Back from Europe | Ramblings from Our First Day Home

After a month away, we got home late last night. This morning we’re already back to our regular routine. Funny how being away makes coming home fun, too. Making coffee and breakfast in our kitchen, playing morning Jeopardy, getting back on our bikes, and walking and jogging our same ol’ routes. It all seems extra special today. I’m grateful to be home after the flight, but I’m also not quite ready to let go of our trip. Really, I have so much to share with you guys! We did one of those whirlwind style Czech Republic-to-Spain trips that people either seem to love or hate the idea of. You already know on which side I fall.

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I kid you not, I am doing my best to journal the trip. I counted 86 handwritten moleskin (What? Don’t roll your eyes. Moleskin notebooks make me happy) pages and I still have a week of back-journaling that I committed to finish up in the next day or two. These doesn’t include any of my recipe notes, my art gallery and museum notes, or our hand-drawn maps.

vienna wine garden

I know that one month of vacation is supposed to make people feel relaxed. Jet lag and stiff airplane neck aside, I do feel disconnected from the weight of all the things that were unnecessarily stressing me out before we left. I feel I’ve been gone a long time. Long enough to forget what work felt like. Long enough to feel that I was really gone.

churros y chocolate

I feel like I have a renewed perspective, but I feel far from relaxed. Not because our trip was ambitious in the amount of geography covered and the number of stops. Not because traveling is always a little bit of work (Jordan is sooo over hearing me reference the etymology of the word travel).

I’m not relaxed. Instead, I’m so freakin’ inspired. My brain has been thrown into curiosity overdrive.

I came home with no fewer than nine books (mostly used 2 Euro paperbacks, but I’m still thrilled), and that was showing a lot of restraint on my part, I swear.

books french france

I ate new pastries, learned the history of chocolate-making in Bayonne, and learned where to eat the best Czech heritage beef cuts in the city of Prague.

trdlnek Czech spiral sugar pastry

I sat in on a Vivaldi, Dvorak, and Smetana concert in a Baroque hall, sipped champagne on the balcony of an opera house during the intermission, and visited Baroque libraries.

monastery library prague

I scouted markets for the best deals on truffle products and produce and I discovered new foods and experimented with them in the kitchen[s of others].

florence meal food cooking

I sipped new wines, learned the names of new-to-me varietals from several wine regions; I learned to distinguish a quality pilsner from those others. I navigated narrow city streets, changing the location twice a week or more.

le panier marseille streets france

I had frequent dates with this guy in coffeehouses, tapas bars, and bookshops. I maybe forced him to listen to my faux-Freud/Jung theory discussion in Vienna.

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I filled up on that art of the Renaissance masters, freaked out at the art of Alfons Mucha and Gustav Klimt, filled pages of notes about other artists I’d not known before.

thyssen museum madrid art gallery

We got to visit the home of our friend and see her parents’ place, which means I got a sauna/natural pool experience, we ate the home cooking of a German/Italian cook, and we hopped a ferry across Lago Maggiore.

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We marvelled at the crazy architecture of the Guggenheim in Bilbao and figured out the pintxo system in both the touristy and non-touristy parts of Donostia.

pintxos food molecular gastronomy spain basque

I reactivated my French, learned important phrases in Euskara from native speakers, used my podcast-learned Italian for the first time in the real world, mastered three words in Czech while consistently failing at the others, and reacquainted myself with the Spanish accent.

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I learned bits of the history of the Slavic people, finally learned to distinguish my Bourbons from my Habsburgs, saw Galileo’s fingers (for real!), and toured historic cathedrals and synagogues.

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There was so much packed into those 30 days. So, no, after my month of vacation (Jordan’s month of workation), neither of us are quite relaxed. My mind is reeling.

And if you want to know the honest-to-God worst of it, I have a post-trip action plan/to do list. Some goals are easy, like buying two egg cups and making soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. Some are a bit tougher, like reading all of those classics I bought. Some are even longer term; I hope to actually pick that German back up someday. Some are silly; some are serious. Some will happen; some likely will not, even though I want them to. And that’s okay. I’m still going to try, and I’m still going to milk the trip for all its worth via my silly action plan.

I feel very fortunate.  Our trip was not relaxing, but it was so, so worth it.

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See you in the next few weeks with many posts about the trip. Thanks for reading!

What’s All this Lifelong Learning Hubaloo About, Anyway?

www.therestoflhistoire.comHey, guys and gals. Today’s post still comes to you from Argentina. Canada, we’ll see you so soon. Now, on to the subject at hand.

In case you’re new to this term “lifelong learning” that I keep throwing around on the blog, I wanted to elaborate a bit.

What Do You Mean by Lifelong Learning?

Part of me (probably the wiser part of me), wants to simply write:

Let’s not complicate things, folks. “Lifelong learning” is exactly what it sounds like. It is when a person learns throughout his or her entire life. It’s everything you learn from “cradle to grave.” And if you’re not interested in the semantics any further, then that definition is probably fine for you. Go ahead, just skip to part two to see why I keep rambling on about something that seems so incredibly simple and straightforward.

For those of you who want to hold on with me through the nitty gritty, I’ve got more up my sleeve.

A Definition

There are, of course, a number of formal definitions. These definitions vary, but here’s a good, working definition. According to the Commission of the European Communities,

[Lifelong learning is] all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective.

The concept can be traced backed to the 1920s to the writings of Basil Yeaxlee and Eduard Lindeman (source). The term “lifelong learning” itself became popular in the 1970s (source) and has increased in usage since. It’s seen all over the place in reports, policy justification, and on formal educational websites.

Knowing this and seeing this is great, but still, that’s pretty close to the easy definition above. I wanted to write a little more about how I, personally, see lifelong learning.

