How I learn more from my travels: Travelling to Learn

Written by  Joseph

Some travel to escape, others to explore. Either way, it can be easy to feel like you’re just a spectator on the outside, nose pressed to the glass. It often takes years of living somewhere to develop a deep understanding of the place. But there are shortcuts. Places are, for the most part, about the people that live there. Experiencing their food, arts and language help bring you so much closer to them. Of course, doing beats seeing every time. Arts, crafts and cookery courses provide the perfect opportunity to roll up your sleeves, get stuck in and taste life on another side of the world.

I have always been fascinated and inspired by Japanese design, from dementedly cute cartoon characters to sophisticated, elegant paintings. It was only when I had a go at Japanese calligraphy - taught in schools from an early age - that I realised just how deeply aesthetic principles were ingrained into the culture. With brush in hand, stone to grind sumi ink at my side and a sheet of washi (Japanese paper) in front of me, my teacher patiently explained the basics of shodō, the way of writing. Balance, technique, clarity of mind and control were paramount. All, incidentally, traits for which the Japanese have been praised. My efforts did not reach such elevated heights. It would take years of dedicated practice to achieve that. However, I did feel I took a few more steps towards making sense of the place I was in and its people.

As much as we fall in love with a place though, it’s impossible to bring it all home with us. Souvenirs and holiday snaps can help preserve the memories, but falling into post-travel funk is not uncommon. Besides, a key-chain or postcard churned out by the thousands can hardly sum up what your trip meant to you. I used to go on and on about the fabulous time I had to whoever was in earshot to relive the magic. I've learnt the hard way that it’s not a good idea to start every sentence, “When I was in...”.

Instead, wow your friends with tales of your adventures over [a meal you learned to cook while traveling]( ( ,served up on tableware you made, all while wearing an outfit you designed. And you’ll no longer find people dreading your holiday snaps when they turn out as well as photos you took at travel photography school or safari photography school. So the next time you travel, you’ll have a few more tricks up your sleeve to make those all important connections. If you’ve studied well perhaps you can speak with, or even sing to, the locals. Then the world really is your oyster. After all, you’ve already learnt how to shuck it.

More things to learn while travelling

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