Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I ran into Rick Steves today - my travel idol!

Today was a beautiful, busy and overall great day.  More details later, but first -- a fun encounter.  I was at Suomenlinna, an island with a fortress right here in Helsinki.  I stopped for an ice cream cone and sauntered lazily towards the ferry to see when the next departure would be.  I got there just as another ferry was unloading and walked right by Rick Steves.  I said hello, and we chatted very briefly.  I expressed regret that I only had his Norway book with me on this trip.  He said he hoped the Norway book was helpful and I told him it was and that we did Norway in a Nutshell.  He said "We're filming a TV show in Helsinki."  And was on his busy way.  That will be a great show because the weather was superb today.

As you may have noticed, I've posted two video clips from Rick Steves on this blog. I also mentioned him a lot in my proposal for this fellowship because his travel philosophy and his writing is a big inspiration for me, especially his book Travel as a Political Act.

Let me show you some excerpts from my proposal so you can see . . .and it can also help show you why I'm here:

Last summer, Rick Steves inspired me with his book, Travel as a Political Act.  As he explains, “Travel has taught me the fun in having my cultural furniture rearranged and my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped. It has humbled me, enriched my life, and tuned me in to a rapidly changing world.”  I hold the same philosophy.  While others look forward to the typical tourist sites, I try to travel “through the back door,” as Steves would say.  The Coliseum and Eiffel Tower are worthy and beautiful destinations, but I’ve always been more excited by my own cultural discoveries, such as an invitation to a Belgian birthday party or a visit to a middle school in Japan.  Through my backpacking adventures, I try to live like a local, gaining new perspectives.
            My most fulfilling experience was when I studied at a small college in the English countryside for a semester.   As a temporary resident, I was both delighted and frustrated while adapting to the cultural nuances.  According to Italian novelist Cesare Pavese, “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”  Steves and Pavese made me realize that I need to challenge myself again.

I also quote him later in a section about benefits for the school and community:  As Rick Steves says, “Travel becomes a political act only if you actually do something with your broadened perspective once you return home.”  I have been looking into Scandinavian culture and the educational system as well as their integration of technology.  What can I bring back for my students?  I am looking forward to sharing my ideas and experiences with others -- both about education and about Scandinavian culture.  This blog will continue to expand and grow as I will put more time into deeper reflections based on my experiences.  I have countless ideas for the classroom, both through philosophy and also the great connection between literature and art.  As I've been to so many museums, I began to sketch English lesson plans for my students.  My mind is brimming with new ideas and I'm refreshed and energized.  Running into one of my idols was just the cherry on top of this sweet fellowship sundae.

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