The Road Not Taken

This week I’ve had a couple of conversations with my international students about travel vs. tourism.  The word traveler should not be substituted with vacationer, tourist, visitor, sight-seer, trekker or day-tripper. However, it could be used instead of pilgrim, explorer, voyager or seeker.

A vacation is meant for relaxation and rest. Travel is a learning experience.

Having never ventured further south from Vancouver than Seattle and no further east than Banff, at a very young age I went to Peru.  Right away, I knew I had a tiger by the tail. I sensed that my life would change… and it did.

Never again would I view things in quite the same light. The people I met opened their hearts to me and I discovered the meaning of hospitality. Complete strangers took me into their homes; they fed me and showed me the way.

In Peru and other South American countries, I felt great joy as I actively learned about new cultures. I walked over the dunes of the Atacama Desert; rode a banana barge down the Amazon; and I went to Machu Picchu.

When I returned to Canada, I indeed appreciated “the true north strong and free” but I missed the quaintness; openness  and freedom of my travel days. By a lucky twist of fate, I ended up in Mexico and many opportunities to relive the early experience have presented themselves.

Now my children, my students, my nieces and nephews are having their turn. Some of them have been bitten by the bug and they find a great ally in me.

When I hear people say, “Why travel, you’ll just spend a lot of money and too soon it will be over and you’ll be left with nothing,” I have to disagree – fervently.

For my students who will depart Mexico within 24 hours, I offer you Robert Frost’s amazing poem to take with you…

The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood                                                                                                                                        

and sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

and looked down one as far as I could

to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

and having perhaps the better claim

because it was grassy and wanted wear;

though as for that, the passing there

had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay                                                                                                                                                   

in leaves no feet had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less travelled by,

and that has made all the difference

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The Road Not Taken

  1. I wanted to start a centre for life long education as my post-retirement career! Just sharing

    http://grightnow.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/free-life-long-education/

    cheers.

  2. I would far rather spend money on travel than material things. Most people I know don’t get it. They’d rather look rich than be enriched.

  3. kwallek

    I fly into a city that has car rentals, rent one and go. No plans other than a list of things I want to look at in whatever time I have in-country. Tourist, traveler, just a guy that likes to go to the end of the road and turn around. My favorite question is: What are you doing here? My answer is: Looking and learning. I like to think I’m a student but most would call me a tourist.

  4. You’re so right–my first travels (to Mexico) changed my life radically. But, for those people who cannot afford to travel, or are not ready, I’d like to suggest the viewpoint of the song linked below. There is so much to learn about other cultures in most parts of the world, even if traveling is not in the cards.

    I can still recall feeling like this song (“Livin’ in a City of Immigrants”) . Living in San Francisco was much like NY in this regard– so many worlds, right THERE.

    (I also love this song because it so belies the stereotype of a country singer.)

  5. Hola Joanna from a little up north (Pátzcuaro, Michoacán),

    Like you, I was bitten by the travel bug in Peru at an early age. Instead of culture, however, I admit to a different draw — a guy I fancied myself in love with who was in the Peace Corps in Boliva.

    Like you, the trip changed my life. The travel itch and the guy are still hanging around. We both went into education and put new meaning into the saying “Teaching is a subversive activity.” Many students took to the idea of travel and many parents wanted to wring our necks.

    And we still consider traveling a perfect vice. You don’t have to go into treatment, just travel.

    All the best to your students as they start on an adventure that could change their lives.

  6. Joanne

    A few years ago a woman told me that her husband was giving her an emerald ring for their 25th anniversary. Ours was coming up within the year and I said that we were going to Europe for our anniversary. She said exactly what you wrote – “but after its over its all gone”. I disagreed, we had the shared experience of our wonderful trip. And there is so much of the wide world to experience!

  7. Absolutely. I agree with you 100%. You and I had similar experiences traveling.

    My first travel abroad, to Colombia as a teenager changed my life completely. I imagine that if I had not had those early eye-opening and mind-expanding experiences my life would have been much less interesting, less rich.

    And, not surprisingly, that’s one of my favorite poems.

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