Before college, I had never really given much thought to the idea of educating myself outside of the classroom. Education was something I had to do, first to get into to college and then to get a job to support myself. It never occurred to me that I would be doing myself a disservice by not educating myself in a well-rounded manner. The truth is, until I made travel a priority, I never realized the shortcomings in my education. These shortcomings weren’t present in writing, arithmetic, or science, but they existed in my ability to effectively communicate, to problem solve in real-world situations, and to work well with others. And the sad part is, the more I picked up on my own inabilities in these fundamental skills, I realized I was not alone. This was simply a product of my generation due to our dependence on technology.
The first time I noticed that my communication skills were lacking was at a dinner one night in the South of France. I had been fortunate enough to back pack that summer with a group of friends and we had just met up with another group of travelers for dinner. It was still early on the trip and we were eager to get to dinner, meet new people, and get the night out started. When we arrived to the restaurant we sad hi the familiar faces and introduced ourselves to the new ones. We sat down, ordered some drinks, and began to rehash our exciting days on the French coast. After about ten minutes, the conversation hit a wall. It seems we had already run out of things to talk about at my end of the table. I nervously reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, eager to diddle away on the screen and escape the now awkward reality. The only issue was, I had no service in Europe, and my phone was dead… My eyes darted around the room, and I saw that others had quickly made the same realization. It seems there was no escaping the present during this meal.
That night would end up being one of the better nights of our trip. After making the hard realization that technology was not going to replace human contact at this meal, we all put our phones away and really began to engage with each other. It was slow at first, even painful at times, but we pushed through the awkward pauses and momentary lapses and wound up really connecting. From that moment on, I made it a point not to depend on technology for sanctuary when I felt awkward. Able to sit across from just about anyone, and engage in a meaningful conversation was of high value. The ability to communicate could truly take someone places in life. Being a skilled communicator would not only make someone a great date, but it would set him or her apart from the rest as a friend, a student, and certainly as a professional
Travel and communication go hand and hand. You’re going to have a hard time navigating the globe if you spend the majority of your time focused on a six-inch screen in the palm of your hand. At Knowledge on the Run, we take it a step further. We have successfully integrated a soft skills framework into our Enrichment Travel programs. Our students are not just being exposed to the world’s culture capitals as we travel. They learn to communicate, collaborate, and critically think all along the way.