I had all the kids stand up and one by one they sat down…
“If you haven’t been outside of Lincoln, Nebraska – sit down.” I stated.
Everyone remained standing…phew.
“If you haven’t been outside of Nebraska – sit down.”
I lost a couple.
“If you haven’t been outside the United States – sit down.”
They started dropping off rapidly now.
“If you haven’t been outside of North America – sit down.”
There were a meager 4 students left in my nieces 6th grade class of 60.
This is how I started my presentation to the 6th graders at my niece’s school. This wasn’t to embarrass anyone. Instead I then went on to tell them I had been to 34 countries and the first time I ever went out of North America was when I was 30 years old. Clearly, they had time to build up their travel resume; but I wanted to provide some inspiration to do so.
I passed around my passport so they could all see what one looked like; they flipped through it eagerly. I went on to give a photography and activity-laden Power Point presentation about 3 countries I had been to: Vietnam, Nepal, and Mongolia. I compared the countries on their food, transportation, and school/family/home life. At the end, the class had to vote where they’d rather be an exchange student.
Giving this presentation was one of the most ‘non-travel’ rewarding things I did this year. The kids loved it, and I loved teaching them about parts of the world they had never heard of and leaving an impression on them that would fuel their travel desires as students and adults.
I was thrilled when I received a standing ovation at the end and kids came to talk to me in the hall about how much they liked my travel presentation. But the real treat came when I received a package from the teachers with 60 hand-written thank you notes.
I sat up late into the night, as I couldn’t put them down. They were rewarding, funny, and passionate; and peppered with many spelling mistakes. All the notes were brightly colored with stars and rainbows; it reminded me of what it was like to be a kid again.
Some of my favorite excerpts were (I left in the spelling errors for authenticity):
“During that one hour that you were there we learned alot more geography then we were taught the whole year, no joke!”
“I also thought it was pretty cool that you just quit your job to do what you wanted to do. I think that would be fun but challenging to do.”
“You inspired me to do what I like to do, instead of what makes money. Well, you make money but not as much.”
“I think I want to be a nomad to.”
“I never thought that you were a nomad because you have nice clothes and stuff.”
“You are so courageous!”
These were lovely compliments – however my thoughts really lingered on sentences like these:
“I would have liked to live in Vietnam the most. It definally looked like a lot of fun with those motorbikes!”…”and what about them holding all those things on their bikes? If I could do that I’d love it so much.”
“It sounds like fun to try all kinds of different food.”
“I like that they ride motorbikes even though there aren’t any rules.”
“It would be so interesting to visit 34 countries. The beautiful sno-capped mountains in Nepal, the flat, sandy plaines in Mongolia would be so cool to see!”
“Was it fun to have a motorbike? I think it looks really fun to have one.”
“I think it is awesome that you got to live in Vietnam.”
“I think it would be fun to try a whole new lifestyle every day!”
“I think it would be awesome with no traffic laws.”
“It is cool, but gross how you had to eat a rat! But that’s really cool!”
I lingered on the use of words like “awesome”, “cool”, and “fun”. Yes, they screamed youth in all of its glory; but they also made me think about how most kids are fearless. I thought about the comments I would have received if I had given this same presentation to my old work colleagues. I don’t think they would have unanimously thought it was cool and exciting to ride motorbike in chaotic traffic in Vietnam; or eat rat; or live with nomads in the Gobi Desert.
When did life stop being fun and start being scary? Is there a magic age where we start to worry? Where we start to conform? Where we start to be fearful of things that are different instead of embracing them?
I don’t have the answers, but I know that somewhere along the way to adulthood we change; we become scared.
As adults we look before we leap, and kids just leap. My nieces jumped into their swimming pool when it was 65 degrees for the fun and love of swimming. As an adult – who out there would do that?
The whole experience reminded me of why I love to travel and do what I do. I want to bring you another view of the world and hopefully show you that it’s not as scary as you think. I want us all to try to embrace youthful attitude again; be fearless, be open-minded.
Back when I had a home with furniture, I used to have a magnet on my fridge that said “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Try it – it may take hold. It may make you feel like a kid again.
The experience also reminded me of why I love spell-check functionality too! I had to include this one comment from a student as it had me double-over, laughing out loud. I laughed so hard, I felt like I was 11 again!
By Audrey July 29, 2010 - 9:35 am
Great post! That last photo is especially precious.
Dan and I spoke with a group of 8th graders in northern Virginia on our recent trip to the States and it was one of the most fun things we did during our visit. The interaction with kids is so much different than with adults (we also did presentations to adults during this visit). Their openness and approach to life is so much more free. I’m not sure when we adults lost some of that impulsiveness and freedom.
By Amy @ The Q Family July 29, 2010 - 10:55 am
That’s amazing! What a great way to share your travel experience and help instill the love of travel to the new generation.
