Travel as a teacher

It’s fascinating how clear you see things when you leave them. Some even say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I say it’s distance that makes the heart see more clearly.

Travel proves to be one of the most important teachers you will ever meet. You come to see your own home with new eyes. You can even come to value Alaska’s unique furnishings.

If you have your doubts, try this social experiment: walk the streets of three different cities, in three different countries, in three weeks. You may find, as I did this summer, the world is a huge mansion full of rich rooms under the same roof.

For example, if you go to Central Station in Stockholm, Sweden, you will find coffee baristas that look like they fell from the pages of Vogue or GQ. At the Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, England, you will discover more ethnic diversity in one city block than you might find in an entire population elsewhere. At University Village in Seattle, Wash., you get a chance to see the United States’ answer to posh shopping and café society.

Yes, all of these places are developed and richer than the rooms you find in developing countries. But you may just see that we really do live underneath one global roof. Whether you call it the earth or the Internet, we share this common space.

Although the rooms of the world mansion do differ, I would argue that the human inhabitants are basically the same. People are celebrating, arguing, dreaming, scheming, moving and shaking about their daily routines as you read this.

Take away the walls and belongings that define our realities and you will be left with people. People that are not that different from those you pass on campus. Which brings us to our room: the one full of snow, sunlight or sled dogs depending on when you enter. Alaska often seems like its own realm of reality, but we are also connected. Perhaps our geography has proved to be our advantage. We are forced to think globally when Russia and Canada are the two countries that surround us.

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Travel teaches you that your ideas of exotic and exciting are only a matter of perspective. Some can’t wait to leave Alaska, and others have dreamed to come here their whole lives. Alaska may not get any awards for being a social mecca for students, but it is a room full of special experiences. It’s not everywhere that you can drive out the city and simultaneously drive out of civilization. Alaskans may not be international trendsetters but they’re often the first to give you their coat. And where else does a university include moose and eagles that roam the campus like students looking for their classrooms?

Can’t afford a ticket to travel? Remember that the world has already come to campus in the form of international students, many who have come here to learn from travel.

What does all this fortune-cookie wisdom mean for you? It’s easy. This thing called travel connects you to the other rooms of your mansion. Despite what political and social lines may say, this is your world to travel, learn and grow in. You may even come back with a renewed interest in learning more about the people you pass everyday on campus.