I have always believed that “travel is our best teacher”. When one steps outside the four walls of a classroom, one gets to meet new people, see new places, learn new traditions and gain different experiences. When we travel, we experience or become part of a lot of things that we would otherwise have not been able to do. Travelling pushes us to drop stereotypes, leave narrow-mindedness and superstitions behind to widen our perspective of the world and people around us.
Travel and education cannot be separated from each other. In other words, education is incomplete without travel. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Kutch to Kalimpong, there is such extreme and varied diversity in India, that there is no end to learning. There is history, architecture, agriculture, environment, folk music and dance, traditional art and so much more to learn that we never get to read about in our textbooks.
Travelling is an initiation into the world-at-large. It brings us face-to-face with new lands, new cultures and new challenges that demand that we become a new person. It expands us, unravels us and can transform us. It is enlightening, beautiful, frightening, and at times painful — as transformative processes usually are.
Education has an integral role to play in the journey of a person. And to achieve this education, it is important to gain new experiences. However, as I pursued my academics, I found that these experiences cannot be gained sitting within the four walls of the classroom. That’s when I decided to go on a journey of self-designed learning. On the course of this journey, I found that travel is the tool I was looking for my own learning.
My first experiment was a journey from Udaipur to Chittorgarh which I covered by bicycle. I began this voyage without a single rupee and it came to an end 28 days later. It took me to various parts of Rajasthan, inside people’s homes and their lives. The journey also gave me an opportunity to know myself better. It helped me figure out my next step. By the end of the trip, I began to see everything from a whole new perspective.
If you really want to make the most of your journey, travel light and travel alone, especially if you are willing to learn more about yourself and the world around you. When we travel without a companion, we are not bound by anything. We are not entitled or answerable to anyone and have a chance to look at our life and experiences in a different way. I got a very good opportunity to understand my insecurities and limitations. I was able to observe and reflect.
Travelling alone is an amazing experience. We can go in any direction we want. We can sit by a road and look at the passersby for hours or make a stop whenever and wherever we want. There is nothing to hold us back. There is no one to judge us. We don’t have to worry about what others will think of us and just follow our hearts. Travelling alone can help you discover a lot of things about yourself. You unlearn everything you have learned and you might stumble upon a whole new set of truths about yourself. Stripped of social conditioning, the world will seem a much better place. But the most important thing I realized during this journey is that there’s a lot to learn beyond the four walls of our classrooms. Whatever we learn in school is largely affected by the aspirations of society.
My next experiment with travel and learning was a 52-week long gap year journey across India, “52 Parindey”.
Usually, a gap year is when a student, after finishing school and before starting college, takes a year off to find out what he/she wants to pursue in life. Students go through a lot of mental pressure from high school to college. In this competitive world where your grades decide your future, students do not get any time to think about themselves. This is where a gap year comes to the rescue. It gives them time to think about their interests and find out what they expect from their lives.
Some people believe that the concept of the gap year is a waste of time. However, the truth is, if used wisely, this one year can prove to be very beneficial for the students. It gives them time to travel to new places, work with various organizations and communities, research about a particular subject, experiment in order to experience what life has to offer. This one year can be used to search for new possibilities and give a new direction to life. It can be used to see the world and form a unique perspective. Among its most prominent benefits are – we can become more aware and responsible towards ourselves, the society and the planet. It helps nurture the art and skill of living which is vital to achieving success in life.
The concept looks good on paper but is it possible to put it into practice? Yes, indeed. We just need to figure out a way to accomplish this. There are hundreds of stories out there where a gap-year has helped students add more meaning to their lives. However, most of these stories are about students in other countries. This experiment is yet to gain prominence in India. This is when I thought of undertaking a year-long journey to travel throughout the country. I planned to take a gap year and pursue my interests. I wanted to share with the world, stories of people who have challenged the system and found alternative paths for themselves. They are doing something for the society and environment. And the best part is, they are truly happy.
52 Parindey transformed me and my experiences propelled me to take this initiative to a broader level, and it manifested as a “Travellers’ University”. The idea of a Travellers’ University is to put travel at the centre of learning to rethink and reclaim one’s education. By designing and implementing multiple learning journeys and workshops, I propose to enable the youth to uncover a range of learning/unlearning opportunities to understand themselves while encountering new worlds. Travellers’ University is an alternative learning community for and by people to support individuals who are interested in travelling and learning to deepen their understanding of a larger worldview and are looking for alternative choices for their education.
Travellers’ University is currently in the experimental phase; we are trying to build a team of young and passionate individuals to design and implement a range of learning journeys and workshops in the next one year. Through these activities, we intend to challenge the institutionalization of knowledge, culture, and tradition.
The author is a passionate traveller and explorer. Dissatisfied with the existing system, he often found himself pondering over real issues of education, social injustice, the role of money, etc. When he realized his questions and inquisitiveness did not have a place in this education setup, he decided to walk out of it in pursuit of learning from alternative modes of education to deepen his knowledge. He is now determined to create a platform that facilitates self-designed learning through travel and space that celebrates such questioning and deep enquiry. He can be reached at [email protected].