My dad’s work was on contracts, in East Africa as I was growing up. Some were for two years, some three. What that meant was that at the end of each contract, we were sent back to our native country, in our case the UK, for three months, before the next contract started.
My mother had little interest in remaining in England for three months when there was the whole world out there to explore. So she worked part time to augment the allowance for the leave. Then she would convert the flight tickets into sailing tickets.
So I had the tremendous advantage of the further education often only available to rich kids. I experienced the luxury of sailing on ocean-going liners, of sailing through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea as well as round the Cape Of Good Hope and through the Mediterranean Sea. We travelled through Europe, albeit on a shoe string. But Venice is Venice whatever your budget.
I saw the pyramids in Egypt and was amazed at the incredible width of the Nile River. I saw the truly flat tops of the Table Mountains behind Cape Town. I was shocked to see the segregation of apartheid in South Africa. I saw the Lipizzaner horses in Vienna (and instantly fell into a lifelong love of them). I climbed the Eiffel Tower. I went for a walk near Dubrovnik and saw hobbled horses, much to my consternation.
We travelled by train a lot. We stayed in B and B’s and hostels and ate local food, getting to know the locals. I particularly remember eating the most amazingly large, juicy and tasty peaches perched on a wall, allowing the juice to drip into a canal below.
I also witnessed a lot of passive cruelty to animals. I remember stubbornly refusing to budge when I saw a carriage horse in Brindisi, with a cruel metal nose badge that had a weeping sore underneath, with pus oozing out. I only moved when my mother promised we would take the matter up with a charity in England.
Travelling opens up the reality of life in different countries and cultures to a growing mind. Especially when it is done on a budget. It broadens the mind. I doubt if there is any good substitute for this. Witnessing such differences can make one more grateful for what you have at home. But also more understanding that there ARE differences. That there is no one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, if any.
I am thankful that my parents didn’t buy us expensive toys, clothes or gadgets. Instead they spent their spare cash on incredible experiences for the whole family, experiences that helped to shape us.
I am sure that if everyone, especially children, could experience just a little outside their comfort zone, outside their culture and country, there would be a lot more tolerance and understanding in the world. Sometimes, it’s not enough to understand. Sometimes you have to experience.
It’s not enough to understand homeopathy, either. You have to experience it to appreciate it.