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Why Our Students Keep a Travel Journal & Why I Never go Abroad Without One

For as long as I’ve been traveling, I’ve written things down, kept mementos, and did my best to chronicle my experiences in new places. No one ever told me to, no one ever suggested that it was a positive thing to do, I simply did not want to forget the unique experiences that I had abroad. I had no idea that what I was doing had any impact on my emotional well being or happiness. But as it turns out I had stumbled upon a habit that would keep me in a positive and grateful state of mind.

When I first realized that I had unknowingly picked up a healthy habit, I was sitting in Marble Falls, Texas at Camp Champions Counselor Orientation. Sitting next to me was my surf trip buddy and now business partner, Keaton Day. We both had been at camp as campers and counselors for over 12 years so we were pretty familiar with everything orientation had to offer, but this year was different. This year Shawn Achor was speaking, and the words he spoke on that day would help us develop the Knowledge on the Run lesson plan framework that is an integral part of our high school travel program.

Now, Shawn Achor was not just any guest speaker, he is a groundbreaking author, researcher, and speaker out of Harvard University who has written best sellers and helped millions of people. In his speech, Shawn highlighted a challenge he developed in his work The Happiness Advantage, which he called “The 21 Day Challenge.” A participant in the 21 Day Challenge is tasked with reflecting positively at the end of each day about 3 different experiences, journaling regularly about those positive experiences, exercising, regular mediation (with the goal to break the chain of technology addiction), and committing one random act of kindness daily.

The idea of journaling being used as a tool for positive reflection resonated with me. Shawn went on about the power of positive thinking. According to Shawn Achor, one can reprogram their brain in 21 days to become more positive. The reprogramming begins with reflection. Forcing oneself to think about the positive things that happen to them throughout the day eventually leads one to seek out positivity in day-to-day life. And when our minds are “in the positive,” as Shawn says, as opposed to stressed, in the negative, or neutral we are happier, more productive, and more intelligent.

When Keaton and I founded Knowledge on the Run and developed our high school travel program, we put Shawn’s research to use. We created a trip that was approximately three weeks in length (Road to Berlin), and we implemented Shawn’s research into our lesson plan. Now along with other aspects of the 21 Day Challenge, our students keep travel journals with the purpose of reflecting positively on each day abroad. One of the main goals we have at Knowledge on the Run is to use our unique experiences abroad to create lasting positive change and habits in our students lives.

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