RTC-TH Tech

A Perspective on International Travel

Greetings from the Midwest

As I write this note, I'm eagerly counting the hours and minutes until I embark on my "great adventure for this summer: two weeks in the ancient city of Cusco, where I'll live with a Peruvian family, study Spanish at language school, and hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I've packed and repacked, checkd my airline ticket frequently, and paced.

A year ago, I was preparing for a similar adventure-a study-tour of the Chinese Silk Road from Xi'an to Urumqi with your organization, the Los Angeles Geographical Society. The trip was very well planned and directed; an extraordinary experience--and it reminded me of the distinction that must be made between things we know and things we only know about. The Geographic Systems Model, spoused by Greg Lee and practiced by each fellow traveler provided us the structure to be able to share our interpretations of what we experienced. Rather than read a textbook author's single impression of Western China, we experienced it, interpreted it from our various backgrounds, shared it, and it became part of us. The adventure also strengthened my belief in the advice I've given students (high school geography classes) for years; learning to function in another culture is an essential part of education.

I've gotten a lot of mileage our of those Silk Road slides. Of course my classes have seen them, and I was delighted to accept invitations to make presentations at several regional teacher workshops as well as the Illinois Geographic Alliance Fall Conference and at the Illinois Geographical Society annual meeting. Nevertheless, I realize that even if a picture is worth a thousand words, it is still a distant second place to actually experience that place.

I wish you continued success in promoting geography and travel as education in your part of the world. I hope our paths will cross again someday, maybe in Tibet in 2002?

Sincerely, Robert M. Ashley
Illinois Geographical Society

Note: This article appears in the LA Geographical Society's newsletter, Southland Geographical Notes, Aug 2001, vol. 49, no. 1, page. 5.

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