I wrote the following for my students on our return flight from Greece last Saturday, something to share with them after a difficult, heartbreaking, scary week for our friends and family at home. They are mere words; but sometimes words are all we have.
When you share an experience as profound as traveling to what is–for all intents and purposes–the birthplace of civilization, the place where knowledge truly began, it is only natural to get a little contemplative at the end of it all.
The 22 of us now share a bond, our first–maybe for some our only–trip to Greece. And whether you’re a grandfather or grandmother or a high school student flying for the very first time, you are not the same person you were one week ago. You have grown, you have learned, you have faced myriad challenges and thrived.
You have enhanced your understanding of humanity and what it means to be human. Your chaperones and I are committed to travel; we are committed to you. We know why this is important; and if you didn’t before, I suspect you do now.
We live in a scary world, where the worst of humanity is on display every day. But we cannot hide ourselves or run from the world. We travel because what travel teaches us is that despite our different languages, cuisine, and culture, there is more that links us than separates us. And what we learn–when we go to Greece or France or England or Italy–is that our only hope is to join with one another and to commit to and learn from one another.
The Orpheus myth is quite right; we cannot look back. We need to move forward and start building from today. We need to take the energy we expend needlessly bickering, complaining, rationalizing, and wishing things were different and asking what we can do to make things better for our fellow human beings.
Travel teaches us that nothing is about us–what we want, what we think, our personal opinions and proclivities. When you stand in Greece, you realize how very small you are; yet, paradoxically, we see also how we truly are each other’s only hope.
Continue your journey, never looking back, with perspective and your life lessons in your heart. Walk away with the good memories and edit out the rest.
Thank you for joining us and for understanding why we must, why we do travel.