Bobby is a Principal with a background in History and Social Studies. He first traveled with EF Educational Tours in 2010 to Rome and Paris, and now leads a student tour every summer. He believes that young people should experience life outside of their communities, and that understanding other cultures is imperative to solving global challenges.
I grew up in a small town in rural, northwest Missouri, and traveling to some of the world’s greatest cities was never on my radar. While I was fortunate enough to take the occasional family vacation to Texas, or take a quick jaunt to neighboring Kansas, most of my travel experiences consisted of me driving to the next town over to go grocery shopping ─ not exactly an adventure.
While I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a loving and supportive community, the one thing my small town lacked was diversity. To be frank, the vast majority of people in my small town, like so many other towns across the country, looked the same, worshiped in the same manner, ate the same foods, and shared similar values and beliefs. This is not to disparage those things. Our community valued hard work, pulled together in times of tragedy or loss, and truly represented the best of small town USA. In June of 2000, I packed my bags to make the roughly 200 mile trip south to the University of Missouri. This marked the farthest I had ever been away from home by myself. I was 18 years old.I often characterize my childhood as growing up in Mayberry, minus Barney Fife…unfortunately. While I appreciated the experiences of my childhood, I do regret that I missed out on being exposed to other valuable life experiences. For instance, I never had Chinese food until I went to college. My Spanish class in high school was taught via satellite by someone who spoke zero Spanish. My taste in music was influenced by whatever the two─yes, really two─radio stations I could pick up in my car radio. During my senior year of high school I recall having an exchange student in my class from Brazil. Apart from roughly knowing where Brazil was located on a map, I knew nothing about the country. I recall not even knowing if they had TVs, PlayStations, or computers. I truly had no knowledge of the world outside of my small neck of the woods.
When I became a World History teacher, it became obvious that in order to excel at my job, I needed to expand my horizons and broaden my own experiences. If I was going to teach my students the difference between Gothic and Romanesque architecture, then I needed to see and experience those things myself. Leading educational travel became the perfect opportunity for me to do this while in turn sharing those experiences with my students.Tattooed in my memory, I can still remember the feeling I had stepping off the plane in Rome for the very first time, or watching a sheep dog demonstration in Ireland, or eating Vietnamese food in Paris. These experiences, along with hundreds of others, have shaped and changed my own beliefs, and have made me a better person and educator.
Traveling can be a deeply personal and transformative experience. In a world that is increasingly fractured along religious and cultural lines, it is more important now than ever that we travel. There is no better way to understand other people and cultures than to spend time eating with them, talking with them, laughing with them – appreciating their art, architecture, and history. Oftentimes our perceptions of other people, races, and cultures, are driven by what we are told and not by what we experience. Likewise, we have a responsibility as ambassadors of the United States to dispel the misconceptions and stereotypes often associated with Americans. For me, this is why I choose to travel—to change minds, bridge gaps, and to do my small part in making the world a friendlier and more peaceful place to live.
Learn more about educational travel and inspiring your students outside of the classroom.