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Encounter Yourself -- Writer's Poke #342

Kids learn incredibly annoying songs, and some of these songs stay with us for the rest of our lives. One such song for me is “This Land Is Your Land,” which according to wikipedia “is one of the United States’ most famous folk songs.”

Why did my grade school decide to teach us this song? Was it for the geography lesson, so that we could learn about “the Redwood Forest” and “the Gulf Stream waters”? I don’t know, but I do know that most of us thought the world began and ended at the county line. That is to say, most of us didn’t travel much further than Terre Haute, Indiana, which was the “big city” located less than 30 miles away from our hometown of Casey, Illinois (population 3000).

Every summer, Chad talked about how his family spent their summer vacation in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This was a big deal for him, and for us, too, really, as most of us didn’t have the opportunity to travel even that far. Kids made do by playing little league baseball and swimming at the city pool.

The one summer I went to Bible School, I impressed the adults by claiming to have travelled to Paris and Palestine. These, of course, were small towns near where we lived, but for some reason, they assumed I meant some other more famous locations. I never bothered to correct their assumptions. After all, even at that age I liked the idea of being well-travelled.

When my third grade teacher asked the class what the world’s largest island was, I claimed it had to be Australia. She refused to accept that answer, claiming that it was a continent, and not an island. When I pressed the point, however, she did admit that Australia was surrounded on all sides by water, and she didn’t have an easy explanation for why it couldn’t be defined as not only a continent, but also as an island. (By the way, Greenland is technically the world’s largest island, but Australia – aka “the Island Continent – is three times the size of Greenland.)

As of 2011, I’ve been to 45 states and maybe 13 or 14 countries. And that’s pretty good compared to the average bear, but it’s not good enough to satisfy my wanderlust. Studying about geography and history and world cultures, and keeping up with International events on the Internet, that’s important, sure, but it’s no substitute for visiting actual places. And the way to visit is not as a tourist, but as a student.

Imagine the world as your classroom.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine


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