Travel to Learn

Posted by Bill Steiner – Adventures in Italy

One of the joys of travel is learning. What I particularly like is learning what you already know, but have forgotten – realizing because of some contrast or juxtaposition that, what you see every day at home, is really quite remarkable. I was doing some work in a remote part of China several years ago approaching

Road near Weishan, China

Road near Weishan, China

Tibet and traveling on a road under construction. Men were breaking up rocks with hammer and chisel, hauling water in buckets hung off of poles slung across their shoulders, piecing together what was an incredibly beautiful but labor intensive storm drainage system made up of the pieces of the rock they had chiseled and cement made with the water they were hauling. While all this hand labor was taking place you could see people on their cell phones. So here you had the very modern operating beside the quite archaic. I learned how lucky we are to be able to build roads with such relative speed and ease, something I had taken for granted. At the same time, I was struck by and impressed with the artistry of their work, not a trait you would likely describe in our road building efforts.

I enjoy staying in one place when I travel because it enables me to appreciate and learn subtler things, to see and experience the less obvious yet equally compelling. In the late 1990’s my parents, all their children and spouses, along with the grandchildren spent a week on two canal boats. We were on the Canal du Midi, construction of which began in the 1600’s. The canal was built to connect the

Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

Mediterranean to the Atlantic across southern France. It has scores of oval shaped locks, beautifully made of stone. Many of the locks still have lock keepers, who have a quiet competition amongst themselves at creating the most beautiful grounds around their locks. The boats only move at about 4 miles an hour – in essence a fast walk. When you travel at that speed, you realize how a church, set high on a hill, can dominate the landscape for an entire day. As you travel hour after hour in sight of the landmark, you gain an appreciation that you could not otherwise have had, for the importance of a strategic highpoint. It is not the stunning impact of a great work of art, but it is a subtle kind of learning that I think we all can enjoy.

Simple Beauty

Simple Beauty

What I love about the weeks in Italy with our Adventures in Italy groups is the not-so-obvious learning that takes place, made possible, in part, by the fact we stay put for the week. It is unconscious really, it is not anything that Kristi and I drill into people. But as the week unfolds, our folks begin to note little things. They develop an appreciation for the simple, and sometimes obvious, both in Italy and at home that they would not otherwise be likely to notice. It is remarkably rewarding and fun! And what is equally fun is how diverse the revelations are. A young mother on our trip notices the kids in passing cars standing rather than being in a car seat. I never noticed. The seasoned traveler accustomed to the grandiose was surprised to find beauty in what he initially had dismissed as bland.

These are little bits of wisdom we gather as we travel. They don’t hit you in the face, but they enrich your life in a nice, quiet way. Staying in one place for a period of time and taking the time to really look at the place you are in is one of the benefits of the kind of travel we do.

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Kristi with neice Kate in Florence

Kristi with neice Kate in Florence

Kristi and Bill Steiner began leading “learning vacations”  to Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Through Adventures in Italy they provide a cultural immersion experience. Many trips include the pursuit of some kind of creative work that complements and reinforces exploration of Italy’s culture. Relationships built over the years enable Kristi and Bill to provide experiences that a typical visitor to Orvieto never gets. Trips are held in May and September/October every year. Their Discover Orvieto trip is available to groups any time of the year. Learn more about Kristi and Bill’s trips.

Stay abreast of Adventures in Italy developments, and follow Bill’s musings about travel and Italy at his blog Make Haste Slowly.

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