Thursday, March 12, 2015

Phrophetic Travel

Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.

I first heard that quote a couple weeks ago, made a note of it in my cell phone and came across it last night as I was clearing out notes I've made on my cell phone, which was full of songs, podcasts, books, pictures and notes.

Many of the notes I make to myself as I'm driving make no sense to me later, such as:


That first quote, though, is all over the internet and is usually attributed to the Prophet Mohamed (peace be with him) and is used manly on the web sites of people who love to travel and write and read and dream about traveling. Rick Steves, the PBS travel guru, used the idea of the benefits of travel to give a little backhand to Sarah Palin after she talked about travel as if it was elitist or something.

The wisdom of what the quote is actually saying is taken up on the blog of a lawyer in Saskatoon, Canada, Ted Koskie, who argues that while travel has benefits, it isn't better than or a good substitute for education. Koskie also points out that travel is available mainly to people who can afford it, and to people from countries like Canada who want to go to places that don't place the same kind of restrictions on visitors that Canada does, and whose people might have to post a huge bond to get into the Canada if they can get in at all. All of which applies to the US, too.

Koskie's line of thinking somewhat parallels mine. I've always loved to travel and wish others to do it but when I've thought about the ways in which my travels have benefited me -- what kind of wisdom, what knowledge have I gained?  -- I haven't come up with very much, and revert to a quote from John Steinbeck who, in his book Travels With Charley, observed of truck drivers that "They travel over the country without being part of it."

There are those people who seem to be able to grasp things very quickly and sum them up in a sentence or two, but I'm not one of them. I compare the perceptions I get of various places I've traveled to to the first impressions I have of a place when I move there. I know no one and tend to project onto the people a somewhat romanticized character. I see all the beauty and uniqueness of the place and am enthralled by it. I enjoy being in a strange place. I don't think of the people as having the capacity to be mean and small, like people everywhere else, because I haven't seen that in them.

My first impressions gradually fade as I learn about the people and their history and how the society there operates. It takes me five years or more before I even begin to know enough about the new place I'm living in to begin to understand it. Someone who reads more and talks to more people than I do might do this faster, or someone who has thought about how to think about new places and how to get at the heart of what they are like.

Travel does however touch something deep inside us, as they say. Our nomadic past, perhaps. It allows us to imagine new possibilities that the realities of a place we know too well haven't curtailed. It's certainly interesting and entertaining, and exciting sometimes. It may give a perspective of the nation and of the world that we didn't have before and may not be consciously aware of after we get it. Some of my best memories, my greatest triumphs, are from tavel. It satisfies a yearning to know, and for that reason alone it's of value.

Just the act of being mobile seems soothing. How often have we gone for a ride to cool off, think things over? Families used to go for a proverbial "Sunday drive" after church, as much to let the demons clear out as they knew they'd somehow end up at Dairy Queen.

The education versus travel quote at the top of the post isn't in the Koran, by the way, and the Prophet Mohamed didn't say it, according to, an internet web site that took up a question posed by a reader. The internet web site goes on to say that while there's lot of good information about Islam on the internet, the internet isn't the best place to learn about the Koran. If that's true, the quote is most likely in the Koran and the Prophet Mohamed did say it, after all. Peace be with you.

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