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Why Do We Travel?

Picture the scene. 

It is 3.15 am and my alarm clock has just stolen away a lovely dream. My eyes are open, but my pupils are still closed, so all I see is shadows. For a moment, I manage to convince myself that my wakefulness is a mistake, and that I can safely go back to sleep. But then I roll over and see my suitcase. I let out a sleepy groan: we’re going to the airport. Sleepily I dress, rouse my ten-year-old son, and load the car whilst my partner tries, without luck, to lift our sleeping twenty-one-month-old daughter form her cot to the car without disturbing her slumber.  After an hour-long drive along deserted night-time roads to the “much cheaper offsite parking”, I struggle to lug the suitcase, hand luggage and car seat to the bus stop.  

A 15-minute wait in the cold and rain, then we board the coach which deposits us into the harsh iridescence of the terminal at Birmingham airport. There, I resume my battle with our luggage, first to the check in desk and then onto the oversize baggage drop. Surely, we didn’t need this much luggage for 5 days in an apartment in Portugal! Next the joys of waiting in a long security line. Over three hours since we woke in the middle of the night, and we reach the boarding gate where we wait alongside over one hundred other equally drained and increasingly impatient travellers.  At this point we face one final challenge. On final inspection my son’s passport is revealed to have less than three months left before expiry and there is a question about whether we can travel. Cue emotional outburst and a stressful wait while airline staff clarify the situation before eventually allowing us to board the flight.   

Travel is not a rational activity, squeezing ourselves into a small seat, only to be hurled at frightening speed to a distant place where we aren’t always familiar with the language or know the customs. All at great expense.  

So why do we travel? 

One of Warwick School’s key priorities is to Broaden Horizons Beyond the Classroom, and it has long been said that ‘travel broadens the mind.’ In today’s tech-obsessed world, social media may well be the perfect platform to showcase the world’s beauty to armchair travellers across the globe, but travel is so much more than just getting that perfect Instagram shot. Travel should be meaningful. Travel gives us our greatest stories, our most cherished memories and teaches countless irreplaceable lessons about ourselves and each other. It does all this by stimulating our curiosity and creativity, providing opportunities to be courageous and humble, and encouraging us to have a positive impact on the world whilst also nourishing our souls. 

Not all classrooms have four walls and travel is the best way to immerse yourself in geography, history, culture, gastronomy, languages, biology … you name it. Travel enriches the mind and educates us far beyond any textbook or travel guide. Curious travellers learn about different landscapes, languages, and lifestyles; glean fascinating facts while observing wild animals in their natural habitat; delve into a region’s history and taste the local flavours.  Travel also teaches us about humanity and gives us an appreciation, understanding and respect for different points of view and ways of life. Through exposure to different cultures and ancient traditions we learn to embrace and celebrate both our similarities and our differences.  

Travel requires us to be creative, it entails wishful thinking. It demands a leap of faith, and of imagination, to board a plane to some faraway land, hoping, wishing, for a taste of the unknown.  

Travel takes us out of our comfort zones and inspires us to see, taste and try new things. It constantly challenges us, not only to adapt to and explore new surroundings, but also to engage with different people, and to embrace adventures as they come. 

Travel is a crash course in humility. As we cross borders, and oceans, we gain true perspective. We learn to recognise and be grateful for all the things we take for granted in our own lives, and we also gain an appreciation and respect for how others live. Travel teaches us to be tolerant, flexible, and open-minded, and most of all it makes us humble. 

Travel brings us physically and emotionally closer to places and people. Problems that feel "close" get contemplated in a more concrete manner. Consequently, travel can stimulate a sense of responsibility to care for the land, wildlife and people and encourage us to work to make the world a better place in a way abstract contemplation of distant problems like hunger, poaching and deforestation may not.  We must be mindful of the impact of mass tourism on the planet but by embracing the fundamental values of sustainable tourism; getting off the beaten path, lingering longer in destinations, traveling in the off-season, connecting with communities, and spending our money in ways that support locals we can mitigate the negative effects and enjoy the benefits. 

It is not natural for us to be this sedentary. Travel is in our genes. For most of the time our species has existed we’ve lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers moving about in small bands of 150 or fewer people. Travel is part of human nature, and it is good for our well-being. We all need to fall off the radar and escape reality occasionally. Travel allows us to enjoy complete anonymity in new and unexplored territories. It gives us absolute freedom to live in the moment and it allows us to be anyone, to go anywhere and to do anything. Our lives are time-starved and technology-driven and, let’s be honest, it’s not often that we take the necessary time to de-stress and truly switch off. Travel allows us to escape life’s daily demands, dramas and deadlines and enables us to clear our minds. It encourages us to recharge our batteries and to truly disconnect from our phones, Wi-Fi, emails, laptops, social media, a way that holidays from home cannot. 

All these reasons and more are why opportunities to travel are a part of life at Warwick School.  The Easter holiday just passed was a busy one with school trips travelling within the UK, to Europe, North America, and Asia.  Travel broadens the mind and your horizons, and I urge your sons to take advantage of the amazing and varied opportunities available throughout their time here.