A Teaching Moment
“Catch the Trade Winds in Your Sails”

I have taught for more than two decades. My courses range from philosophy, history, art, ethics, theology, etc. I love to teach the humanities. It is a teaching moment to assist students to know and understand the world in which we find ourselves. It is essential. It enables students to learn how to make our world a better place.

Regardless of the particular class, I tell all my classes to travel. See America, but it is vital that they go overseas. That is where true learning takes place. We all need to leave our comfort zone and see what is different.

There is a gap between textbooks and reality. In this essay, I have selected a trilogy of world-famous writers who have written about the critical importance of traveling. This essay is a teaching moment for all my readers.

My first member of my trilogy is Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás. Most Americans are more familiar with the shorter version of his name, George Santayana. He wrote about the importance of getting out of the classroom. “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

Santayana was born in Madrid, Spain, but his family immigrated to America when he was eight years old. He is considered an American man of letters. Santayana was a philosopher, novelist, essayist, and poet. He was a student at Harvard, edited The Harvard Lampoon, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He spent a couple of years in Berlin before returning to the States as a professor at Harvard. He taught many students with whom you might be familiar: Robert Frost, Gertrude Stein, W.E.D. Du Bois, and T.S. Eliot. TIME honored him on their cover in February 3, 1936.

George Santayana

My second person of my travel trilogy is Maya Angelou. She was another American that pushed for traveling. During her career, she was active in the civil rights movement along with writing. In addition, she taught at Wake Forest from 1981-2011. Probably her greatest work was written in 1969, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Interestingly, the caged bird was Angelou. Her book spoke about racism, sexism, and not being allowed to fly like the whites due to racism.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou wrote, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” She was saying that traveling won’t cure all the problems of the world. Nonetheless, traveling can help people to understand people throughout the world. Her comment at the end of that single sentence, “we may even become friends,” resonates with me. I found many friends in the past half century on my travels overseas. In fact, I found a part of my family in Myanmar.

The last of my travel trilogy is Prophet Muhammad. He was born in Mecca around 570 CE and was given the name Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim. Muhammad’s name was even longer than Santayana’s. He had a difficult time as a youngster due to the death of his parents and then an uncle who cared for him also died. As with Maya Angelou, his early life influenced what he would later due in life. Around the time that he was forty, he was in Hira, a large cave, where he saw Gabriel. Gabriel gave Muhammad revelations from Allah. Muhammad believed in one God, which tied Islam to Judaism and Christianity.

Prophet Muhammad

It is interesting that Muhammad was also attempting to explain to all who would listen that travel was important. He said, “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” You can learn facts from a textbook, but traveling teaches you reality…in the world in which we should live.

Therefore, you have read about three famous people pushing for travel. While that is true, it is interesting that Santayana is a male Hispanic, Angelou was a black female and also a descendant of American slaves, and Muhammad was the founder of the religion of 3.45 million Americans. Those three writers make up the major groups in America that Trump doesn’t like. Trump wants to send them back to where they came from. Our fake president wants an all-white nation run by men. Perhaps, if Denmark would sell us Greenland, we should send him there and not allow him to return to America.

In conclusion, I have another famous writer and world traveler, James A. Michener. He wrote over forty books, most of which directly relate to travel. In fact, Michener wrote Space in 1982, which was a bit more than merely overseas travel. In Michener’s memoir, The World Is My Home, he stated the obvious.

James Michener

Michener wrote of travel in general, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” Man, travel is the best means to learn about the world in which we live. In four months, I will be in a hot air balloon over Bagan with my family.

Balloons over Bagan

PS Mark Twain wrote, “Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I hope this was a teaching moment for you.