The School of the Road
Travel truly is a teacher and perhaps even the very best one that there is. Like all great teachers, it does not spoon feed the lessons it has to teach you but rather it plants seeds of realisation which mature over time; sometimes even long after the trip has ended and you’re safely back home. I for one certainly learned a hell of a lot of my life lessons whilst on the road.
Philosophical musings aside, travel can even sometimes quite literally be one giant classroom whereby travellers acquire practical and useful life skills on the road which can then come in handy in their day to day “real” lives back home. Personally, I gained a degree of half fluency in Spanish whilst in Colombia (by half fluent I mean I got to the point where I could talk myself into trouble but not necessarily talk my way back out of it again..) and in India I learned to make a mean Vegetarian Madras.
Some people even purposely travel half way, or all way, around the world purely to learn and develop skills, techniques or art forms.
Here are some of the best life skills you can learn whilst travelling.
Ever wanted to know how to surf but live too far from the sea (I’m looking at you here my landlocked Nepali friends)...? Well get yourself down to Art Camp Surf School in Spain where you can learn to do just that at what is perhaps the coolest surf school in Europe. Located in the chilled town of Razo in Galicia, the school is custom built for backpackers wanting to learn and has been churning out graduates since 2006. Located just a stones throw from the beach the centre is the ideal place to learn from teachers with years of surfing experience and then kick back in the evenings with a cold beer (I recommend Estrella Galicia).
As Art Camp surf surf school in Spain is an international centre of learning with pupils drawn from around the globe, the common language is of course English. Lessons are offered in English so whilst its a kick ass surf school maybe its not thy best place to practice your Spanish! If you are on the road and keen to keep your chiselled six pack abs, I strongly recommend taking up surfing to stay fit. These days, I manage to keep my fitness by surfing as often as possible as well as travelling with a skipping rope and, of course, some of the best tasting soy protein powder to maintain muscle mass!
2. Kung Fu in China
Who else saw Karate Kid and spent the next week trying to balance like a Crane? Kung Fu is a kick-ass, invaluable life skill mixing exercise, meditation and, yes self defence, which hopefully you will never need to actually use. Where better to learn Kung Fu than in the ancient land of China where masters have been developing the martial arts over thousands of years?
There are schools throughout the country catering to all ability levels and lessons can be found in English or in Chinese if your language skills are advanced enough!
3. Salsa in Cali
Whilst Havana in Cuba may be the most famous Salsa city in the America’s, those in the know know that Cali in Colombia is truly where its at. This city just loves to Salsa and clubs are packed 7 nights a week with locals throwing some of the most captivating and complex Salsa moves in the world. Whilst the standard on the dance floors is high, the city is very accommodating to beginners as novice classes are offered either through private tuition or as a class.
The price of living in Colombia is also pretty cheap for a Western budget so you can probably afford spend some serious time here getting to grips with the rhythms. The gorgeous, famous Colombian coffee region is also accessible by a weekend trip and believe me, after a few days of Salsa your legs will need a break!
4. Thai Food master class
Thai food has really exploded and is fast cementing its place as the worlds favourite cuisine with Thai restaurants and street stands in towns and cities across Asia, Europe, Australia and the Americas. This is unsurprising considering the sheer diversity, tantalizing taste infusions and how well it can be adapted to suit all dietary requirements (unless you dietary requirement is that you don’t eat nie tasting food…).
You too can become a top Thai master chef.. where better to learn than in Thailand? The country is very popular with Western travellers and there are abundant, cheap accommodation options available throughout the country and plenty of flights from all major western airports. When you get back you can throw a big dinner party and be the toast of your friend!
5. Yoga in India
Whilst it was tempting to suggest that you travel to India to learn how to drive a Tuk-Tuk, the truth is that whilst that is immense fun, its a pretty useless skill as novelty vehicles are generally deemed unfit to get anyway near the roads back home.
Yoga on the other hand is skill everybody can benefit from. Yoga will quite possibly add years to your life and will certainly ensure that you are fit and strong enough to enjoy the years you do have. Balancing mind, body and spirit, Yoga is all about equilibrium and Indian Yogi’s have been re-incarnating for millennia now to show us mortals how to really understand & appreciate our physical bodies. Even the most sceptical of medical experts in the West now recognise the numerous health benefits of Yoga.
From Goa to Rishikesh, India is absolutely bursting with Yoga centres of all disciplines for all levels. Some require you to sign up in advance whereas some you can just rock up at and throw down your mat. India, like Thailand, is also extremely cheap for travellers so you can easily afford to spend a month or more really getting to trips with Downward Dog. You may even be able to qualify as a teacher if you’re flexible enough.
Until next time, schools out!