  "The world doesn't revolve around you," my mother was fond of saying.  It's good to be reminded of that from time to time.

Cultural diversity may be a buzzword, but that doesn't negate its value.  Foreign travel is so useful for instilling the kind of curiosity and intelligence that can set the bar for a lifetime of adventures.  At 16, I paid most of my own way to France on a class trip; the people I met and experiences I had there were instrumental in shaping my concept of the world, from a late-night conversation about censorship to a trip to the grocery store all by myself.  There is no better education than to burst the bubble around yourself and breathe deeply of the complex air of the outside world.