Ok.. That’s last picture was too cute. 🙂
By Abi from Inside the Travel Lab July 29, 2010 - 11:04 am
That is a great collection of quotes to get to keep (especially the last one!)
I agree with you that children are often fearless – a quality that opens up a whole world of possibilities and excitement. Of course, it also presents a lot of real world danger and it’s a good thing that adults worry about us when we’re young otherwise we’d just get run over or inadvertently poisoned!
As with most things in life, moderation is the secret. A bit of fear is crucial – even when travelling – to keep yourself safe enough to carry on travelling! When adults become too scared to travel at all, well that’s a sign that things have gone a little too far…
By Scott Rosenbaum July 29, 2010 - 11:15 am
Long time reader, first time commenter.
That is awesome, I think the last letter needs to get a frame…
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:40 am
Scott – it’s GREAT to hear from you and I had no idea you read the blog…thanks for speaking up!
By Alison July 29, 2010 - 11:25 am
Wow, what a fantastic experience for you and for the children. You’re right, we do seem to forget to be fearless somewhere along the line. I never remember worrying about stuff when I was a kid and now it seems like everything I do is filled with fear and worry. I think travelling helps push us beyond that fear and remind us how to look at the world with child-like wonder again.
By Mark Pawlak July 29, 2010 - 11:25 am
Yes, there is the innocence of children when they throw themselves headlong into things with little or no contextual knowledge of what it is they are doing; this fades each time they hurt themselves.
For adults we fear the ‘other’ and grow to like what we know to be safe. A little similar to US citizens living close to the border who fear Mexican immigration – odd as they are immigrants too.
We just need to experience more of the world, accept risk as inevitable and understand we are all in this together.
I disagree about doing something which scares you everyday, it seems impossible to sustain and a little too much like ‘The Dice Man’!
Push your own personal limits. And if this means just getting out of the house before dawn for a walk, do it.
Travel is never something to be scared of, although sometimes people are!
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:39 am
True – everyone has to find their own way to ‘push’ themselves…for me the do one thing everyday that scares me works. It may be small, or big…it depends on the day. Heck – it was that motto that finally got me eating sushi years ago! I’ve come a long way…
Thanks for your comments Mark – very insightful!
By Brian Setzer July 29, 2010 - 11:47 am
Sounds like you did a great presentantion! Such a good idea for the school to have you come do that. I’m sure the kids not only learned more about geography during that hour than they would have, but even more importantly opened their minds to let them dream about what they want in the future.
This is the first thing I read this morning in my tent and it was a great way to start the day. Love the comments 🙂
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:37 am
Love the fact that you are reading blog posts in your tent…now THAT’s inspiring! Hope the trip is going well!
By Cindy July 29, 2010 - 11:49 am
Sherry – love this post, thanks for sharing your experience with the kids. A great read over coffee which I almost spit out when I got to the end. That was priceless!
I had a similar (fun) experience speaking to 4th and 5th graders in my hometown in Montana – I was talking about India, and how many people there were vegetarians. One kid stood up and said “That’s impossible, you would DIE if you didn’t eat meat!”. That’s Montana kids for you! I still am laughing about it.
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:37 am
Sorry about your coffee accident…ha! I should have warned people about the picture…but you can imagine when I saw it the first time…rolled right out of my chair!
Very cute story about the kids in Montana! Love it!
By Gray July 29, 2010 - 11:55 am
I love this article, Sherry! First, for the way you taught the children to think about travel and going beyond their current experiences, but also for exploring that concept of fear. I’d like to know, too: Why is it that we become so fearful of things when we grow up? It kinda sucks.
PS That spelling error…ROTFLMAO!
By Laura July 29, 2010 - 11:59 am
First of all, that last picture left me laughing out loud! And reading through some of the things the kids wrote to you was just too cute. Even though you have such a huge event like “Meet Plan Go” coming up, I love that you’re even inspiring the youngsters. I’m sure this presentation was very fulfilling with the kids being so intrigued!
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:35 am
Ha – yes – I’ve decided that I need to start influencing and inspiring at a young age…it’s much easier to do than to convince adults to get up and go traveling! Hopefully I’m planting a seed!
By Amy July 29, 2010 - 12:18 pm
Sherry you are so spot on with this. It is so true – we are so much more willing to try and do things when you are a kid. I hope to regain that through our travels. So much of life gets shut off or cut off when we allow our overly logical adult voices to take over.
And….of course the kicker is your necklace!
