My parents met in Denmark, while spending a collective 8 years in a post World War 2 refugee camp. They entered at the ages of 10 and 13 after fleeing from their family homes, initially, and incorrectly, believing theyd return sooner than later. If our early childhood years are impressionable, the people they became were very much formed by their war and post war experiences. The degree to which we are formed in any part by our parents personalities, fears, anxieties or emotions, their experiences formed me and in turn, some part of my children. We cannot live those experiences with each other – thankfully. But we can try and get a clearer picture of what they endured.

In 1984, my parents returned to Europe for a 4 week visit. As I was in my final year of high school, it was deemed the most I could afford to miss would be 2 of the 4 weeks, so I remained behind while they retraced their steps and returned to the refugee camp that served as their home some 40 years earlier. I recall thinking at the time, that here was an opportunity that may not present itself again, and I was right. I do not recall what school curriculum may been covered during those two weeks, however I am confident that they did not alter my course in life or my eventual station in it. It was however, one event that helped formed my opinion that when life presents an opportunity to see other worlds – take it.

Almost twenty years later in the autumn of 2003 my wife, myself and our two daughters travelled to Italy on a two week trip we thought was a wonderful opportunity for both us as a family and more specifically a chance to spark a new set of synapses in our children. It was a significant financial sacrifice at the time, and an opportunity we did not take for granted. When we informed our eldest daughters third grade teacher that she would be missing 2 weeks of school, he dutifully assigned two weeks of schoolwork together with the requisite texts that he expected us to cart all over Europe.

The homework remained where it belonged – at home. The world, as Saint Augustine asserted, is its own book, and we were determined to read more than one page. At the semesters first parent teacher interview, we learned that Lexie had recovered adequately, though we were warned that you wouldnt want to do that too often! Ironically, she had missed the Roman numerals segment of the curricula, whilst taking in Michelangelos Pieta in St. Peters Basilica and Leonardo da Vincis early renderings of flight machines in Florence. (Im happy to note that she has by now, fully recovered as she embarks on her second Masters in European history this Fall.)

For fear my message be inferred as diminishing the value of education, my intention is quite the opposite. Rather, travel IS education if embarking upon your journey with an open mind – (lest we become the nomad Tomas Fuller had in mind when he noted that if an ass goes travelling, he does not come home a horse). What we learn when we are fortunate enough to travel cannot be replicated in the classroom or by listening to our parents stories. Many times through the years, I have found myself in agreement with Mark Twains observation that twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. Some opportunities only come around once. Seize them while you can.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff Neumann