More than at any other time in our lives, traveling reveals both our strengths and our weaknesses – and the varying levels of each.
Only a small fraction of what we know from school, dating, professional life, social customs and just about any other situation that we’ve learned from throughout our lives will serve us any good when on the road in a different part of the world.
But this should never intimidate us, because in all the other times in our lives, we were simply learning how to act, what to say or how to land that dream job. Out in the foreign wilds, the things that we’ll find out are more akin to our personal level of creativity, or tact, our street smarts and, of course, our talents.
Forget your high school jam band. Playing guitar in the talent show makes strumming for a village full of wide-eyed tribal onlookers seem like the season finale of American Idol. Your last uncomfortable date will pale in comparison to being hit on by a Muslim woman and worrying if you’re to be hung at the gallows by sunrise. And that time that you said the wrong thing at the board meeting will seem as frivolous as the tie you were wearing that day when faced with realizing that you’ve just offended the local religious leader by having accidentally made the most horrendous hand gesture known to this part of the world.
Every semester of ethics classes you ever took will be as useful as the first drop of sweat that escapes your brow in situations like these. In this way, the phrase “in the heat of the jungle” doesn’t always apply to temperature. And quick learning happens in moments like these. So they will undoubtedly leave us with the most firmly planted lessons and the most magnificent memories that we’ll likely ever experience.
Academic diplomas take us years to complete, while our creative insights flex like lean muscles after just a month on the road. And what we learn out there could never be taught in the classroom. The reason for this is that what we learn comes from within us. And we are the only facilitators of our own creativity. We find it in ourselves, we use it in our actions and we learn from it in an ever-expanding vocation of life-sized applications.
Make no mistake; the value of our talents cannot be measured in the world of academia. Yet they benefit us far greater, stay with us far longer and continue to teach us farther into our lives than even the most expensive and prestigious schools on earth.
Our talents are all our own. And while we’re busy learning about these intangible places in ourselves, the world is much the better for our efforts in bringing our talents abroad and learning in tandem with the experiences that we all share along the way.
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Insights from the Pavement is a new style of blog that I am trying out. These will be posted a couple times per week for the next few months. And I am interested in what my readers and passersby think of them. So be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section.