My Definition

learningFirst, a quick note about what is not meant by the term lifelong learning on this blog.

Lifelong learning doesn’t have to be expensive, is not (and should not be) elitist, and doesn’t require you to get an advanced degree (but by all means, get one if you want one and it’s right for you!).

On to the good stuff. Here’s what lifelong learning is to me:

Lifelong learning is intentional.
Lifelong learning is an endless cycle of curiosity.
Lifelong learning is asking why and how.
Lifelong learning is ferreting out the rest of the story and creating the rest of yours.
Lifelong learning is challenging yourself, finding yourself in situations that make you feel uncomfortable so that you can be a smarter version of you.
Lifelong learning is informal education.
Lifelong learning is formal education—if you want it to be.
Lifelong learning is personal. It is also community.
Lifelong learning is a mindset.
Lifelong learning is a commitment (Wait? When exactly did I get married to learning?).
Lifelong learning is tapping into the potential that YOU already have.
Lifelong learning is everyday.
Lifelong learning is for everyone.

Whew, that was fun to type! I may have been slightly caffeinated.

Okay, So Why Do I Keep Rambling on About It?

In short: It’s good for you. And I want good things for you.

In long: Lifelong learning has benefits beyond our wildest imaginations. There are entire academic journal articles dedicated to exactly how lifelong learn affects people for the better. One of these, in particular, put together a nice summary for us. From this article, I’m summarizing.

Lifelong learning:

  • Keeps you sharp and could ward off dementia.
  • Makes you more confident.
  • Makes you better at socializing.
  • Often provides better career opportunities.
  • Cuts down on neighborhood crime.
  • Means higher levels of civil engagement.
  • Helps you develop into the more awesome you (yes, that’s some serious paraphrasing, but “developing natural abilities” means the same thing, right?).

So forgive me if I can’t help but talk about it and share my learning experiences. I want people to know that they can learn what they want to and to feel empowered to do so. I want people to live lives enriched by curiosity.

I promise, if you commit to lifelong learning, you will be a better version of you. You will be the version of you that God/your community/the world* needs you to be.

What you could be is what you should be.**

So, keep learning.

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Notes

*Choose the one that best suits you. Personally, I believe in God, but recognize that not all do.

**A man named Tom Staman told me this when I was about 10 years old. Don’t think I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon.

Sources

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2001:0678:FIN:EN:PDF

http://infed.org/mobi/lifelong-learning/

http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042811030023/1-s2.0-S1877042811030023-main.pdf?_tid=870b7272-593a-11e4-95ac-00000aab0f01&acdnat=1413907043_52a0e9013fab10586499d3b9cf0abd8c

Read This When You’re Feeling Stupid (You’re Not). | Motivation for Lifelong Learners

lifelong learning post photo at salinasBeing a lifelong learner and encouraging others to become lifelong learners is on of the themes that ties my life together. If you want more of an explanation, check out my earlier post on how blogging helps me commit to lifelong learning.

Yes, I like learning. About it all. This means I feel stupid all the time. On a daily basis, I’m faced with something I don’t know. I’m learning to embrace it. We’ve got to.

Naturally, I do a bit of reading about learning. There’s so much inspiring and useful information out there. I find myself spouting the virtues of lifelong learning to my husband more than he needs to hear it. Today I thought I’d share some of our dinner conversation with blog readers too.

The more I learn about learning and how powerful it is, the more inspired I am. I think it will be the same for you.

Do What Makes You Feel Stupid. That’s You Getting Smarter.

If you’re a Facebook follower, then you already know that I love Sal Kahn’s article, Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart, which reminds us that our intelligence isn’t fixed, that we need to keep pushing ourselves. If you read one article, make it this. It was like a jolt of caffeine. After reading, I was ready to tackle the world. I feel much more equipped to take on an intellectual challenge when I know that learning is supposed to be hard! 

Learning More Efficiently

Another think that helps me when I’m feeling like the dimmest bulb in the box is to remember that I can learn better.

ben.carey.how we learn Although I don’t fully understand why a food blogger posted this, I’m happy she did. I enjoyed reading Ben Carey’s interview about his new book How We Learn. The main takeaways from the interview, in my opinion, are:

  1. Study more often, but for less time. Cram as a last resort.
  2. Sleep affects your learning and thinking processes (obviously, but the interview tells you how and it could actually help you to know how).
  3. Move around when you study. No need to stick to one study perch.
  4. Learning is broader than we give it credit for. It doesn’t always happen in the classroom (A point we know, but need to be reminded of:))

But don’t take my word for it. See what else you can glean from the interview. Or the book for that matter. Ben Carey’s book is getting great reviews and I’m hoping my library offers digital access to it soon (or I’ll have to break down and buy it).

On a related note, Coursera (if you’re not sure what Coursera is, you must go check it out!) is offering the course Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects. It started about a week ago. I’ll admit that I’m not planning to complete the class for a certificate, but I’m definitely going to make my around the course materials to squirrel away helpful information. I’m excited to see what I can find.

Learn Your Way Around the World

All right, the next one might be a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think so. National Geographic just announced their 2014 Travelers of the Year. I’ve just spent a good hour clicking and reading through the stories of these people. What motivates them and the way they travel are different, but somehow through reading all of these, it jumped out at me all of these inspiring travelers are saying something very similar. They say “receive a global education,” “gain a deeper understanding,” “travel has taught me…”. Are you seeing it? Traveling, almost always, is learning if you let it be.

If you’re struggling with something, that’s actually a good sign. That’s progress.

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What do you think? Does travel automatically equal learning? Do you find it useful to learn about learning?