By Alisha July 29, 2010 - 1:42 pm
I absolutely love this post. Reading it gave me chill bumps. The knowledge, influence, and creative energy you put forth for the children will be more than they probably receive all year for some. One of the favorite things about coming back to the states for me was sharing my experiences with my nieces, nephews, and cousins. To see their eyes grow so wide and be so intriqued about homes and places other than their own. This is truly a reason we all travel- to share our stories to encourage others! Your effort is amazing, and they are lucky to have had you be a part of their classroom!
By Kyle July 29, 2010 - 2:28 pm
We gave the same type of speech about our travels to a group of middle aged professionals and their response was decidedly different: it ranged from “so, what are you selling me?” to “I can’t do that because (some lame excuse)”. It’s good that you are getting them young while their minds are open and their imagination is at their best!
Who knows, maybe 10 years from now this speech will have sparked one of the students to do a semester or year abroad!
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:34 am
Oh I hope it gets just one kid interested in a semester abroad…then I’ll feel completely successful!
How interesting that the adult group thought that you were trying to sell something…a sad commentary on our adult lives!
Thanks for your comment!
By Lynn July 29, 2010 - 3:40 pm
Sherry, one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. I can’t answer for everyone, but I actually was a pretty fearful kid and only started to lose some of my fears as a teenager and young adult. I feel like I put away my childish fears, only to eventually acquire more reasonable “adult” ones. Most of my adult fears have to do with confronting my own mortality. The older you get the more real death and disability begin to seem. But in a strange way confronting mortality also makes it less scary. So I guess it works both ways.
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:33 am
I certainly was a fearful kid…was scared of everything – just ask my brother and sister! Somehow I’ve been going the opposite direction as I get older – I’ll try anything now!
By JoAnna July 29, 2010 - 11:56 pm
Super inspiring post, Sherry. I’m posting this one on my private FB page for all those people out there who keep commenting and telling me that I’m lucky for doing what I do. There’s no reason they can’t do the same.
By ExplorerDad July 30, 2010 - 12:38 am
Great post – kids often see things better than we do. And yes their quotes are classic.
By megan July 30, 2010 - 5:35 am
What a fantastic thing for you to do – hopefully your presentation will stay with those kids for a long time.
I know I’m becoming more and more of a fraidy-cat as I get older – it’s only getting worse, which is a worry since I only just set out on my trip! But one of my goals is to try and do things I would normally shy away from – maybe I’ll try and recapture some of that fearlessness (operative word being: try!)
And that spelling mistake – I am literally in stitches!!
By admin July 30, 2010 - 10:42 am
Thanks EVERYONE for your great comments and passing this post along to friends! Hopefully it will make us all think a bit!
I wish I could simply go on a school speaking circuit – it would be so much fun! One day….you never know…however I’ll be sure to not wear a necklace next time!
By Dave and Deb July 30, 2010 - 11:58 am
I love this post Sherry. I laughed out loud at the end. Hilarious! It is wonderful how children have that fearlessness. It is doing presentations like this that helps us all remember what it was like to be young and filled with wonder.
By Heather on her travels August 1, 2010 - 4:33 am
What a rewarding experience to inspire these school kids – however if you did this to a class of kids at one of my childrens’ schools I suspect that most of them would still be standing while you worked through UK, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Australia – you might lose a few by the time you got to the North pole.
By thalia August 1, 2010 - 1:00 pm
i think that once you realise that you can die from doing certain things, it scares you. i definitely remember one year just loving gymnastics in gym class, and the next year i had horrible visions of me snapping my neck doing flips. i’m totally jealous of fearlessness- i’m really trying to work on it! great post!
By Suzy August 1, 2010 - 4:59 pm
Wonderful insight into a child’s innocence when it comes to travel, something we all should embrace no matter our age. Definitely had me laughing at the spelling mistake at the end there.
By Mark H August 3, 2010 - 9:29 pm
The last photo made me laugh. Innocent and hilarious. This is one of the most uplifting articles I’ve read – really fine and rewarding piece.
By Poi August 5, 2010 - 4:37 am
Loved reading this – that last picture is amazing.
If only everyone could approach everything like a kid, the world would be so much more fun. I’ve been telling myself to forget the what ifs, when did I start worrying about things so much??
By Shannon August 14, 2010 - 6:56 am
Fabulous post! I love seeing things through kids’ eyes. It is refreshing. It makes me take a step back and look at an experience with a different outlook. You are such a great aunt!
By Michelle August 18, 2010 - 9:36 am
LOVE this post. We all dream of far off places as kids, why don’t we make some of it a reality as adults?
By Mary, mother of Ruben & Skate September 28, 2010 - 4:36 pm
I’m slowly making it through your blog. It’s great. It was very nice of you to visit your niece’s school. I love that last letter. Classic.
By Priyank December 30, 2010 - 11:54 am
I got goosebumps reading this, honest! These non academic lessons will certainly last in their minds especially since now is the time their personality develops! When I was in 6th grade (heck, 10th even!) all I wanted to do is graduate, marry, settle down…. but now its funny. 😀 Thanks for sharing!
