MayBE 2019: Day Thirty

MayBE 2019: May 30

We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or ‘human flourishing’.”

― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Age of Exploration.

What is the difference between an explorer and a colonizer?

This is what we look at in our class when we discuss this “Age of Exploration” that connected world zones that previously were isolated from each other.

Was there a difference between how Marco Polo and how Christopher Columbus saw the world?

We talk about this because our teens are ready to explore the world. In fact, a few in my class are getting ready for travel across the Atlantic very shortly. I teach about travel adventure historically so they can prepare themselves for their own explorations.

What does it mean to see the world, different cultures, different peoples through the lens of an explorer versus an exploiter?

What does the word “explore” mean? What attitudes and characteristics do you embody when you are an explorer?

Curiosity and learning.

Giving and sharing the experience. Not taking and controlling the experience.

We love to celebrate our differences but what about celebrating our similarities? Being human together.

Let’s talk about the colonization and be aware of its modern manifestations so that we can explore the world more responsibly. We talked about how one of the seven pillars of colonization is the “killing of a culture.” What is culture? Why is it necessary to kill it to colonize?

Culture is tied to the land, the language, and the beliefs of a community. We brainstorm to answer this question of culture and how it relates to traditions and to existing beliefs. We ask if it based on “artificial instincts” as culture is defined in one of the books we reference for our class, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

We have two guests in class who had to the discussion – Christiano, who always manages to inspire more questions, and Gloriana, one of the moms of the teens who offers insights from her own travels and observations of the world. They aren’t quick to answer but push the questions so that we all examine our existing beliefs.

For example, Christiano suggests a different perspective. Is there are mix of the explorer and colonizer? Does a colonizer have to be an explorer? What about the “backpacker”?

We didn’t come up with definitive answers but we knew that the attitude of the explorer – freedom, curiosity, quest for knowledge, learning for the sake of learning – was very different than that of the colonizer although it can easily lead to a colonizing of attitude which is motivated by greed and personal gain.

When we began homeschooling the kids ten years ago, I bought a book called the How To Be An Explorer of the World: A Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith.

Here is an excerpt:

How To Be An Explorer Of The World

  1. Always Be LOOKING (notice the ground beneath your feet.)
  2. Consider Everything Alive & Animate
  3. EVERYTHING Is Interesting. Look Closer.
  4. Alter Your Course Often.
  5. Observe For Long Durations (and short ones).
  6. Notice The Stories Going On Around You.
  8. DOCUMENT Your Findings (field notes) In A VAriety Of Ways.
  9. Incorporate Indeterminacy.
  10. Observe Movement.
  11. Create a Personal DIALOGUE With Your Environment. Talk to it.
  12. Trace Things Back to Their ORIGINS.
  13. Use ALL of the Senses In Your Investigations.

― Keri Smith, How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum

Perhaps this is what we can do in the beginning. To have the eyes of an explorer for the places closest to us. To see the details of the familiar like cultural artifacts as if we were in a museum or an art gallery. To observe and to appreciate the life we curate; born to explore the world around us. This is the advice I give to the explorers in front of me, some who have already left home to explore and to those who are on the cusp, from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Four Quartets (see below for a bigger excerpt):

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.


  • Copy poem below (or any portion).
    • Copy any of Keri Smith’s advice to explorers. (My daughter’s fave is #3.)
    • Draw a map of places in your home, your neighbourhood, your country, or the world, or the known universe that one day you would like to explore closer.

From Little Gidding (No. 4 of the Four Quartets) by T.S. Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always—

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.






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