Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

E is for Education

Day 5 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge – Thoughts on Being a Nomad

In my opinion, travel is one of the best forms of education anyone can get. Imagine what you learn – consciously or subconsciously – along the way, whether you are backpacking, road tripping, train journeying, cycling, walking or sailing. I am not suggesting to skip high school or college, like some adventurers like Louis L’Amour did, but once the ground work of knowledge and getting established in life has been laid, why not send those graduates into the world to learn more about it in person? Anyone, really, would benefit from greater exposure to how things are done and look like abroad.

While being a nomad, you can learn new languages, practice social skills, interact with local inhabitants, immerse yourself in different cultures, discover new habits and traditions, observe wildlife first hand, try exotic foods and learn how to cook them, use different currencies, explore diverse parts of the world, navigate busy cities and appreciate pure natural beauty, learn tolerance and acceptance, act on your curiosity, and expand your horizons and your knowledge in so many ways. The list is endless. Parents integrate interesting daily occurrences while home schooling their children during the journey.

Over the last decade, Mark and I have learned many things, on a personal, behavioral, technical, physical and intellectual level, that we wouldn’t have been able to obtain living a sedentary life. Education on the road, or the water, is extremely broad and diverse. Imagine looking at your favorite coffee table book of a country you love, or opening up an encyclopedia to read about a culture different from yours, then stepping right into the scene. Instead of just skimming the words or glancing the photos, you are now part of the reality of that moment and can experience the intriguing scene with all of your senses. That is what education through travel is all about!

What have you learned on your travels? What is a memory you will never forget? Do you think knowledge is better obtained through books or through experience? Or both?

(Come back tomorrow to “educate” yourself about “F is for Freedom” in this “Thoughts about Being a Nomad” series.)

PS: All of these photos were taken on one and the same island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (Huahine in French Polynesia)! Imagine the rate at which these learning experiences are multiplied every time you visit a new place, island, or country!


  1. I have learned so much from traveling! When I went to Europe and saw things that I had learned about in history class in person it was so eye-opening and has given me such a different world view!

    • Great that you went and visited Europe! So much real life history there. I am all for experiencing things first hand and understanding the history books looking at real evidence! And, I am all for taking kids out of school to have them travel and be home schooled. 🙂

  2. I couldn’t agree more!

  3. I just noticed what you say under “What is Liesbet up to” and read the menu items in order. That is so clever!!!

    Cheers – Ellen

    PS Love the pictures!

    • Thanks, Ellen. I was wondering whether anyone would “get it”. 🙂 I might need some rearranging whenever we do something different, though.
      I have to say, I think you were very clever writing your A-Z posts ahead of time!!! I am spending so much time on the posts and networking every day… Wisdom comes with experience, right?

  4. I’ve only lived in Europe and the US, but because of my travels I speak English, Polish, basic Spanish, basic French, and some Czech. Being in different countries and places definitely teaches you a lot about different ways of seeing the world, making you take a critical look at what you think you know. I am thoroughly enjoying your nomad A-Z posts.

    • Thanks, Ula. Kindred spirits! 🙂 Being from a European country, we are more open to learning new languages and English will get us almost everywhere. 🙂 I keep wishing for all those narrow minded people in the world that they could have (happily and not disgruntledly) visited different countries and cultures and have learned a bunch.

  5. I LOVE THIS POST! This is an American thing, but for me, the first time I went to NYC and stood where the World Trade Center used to stand, walked the streets and avenues of the city, the events there became something real, and any academic or intellectual, or overly reactive thoughts I had vanished. These were people going to work, living what should have been an ordinary day. I’d imagine this feeling would be similar if I were to stand in Japan where the tsunami struck, or any of the far too many places atrocities have occurred. This is an extreme example, but it is something I could not learn from a book or a movie. I had to stand there to understand.

    • Being in a place like that – or any other impressive site or event – leaves an immense impact, that cannot be explained unless you are actually there. You are so right about that, Ryan. Being there, does a place/event justice and causes a feeling and impression that is sometimes unforgettable. When I heard about the bombings in Brussels, I was halfheartedly shocked (I wasn’t in Belgium), then I read my brother and aunt escaped those days in the city because of their schedule and I started to understand. Then, I talked in depth to my mom about the events and more and more the reality and impact dawned on me. Now, I have my flight to Brussels booked and I even feel a bit of fear. I’m sure that once I arrive at the airport, I will experience something a bit similar to what you had in NYC (where I was overcome with similar feelings when I visited a couple of times after 9/11).

