“It’s essential to keep moving, learning and evolving for as long as you’re here and the world keeps spinning.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru
When I was younger, my vacations with my parents and grandparents always resulted in my learning something. I learned how to do basic math and addition in my head playing Blackjack with my grandpa at the table in my grandparent’s RV one summer. Another summer I learned something about Custer’s Last Stand, but please don’t ask me to tell you what it was because I frankly don’t remember. Somewhere during middle school I learned about John Muir, Yosemite, and Theodore Roosevelt’s involvement in establishing our national park system. At the end of summer 2015, my parents took me on a cruise through the Panama Canal and forced me to go to the educational seminars on board because I needed to learn something. I didn’t pay attention…and then a few months later emailed the presenter because I needed information for a school project. The presenter very nicely proceeded to tell me that I should have paid attention to the resources given me while I was on vacation but still helped me get the information that I ultimately needed for my project.
These vacations always had two running themes – my parents and/or grandparents insisting on vacation being educational in some aspect and my internally rolling my eyes. Looking back, my aversion to learning on vacation was a bit ironic. I loved learning and I loved going to school – to the point that my mom would force me to stay home sick and I would insist that she call the school and get all of my homework so I didn’t fall behind. But when I was on vacation, the last thing I wanted to do was learn. Vacation was supposed to be fun and a break for my brain, for crying out loud.
Fast forward many years to now. I just recently took a long weekend to go out to see a friend who was out of state for a training for work. Once I picked her up, we continued on to Charlottesville, Virginia, to see another friend of ours. While trying to plan out what we were going to do with our main day in Charlottesville. We basically had two options – wineries and breweries OR touristy stuff. Friend #1 mentions that the “touristy” stuff includes “some President’s houses and stuff like that” and that we’d probably do a mix of that and maybe some wineries because I’m not much of a craft beer person. In the days leading up to my trip I caught myself wondering what “President’s houses” were in Charlottesville. So I did what any normal tech savvy millennial would do and Googled it.
Monticello. Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, is the President’s house that is in Charlottesville. I proceeded to call my mom in full on nerd mode. She laughed at me and the irony of my excitement. The first time I went to Monticello, I was eight years old and apparently less than enthused about going. In all honesty, all I can remember of that Monticello trip was the $2 bills that we got as change and my dad getting pulled over for speeding on the way back to Washington, DC. 20 years later, though, and I was jazzed about going again. Part of my enthusiasm probably comes from my obsession with the show Hamilton and my rediscovered love of American Revolution era history, but most of it came from a genuine desire to learn a little bit and appreciate the history surrounding Monticello.
The juxtaposition of my enthusiasm to learn now versus my lack of enthusiasm to learn when I was a kid got me thinking. Shouldn’t we always strive to learn something when we travel? Yes, vacations, even short vacations, should be relaxing and provide a break from reality, but they also should be an opportunity to learn a little about something or someone. A quote I read recently from James Michener put it best – “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might be better to stay at home.”
So when you’re planning your next vacation, try to build in some chances to learn something about the place you’re going, whether it’s something about the culture or the history or something random.