What Travel Can Teach Us

Photo of Lake Geneve, In Swiss Wine Country

I’ve always been a big fan of traveling. It’s both enjoyable and humbling. It’s a privilege not all can afford, yet it has much to teach us. We are all part of a global, interconnected society, and travel gives us an opportunity to experience new communities and cultures that can inspire us and pique our curiosity.

Travel also teaches us that anything can happen at a moment’s notice and things are often beyond our control. Adaptability and flexibility (and frequently inconvenience and frustration) are the new norm when it comes to flying in 2022.  

I’m writing this on a flight from Baltimore to San Jose, California to visit a new independent school client. As an active flyer, nothing really surprises me anymore. However, about an hour into our flight, the captain announces that we have a crack in the windshield (in our fairly new Southwest Airlines 737 MAX8), that they are talking to Boeing and might have to make an unscheduled emergency landing. I exchanged glances with several passengers around me, but everyone remains calm. This is not what I was expecting on the flight this morning.

About 20 minutes later, the captain takes us to a lower altitude at 11,000 feet – this won’t negatively impact the windshield, he told us – and instead of landing in Las Vegas, we are headed two hours to Denver where Southwest had a new plane waiting for us. The captain really did an excellent job of communicating with the passengers and was informative and reassuring. Well done, Southwest Airlines.

Travel Tip #1: If you can, pack lightly and carry your luggage on the plane with you. Today’s flight is another lesson that flight schedules can and do change in real time. Yes, I did eventually get to San Jose, just three and half hours late.

Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of taking two international trips and visiting our younger daughter, Emily, who has been traveling the world as part of a Watson Fellowship. This past summer my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary by visiting Northern Italy (Milan and Lake Como) and Switzerland (Luzern in the Alps, Chardon high above Lake Geneva and then Geneva itself). Switzerland has always been on my bucket list, and Lake Como was on my wife’s list.

Both locales were stunning in their natural beauty, with welcoming communities and citizens who greeted us warmly and appreciated us (and our dollars). Yes, we had major, expected travel delays flying within Europe, which did not spoil the bulk of the trip.

Travel Tip #2: Get travel insurance when traveling internationally. It covered our additional travel expenses from delays.

Emily joined us for our European vacation. The fellowship encourages students to “create their own personal pathways … then support their journeys.” The Watson Foundation awards the annual fellowship to 40 highly vetted seniors at a consortium of liberal arts schools. Emily is exploring how culture, politics, and physical space shape notions of health and wellbeing, and how this informs health-seeking behaviors and care provision. When she returns to the U.S. in late October, she will be interviewing with medical schools.

Emily’s fellowship was supposed to start in 2020, which, of course, was postponed by COVID-19 travel restrictions. This past January she was finally cleared by the Watson Foundation to depart. Since, she has spent time in Peru, Argentina, Mexico (joined for a week by her sister Sarah), Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Turkey and Israel.

The Watson Fellowship, along with countless school led trips, are excellent examples of how travel can educate and inspire young adults and students to think differently and recognize that we are all global citizens. Travel informs future decisions by the next generation of changemakers who will move our society forward.

Final Travel Tip: Make travel a part of your life and force yourself to experience the joys of new discovery. It really does nourish the soul.

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

Read the latest post from Kalix President Jonathan Oleisky.
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