The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

What I Learned these Holidays

The History Tour to Europe visited some amazing places over the July holiday, and in amongst the wonderful and moving experiences, I found myself thinking about what we can learn from such a voyage. I came up with the following:

1. Travel Builds Perspective

Leaving Perth gives you ample evidence of our relative unimportance in the grand scheme of things. Whilst it can also help us to appreciate what we have, it is also a wonderful reminder of what lies beyond our very little, insular world. It is a reminder that we should be paying more attention than we are to what is going on around us. The History Tour also offered us an opportunity to travel back in time in the hope that we might better comprehend why the world is the way it is.

2. The World Is Awesome (nature especially), but also Horrible

Travel and history also teach us that there is much beauty in the world (both natural and man-made) and there is joy and light in the hearts of human beings, but that there is also cruelty and darkness there. We should be careful not to sugar-coat everything, because there are difficult topics and uncomfortable truths which we need to confront. We should delight in the goodness which exists, but work to fix what needs to be fixed.

3. Technology Has Enslaved a Generation

One of my saddest observations was the way young people get drawn into their devices and withdraw from the world around them. This was most noticeable on the bus and train and airplane as we travelled between places. I have always loved just sitting and watching the world go by, observing the changing scenery, thinking about what I have been doing and seeing, or thinking about nothing. These days, it seems that such moments are to be eradicated by burying oneself in a mobile phone. Time being bored or day-dreaming is actually a critical part of being a human.

4. Boys Can Survive (and Thrive) Without Their Devices

One of the most uplifting things I saw was the way young people can engage and take stuff in without the filter of their mobile devices. There is a level of profundity which can only be reached through the real world. If we can provide them with a good enough reason, and we are willing to interact with them, they seem almost grateful for the opportunity to be a part of that.

5. Routines are Good (but so is breaking them)

Routines enable us to get the most out of each day; they allow us to achieve a long-held goal through discipline and consistent application. But we can also become stuck in our routines, simply going through the motions, day after day. Doing something different can give us a fresh lease on life, a new perspective and renewed resolve. It can also force us to look at how we normally approach life and question whether this is really the best pathway, or whether there is another upon which we would like to travel.

6. Squeeze as Much as You Can into Each Day (but know which day)

We tend to do this when we travel, but seem less willing to do so once we get back to our old life. I think sometimes we should do less when we travel and more when we are at home. Wherever we are, I think it is very important to factor in time to rest, to do nothing. Recharging is critical to us functioning at our optimal level.

7. Adventures Are So Important

These are things to look forward to; a trip planned or a milestone event or significant occasion. Adventures challenge us and shake us up; they take us to places where we can learn more about ourselves, and we grow as a result.

8. We Can Always Learn More

I have been fortunate to go on the History tour three times, and I have taught History for many years, but I still long to know more about history and the places we visit and the events we examine. We can always learn more – about ourselves, about our peers, and about the world around us. We should never get bored of that, and we should never be too proud to admit that we don't know everything. Acknowledging that we do not know everything is a humbling experience.

9.Young People Can't Take Responsibility Until We Are Prepared to Give it To Them

One of the great things about the trip was the requirement for the boys to look after themselves to some degree. Whilst we were nervous about handing out their passports, and tickets for the Metro, at some stage they must take responsibility for their own lives. And it is our job to ease them into this, by allowing them to look after aspects of their lives. The sooner we can do this for them, the better off they will be; I am convinced of this.

10. Kids (and People) Don't Get Lost Any More

There are many times when I don't exactly know where I am, usually when exploring a place with which I am not particularly familiar. It is a slightly unsettling feeling – I am not entirely lost but I don't really know where I am. It is a good feeling, because it means I have to concentrate, and try to remember what I have seen. People don't seem to pay attention to their surroundings any more, because they have their heads buried in their mobile phones, following directions. And in doing so, they miss it: they miss the whole point of being there, of being in the moment, of realizing how amazing is the place where you are, rather than worrying about the place to which you are going. The destination is certainly important, but there is much to be learned by paying attention to the road upon which you are travelling.