Learning Is Three-Dimensional…
But It Is Discovered On the Road

In my last article, Stopping in the Woods, I mentioned how much I have learned from traveling. I have traveled all over the States and Eastern Canada. However, overseas travel changed my Weltanschauung. In that essay, I talked about two major aspects, which are critically important. Travel is far more than visiting nice places. It is more about getting fully educated. Discovering my family was an added bonus that I got while traveling in Myanmar nearly a decade ago.

That is the backstory. I teach a world religion survey class. Each week the class discusses various religions throughout the world both ancient ones and ones still practiced. This week dealt with Religions of Antiquity. I gave the class a PowerPoint, which talked about an overview of where these religions developed and mentioned how some of the religions directly affected us like Zoroastrianism, Egyptian beliefs, religions in the Fertile Crescent, and Greco-Roman religions.

The assignment was to read the text, go over my PowerPoint, and then pick out some aspect of some ancient religion that interests them. I intentionally made the assignment open-ended. I want them to discover something that is important to them.

Nick, one of my students, picked Scandinavian religions and the associated Norse mythology. I was both delighted and troubled. I was happy that he was excited about that group of beliefs. The downside was that the class knew from day one that I push the importance of travel, but, in all my travels, I have never been to Scandinavia. I have been to all the countries in Western Europe and several in Central Europe but never Scandinavia.

I mentioned to Nick and the class that I had a web administrator who was born in Pakistan but lives and works in Sweden. She too has traveled a great deal. Essentially, I wanted my class to grasp what George Santayana said, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás

Santayana’s point was that reading something in a classroom is different from seeing and experiencing it in person. I said to Nick that there is a vast gap between a classroom in a school and a classroom in the school of the world. Travel allows the traveler to see the world in three dimensions rather than in two dimensions. The problem is that most people view the two-dimensional world as the real world.

To make my point, I told Nick and the class about an outcropping in Norway called Troll's Tongue or Trolltunga. The person sitting at the tip of the Troll's Tongue is about a half mile above Ringedalsvatnet Lake. The mountains of Norway are Precambrian bedrock, and the mountains were created during the Ice Age ca. 10,000 years ago. Now, Nick and the class learned in a classroom about the Troll’s Tongue.

Troll’s Tongue

They looked at a modern textbook called the Internet. It provided pictures and descriptions of everything in the world. Imagine what you now know about the Troll's Tongue and compare it with traveling to Norway and being there.

I would have to crawl on my stomach as I inched my way toward the tip of the tongue. Santayana is correct, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” Without being at the Troll’s Tongue, you can’t possibly imagine how much you don’t really know.

ʾAbū ʿAbd al-Lāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Lāh l-Lawātī ṭ-Ṭanǧī ibn Baṭūṭah known by most as Ibn Battuta was born in the 14th century in Tangier, Morocco in 1304. Interestingly, both he and Santayana have long names.

Nevertheless, Ibn Battuta and his family were highly educated Berbers that were closely tied to Islamic legal scholars. Ibn Battuta predated Santayana by more than a half millennium but loved to travel. He traveled throughout all of the Islamic world, India, Indochina, China, and several islands in the Far East. He said of traveling, “Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta is speechless.

This video is from a drone flying over the Troll’s Tongue.

You might also enjoy this essay, which includes Willie Nelson singing On the Road Again.