Travel is a learning accelerator


A speedometer. Photo: Nathan E / Flickr

“You’ll learn more in your first month of travel then in all your years in school.”  I’ve heard this sentiment expressed by many vagabonders far and wide.  Nothing will get you as interested in history, geography, art, architecture, economics, politics, and religion as being somewhere else.  Names on a map become touchstones for memories and faces of friends made.

Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Workweek (and former Vagablogging writer!) put down these thoughts in a blog post: Filling the void: thoughts on learning and karma.

Here’s where Tim makes the case for taking your education out into the world:

Though you can upgrade your brain domestically, traveling and relocating provides unique conditions that make progress much faster. The different surroundings act as a counterpoint and mirror for your own prejudices, making addressing weaknesses that much easier.

Nothing like getting away from home to break out of your routine, and your usual thought patterns.  Going abroad is like the first step in re-wiring your brain.  New stimuli will force you to think differently, about a lot of things.

Language is one of the top things you can learn while on the road.  Nothing can beat full immersion for boosting your fluency.  I had never taken a Mandarin Chinese course before I moved to China. After one year in Shanghai I was conversational.  Although I only had one class a week, I had the environment to practice in 24/7.

However, learning about a language isn’t just about learning vocabulary, isn’t it?  You pick up on insights into culture and customs.  For example, Chinese lacks many of the honorifics you’d find in Japanese, when you’re speaking to someone older or more important.  As a consequence, Chinese can come off as more direct and blunt vs. the circumlocutions of Japanese.

How has travel helped you learn?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | November 18, 2011
Category: Languages and Culture, Notes from the collective travel mind

2 Responses to “Travel is a learning accelerator”

  1. cloudio Says:

    Only in the native country you are confronted with different accents, different speeds, tones, ways of pronounce the same word.

    Slang: any spanish speaking country has his own slang. The same word has different meanings.

    I met and envy people who can imitate an accent very well and appear much more fluent in a language then they really are

  2. 53 Lessons Learned at the School of Life & Travel | A Life of Blue Says:

    […] accelerates […]