H.C. Andersen, author of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and many other fairy tales, wrote “To travel is to live”. But it is not that simple. If you take the tourist, the journalist, the businessman and the refugee: all and each have different purposes and outcomes of their travels. In our school we travel to learn about the world, we let the world be the classroom and the people we meet be our teachers.
When we travel in our schools we are not looking for extreme circumstances to write about as the journalist might. We want to find a deep knowledge and understanding about ordinary people’s lives, dreams and thoughts. We visit people in the coalmine and the banana plantation, in their hut in the slums or in their office on the 14th floor or a modern building. We listen carefully to what they have to say but also to what is not said. We discuss our observations and make further visits, interviews and research. We become wiser and often get surprised by our findings.
There are many questions to contemplate and investigate while we are on the road. For example, how do you look upon arranged marriage? A team of students from one of our schools recently examined the opinions of ordinary young people in India about this topic. The team already had assumptions about the outcome when they started their investigation but in fact they were very surprised by their findings. A recent team in China were also surprised when they were trying to find people’s opinions about One-Child-Policy and The Wish for Democracy. The important thing is not only to be surprised but that the teams also ended up becoming much wiser and more open minded by looking at the topics from more than one perspective; listening to arguments, discussing, observing, considering and concluding.
Our travels are not just travels in a geographical sense, but also travels into our own minds, sometimes revealing talents or sides of yourself you didn’t know you had. If you choose to do part of the travel as a first time hitchhiker, new possibilities will open up in front of your eyes, carrying you through part of the world for free, and experiencing that actually there are good people everywhere and that they care about you.
Today we fly between the school in Denmark and the projects in Africa, but historically students from the Travelling Folk High Schools used whatever methods they could find to get around the world. Some teams used an old bus, others travelled over land in trains, public buses, land rovers, at times even on camel back. Even today you will not spend all of your time in Denmark at the school center or all of your time in Africa in one place and you are sure to finish your programme with a lot of interesting travel stories.
We prepare for our travels thoroughly, knowing many facts but also knowing in which fields we want to get wiser. Once on the road, the reality is always different from the expectations, for good and worse. But be assured: our travels are living up to the old storyteller’s definition: To travel is to live!
You can look forward to this chapter on your life’s journey!