By flip February 9, 2011 - 7:35 am
i love this post… and the notes that you got from the kids are just so sweet (and funny too)…
By kim March 26, 2011 - 12:33 pm
HAHAHA! That note is priceless. The exclamation point just adds to it too! Love it!
You know, if I would have heard a presentation like you delivered when I was in the sixth grade I think it could have changed my life. I grew up in Ohio, neither of my parents have ever been out of the country and the farthest west they’d ever traveled (before I moved to Oregon) was Colorado (my dad). It took me until I was an adult to realize that traveling was possible and not just something that rich people get to do. As a kid, I think knowing that travel was possible could have changed everything…
By abhishek July 20, 2011 - 12:45 am
wow!!….just amazing how u look at life….i just loved the statement ..”do one thing a day u are scared off”.
By Chandra October 7, 2011 - 2:04 pm
Wow I’m really glad that I found your blog! I loved reading this story and it should serve as inspiration for everyone raising children.
ps i want to see the aforementioned necklace!
By Sherry October 7, 2011 - 2:36 pm
Yes – I love that necklace comment – makes me laugh every time! I don’t even think I have the necklace any longer – lost somewhere in my travels no doubt!
By Christina January 9, 2012 - 9:37 pm
This post was great! It’s so true. People tend to lose their sense of wonder as they grow older. I’m only 20 now and I know I’m going to change a lot in the years to come, but I hope to keep my youthful desires.
PS. This is my first time visiting your blog (I found it via Gary Arndt on Everything-Everyehere) but I’m excited to read more! (:
By Sherry January 23, 2012 - 2:11 am
So happy you found me Christina!
By Hamood July 30, 2012 - 8:30 am
That last image was so funny that I laughed out loud! LOL
Thank you for sharing this precious experience with us. I can relate to it. I have just recently quit my job without having a backup plan, Ops! All my colleagues were scared and they passed that fear to me. Too bad that I didn’t know about your blog at that time. But you know what, three months down the line I still survived. It turned out not to be the end of the world to leave my glamorous job in an American corporate, one that many fantasize about joining. Life goes on and new opportunities arise.
PS: I’m thankful for having spelling check functionality too! My typos won’t be as funny as the one in the picture you posted though, sigh! 😛
By Katerina March 14, 2013 - 7:01 am
That is a lovely story! I remember having talks at school which inspired me as a child. The messages I got from them stay for life!
Also I agree about growing scared! I’m 21, started travelling more widely in the last few years and I’ve noticed this change recently. I like to take flights with a swap-over even when it’s within Europe and have a few hours to explore a new city. It was fine the first time with my brother, an adventure last year in Madrid by myself but I’m planning it again in June (Zurich) and I’m so scared I’m worried I might not pluck up the courage to do it!
(I’ve started a blog on wordpress just a few days ago [email protected] ) 🙂
By Ronald t r Brummond July 2, 2013 - 9:39 pm
Fascinating, you are one of my heros!
Your grandfather and grandmother, Art and Lill were VERY
Close to my father, Ted Brummond and Irene.
By AnneMarie March 3, 2014 - 4:16 pm
I love to travel but have not the funds nor opportunity to do it. Two and a half years ago when I was gainfully employed I made a plan to travel to Japan, my dream destination. I connected with some Americans who live in Tokyo and southern Japan and work in my career field. They agreed to house me for a few days on either end of the two week trip. I traveled by train between the two and visited cities in between on my own the rest of the two weeks. It was a memorable trip, and with a Japanese language program downloaded into my ipad, I was able to make it on my own. I am so glad I took the risk of going, as I would never be able to do it now. I have wonderful memories and hope to return someday.
Thank you for being an inspiration to those of us who need encouragement to live our dreams!
By Janice Stringer April 23, 2014 - 4:17 pm
What a wonderful opportunity to inspire and ignite a passion in the kids, warming to the heart as well to receive the handwritten notes. Glad to see the understanding and appreciation of that! 🙂
By Kristin February 22, 2019 - 1:19 pm
What a great story! It would be wonderful to know now, almost nine years later, how many of these now 20-ish years old have gone abroad. How many became exchange students… How many visited Vietnam instead of Daytona Beach for spring break when they were older… I hope they kept that fearlessness and curiosity of their 6th grade days!
By Sherry February 22, 2019 - 7:12 pm
My God…I hadn’t thought about the fact that it has been 9 years and they are all nearly adults now! That would be fascinating to know! I’ll ask my niece!
By Polina Kazi June 20, 2022 - 2:50 am
That’s Amazing! This is an excellent way to share your travel experiences and help to inspire a new generation of travellers.