Road School

Road School: The Importance of Guiding Questions

This would be a great shot, had I set out to answer the question 'what would it be like to 'look up' in the early 1900s'.

This would be a great shot, had I set out to answer the question ‘what would it be like to ‘look up’ in the early 1900s’.

The best way to learn how to do something is by doing it.  That’s how I learned to teach; that’s how I learned to design and maintain a travel blog (and drive a car.  And cook elaborate meals.  And run and garden and…well, you get it).  I worked at each of these things.  Over and over and over.  During my teaching career, I taught over 10,000 class periods.  Guess which one was better–class #1 or class number 9,997?  Here on The Suitcase Scholar, I’ve written over 500 posts.  I don’t even want to talk about posts 1-100.  And don’t even bring up the first meal I ever cooked; I’m pretty sure it was a bowl of instant mashed potatoes.  Yeah–it was totally a bowl of instant mashed potatoes.

But my point is: The phrase ‘hands-on learning’ is redundant.

During my 500+ post history, I’ve attempted to share the things I’ve learned on the road.  I’ve done a moderate-to-poor job of this.  Sure, I visit museums.  Sure, I gravitate towards anything with the word ‘historic’ in the title; I’m also a fan of ‘botanic’, ‘cultural’ and ‘interactive’.  But there’s typically very little directing my explorations.  Until now.

In the weeks and months (and, ideally, years) to come, I will approach each new destination with a singular purpose.  I shall call that purpose my guiding question.

Definition:  guiding question. noun. A fundamental query that directs a search for understanding; a question that helps provide focus for a unit of study.

The first thing I will need to learn is ‘how to create a good guiding question’. Of course, there will be the expected learning curve.  I’ll get better and better at travel-related guiding questions as I spend more time creating travel-related guiding questions (see how it all ties together?) But for now, I will start small.  Small is always the best way to start.

What (I hope) Guiding Questions (will) Do for (my) Travel

Give repeat destinations new life and purpose.  Looking at a frequently-visited locale through a different lens each time means that I’ll never get bored–no matter how many times I visit a certain area.

Provide structure for explorations in new cities and towns.  Planning a visit to a new destination can be overwhelming.  There’s so much to see and do in the world, it is easy to become bogged down in the slog from attraction to attraction, museum to museum.  But with a guiding question, I’m able to hyper-focus on only what is important.  I’m traveling deep, not broad.

-Help shape the sharing of my lessons with you, my readers.  I plan to pre-post each trip’s guiding question before boarding the plane (or getting in the car or boarding the train or bus).  Thus, you will always know what to expect.  And I will alwyas know what to look for.  And together we can marvel at the resulting achievements–or failures.  Because there are bound to be some failures.

Maximize time.  I’ve recently switched my travel style from long-and-drawn-out to holy-crap-I-only-have-three-hours.  When you are trying to do everything, three hours is never enough.  When you are trying to do one thing, it is often just enough.

Clarify my purpose.  The Suitcase Scholar had humble beginnings; I simply wanted to share my travels with others.  But it has become such a part of who I am and the way I travel.  Where I travel, how often I travel, and what I do when I’m there–all of these have been shaped by The Suitcase Scholar.  This is simply the next step in the process.

Because I’m a huge fan of titles, I’ve given this ‘series’ a title: Road School.  I don’t love the title, but perhaps it, too, will change as I learn and grow.  Are you sensing a theme here?

Coming soon-my first Road School post and my first guiding question.  Stay tuned to witness the mediocrity.  I assure you, Road School post 147 will be life-changing.

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