16 August 2013 - Travel If You Can

Having just returned from a 12-day trip to Europe that included travel by land, cruise ship and airplane, I can't recommend strongly enough the importance of international travel and what it adds to your education and knowledge. It is truly a learning experience.

Now, I know there are people who will not travel internationally, because of prohibitive costs, physical challenges making it difficult to get around, and some people who simply don't want to travel. My sister, for example, has never been in a commercial plane and never will be, she just does not want to travel.

But if you have the opportunity, I urge you to do it. People on this planet need to get better acquainted; we need to learn about other cultures and customs, other methods of farming and for many of us, the opportunity to learn about our ancestors and how they lived before they came to America. One of the more emotional moments in my life happened in Norway several years ago when I stood in what was left of the foundation of the house where my Grandmother was born in 1864 and was sent to America when she was 8 years old, knowing she would probably never see her parents again. I looked around and realized that's where part of me originated. You will not learn this in a classroom, or talking to people who have been there, you must experience it first-hand.

So, what did I learn during my visits to Rome, Monaco and Barcelona? I definitely will never drive in Rome after watching dozens of cars and motor scooters coming within inches of each other at high speeds on narrow streets; I felt like I was in a chase scene in a James Bond movie! As I looked at the preserved ruins of the Coliseum and well-maintained centuries-old cathedrals, I realized again that in Europe, if it's old, they do everything they can to preserve it; in America, we tear it down. I learned about vineyards and winemaking on small farms, as well as olive orchards and the production of virgin olive oil. The sight of large round hay bales on some Italian farms were reminders of Midwest agriculture. But on every international trip I take I'm embarrassed to learn how much foreign farmers know about U.S. agriculture and how little we know about their way of life.

I still marvel at how quickly we can get around this planet and after all these years, I'm still a nose-to-the-window flyer looking down on this great landscape. If you have read my book, "You Can't Dream Big Enough", you know that until my late teens I took two long trips a year with the family in our '37 Ford, 32 miles from the dairy farm to the big city of La Crosse, Wisconsin. I could never have dreamed that 44 countries later, I would be such an international traveler and could leave Barcelona, Spain at 10:00 AM Spain time on a Monday and with the time change, walk into my house in Huntley, Illinois at 7:00 PM the same day! So if you have the opportunity, invest some of your time and money in international travel. It is a great investment!

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