  6. Always fascinating to see how other cultures solve our universal problems of making our way in the world. As an American, though, I really regret that learning other languages was never a focus in our educations. The reception you get, traveling and speaking the local language, even just minimally, is very different than “English only.” I’ve always tried at the absolute minimum to learn the politeness words, hello, good morning, thank you, etc. (That backfired at least once, though, when I used my sketchy Spanish to ask the seamstress who was repairing Dan’s wetsuit if I could have it by Thursday (jueves), but instead I think I asked for eggs (huevos).)

    • Haha! Those word confusions only seem to happen in the Spanish language, where ropas doesn’t mean ropes, for example (why not? :-)). Good for you to try the standard greetings and expressions, though. People really appreciate it when a visitor does some effort speaking the local language. The problem I have in Spanish speaking countries is that I would prepare a question and make it sound really good as if I know what I am talking about (mostly, though, I wing it with a Spanish sounding version of French words) and then, instead of the expected si or no answer, I get a flood of words that I don’t understand at all! You are right, Jaye, that not knowing the local language makes it difficult to immerse in the local traditions and connect with the people. My American husband experienced this during our two year stay in French Polynesia and it was one of the reasons he wanted to leave.

  7. Some of my favorite things to learn about are the little things I never would’ve known or remembered another way. One of those things, actually reminded by your photos, is how to tell real pears from fake pearls on a necklace. But, I’m big on geography, history, and the way people relate to each other. Language. I love seeing how language changes across borders.

    • You know what Ann, I have no idea how to tell the difference between real and fake pearls. I have only seen real ones (Tahitian pearls) and know totally nothing about the white ones sold in the US. If you love geography and history, I’m sure you must love to travel as well. I’m curious to learn what your favorite places are!

  8. FYI —- The Hawai’ian voyaging canoe Hokule’ia is on a world-wide voyage. It just left Stuart FL for Cape Canaveral and will be up in NYC and New England this June. Many festivities are planned in New York City.
    In your picture above of the green fruit on a tree, — that looks like Papaya and not Mango ! Mangoes grow in clusters off of the end of branches in a tree with a more traditional canopy.
    Sour sap, I’ve heard, after it’s opened is one of the most foul smelling things in the world !!! In fact, a major Asian airline discontinued it use as an in-flight fruit because it was so awful smelling and “distasteful” to the passengers. ( But if you can get past the smell they say it’s taste isn’t so bad. )



    • Thanks for the info about the Hawai’ian canoe, Murray. That is quite an adventure! Maybe we get to see them when they visit New England this summer. You are right about the tree bearing papaya. My mistake. I wasn’t thinking! Me not knowing the difference between the two trees would mean that I couldn’t have spent so many years in the tropics! Not sure why my mind was writing it was a mangoe tree. Rush rush… Thanks for setting me straight. Now allow me to correct you… 🙂 I think the foul smelling fruit you are talking about is durian. It looks a bit like soursop, but spikier and a bit bigger. When I was backpacking in South East Asia, I saw signs on hostels forbidding the fruit indoors!

  9. Travel can be such a rewarding education! I love to read to be inspired, and travel to experience.

    • Good point! Now that I am reading more than I used to, I totally appreciate the value of reflecting through and getting inspired by books. They can be powerful tools as well and for some reason, I have failed to realize that in the past.

  10. I’ve learned so much through my travels and have so many memories. I agree it’s the best way to learn, and I wish I’d done more of it when I was younger (my parents aren’t that adventurous).

    My favourite travelling lesson is that authentic Chinese food is mind blowing. I’ll never get over the food there!

    • You are still young, JM! And you are moving abroad with – hopefully – a lot of travel in your future still. If you like the food in China, wait until you try the food in Thailand! 🙂

  11. Love it! I feel like a parrot but once again I totally agree 🙂 I went through University, a couple of times, got my Masters etc. But I honestly believe the best education I ever received was through my travels. I have learnt more about myself, social interaction, history, culture, nature (the list goes on) from getting out there and experiencing it, seeing it with my own eyes, living and breathing it. Do books have a place? Sure, books can give you the facts and they can tell you how someone else felt about what they saw/did but they can’t tell you how you would feel and what you would experience. Nothing can give you a better overall knowledge than saving every cent and going to LIVE it yourself.

    • You hit the nail on the head again with this blurb, Kim! Great summary and I am so glad that you have found my blog! I love meeting like-minded people, especially, when they would save every cent to go travel. 🙂

      • I’m so glad I found your blog too! As you said, it’s wonderful to meet like-minded people. And I definitely fall into the save every cent category. I’m fortunate that my friends and family have long since come to expect that I will put travel ahead of socialising 🙂

        • You trained your friends and family well! I am in the same situation and glad for it. Whenever people would ask me “What do your parents, friends and family think about you never being in Belgium anymore?” I would answer: “They are used to it!” 🙂

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