Educational Travel

Educational Travel – The pursuit of knowledge

Educational holidays are becoming increasingly more popular among people from developed countries. The traditional beach and do nothing holiday will not face extinction any time soon but the new wave of educational holidays is asking for room in the tourism industry. This is a consequence of the digital revolution. “Far away” places are just a click away from you (and cheaper air transport has contributed to this) and this gives you the opportunity to learn about the history of other lands and see how they live without having to rely on TV documentaries.

Also, as the smart TVs, smartphones and other devices allow us to choose what we want to learn about; this has created a thirst for exploring unchartered territories. Also, if something defines millennials the most, is seeking instant gratification. “I know what I want, and I want it right now”, ranging from a hot meal delivered almost instantly to your house, a cab on the go or language lessons on your phone.

There are more people now trying to find knowledge in other areas of life than in the formal education system. Why is that?

This week I had a conversation with a man in the Boston subway. Boston is the home of many elite universities in the United States such as Harvard, MIT and Tufts University. He asked me this question: Why are libraries free? – I found the question strange. Why would you charge money to enter a library? After all, it is a public good. That was my answer. They are free because they are a public good. He then said, why do some students pay $50,000 per year for education when we have libraries full of knowledge and they are free? I don’t understand this but it is foolish. I thought about it and I acknowledged that in some way they are not paying for knowledge but for branding on their resumes. A friend from the Bahamas put it like this to me “Because that is where you forge alliances early, before entering the theatre of politics and industry. It is not so much a pursuit of knowledge, as an indoctrination into the global fiefdom”.

If that is the case, the real pursuit of knowledge will mainly happen outside the formal education system and this is contributing to the surge of educational holidays. In a large city for instance, for what an American pays for ten weeks (forty hours) of Spanish lessons in their hometown, they can get the same hours of lessons in a two week holiday, with a private tutor, in a native Spanish speaking country plus accommodation, meals, airport transfers and cultural activities.

And this is very interesting. Historically, before mass tourism was invented in the twentieth century, the traveller had three main reasons to travel. Business (public or private), education or religious pilgrimage. Travellers were not considered tourists. They did not travel to another country to stay in luxury accommodation near the beach and expected children entertainment or buffet dinners. They did it to learn. Whether it was the “Grand Tour” across different European nations, which was a complement to the formal education of the English nobility or extended travel to the Far East, the main reason was the pursuit of knowledge. And it seems that as the XIX century travellers, families in the digital era of XXI century are complementing once again their formal education with cultural holidays.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” – Agustine of Hippo

Written by Victor Delgado