Of travelling and writing

Holidaying in Kenting, Taiwan, in March 2015.

Holidays. Vacations. A lot of families would take the opportunity to go for a short break with their children. Some would have already booked a holiday getaway months earlier. I do know that many of the China students from the international school that I was teaching in are back in their own hometown to reunite with their families and to catch up on any festivities they might have missed out on.

While it is always good to take a break, let’s not forget to keep our eyes open – to observe more things, ears pricked – to hear more good things, and minds open – to allow inspiration to course through. I remember when I used to travel overseas as a boy, I always made it a habit to bring a notebook along. Back then, it was all paper and pen. No fancy smartphones or modern gadgetry to take notes. And digital cameras weren’t even in the fashion too.

I picked this habit from a school teacher. And on every new day of travel, I would jot down the date, time, and even the weather. As best as possible, I would chronicle every detail I remembered. It is thus imperative to always immerse yourself in your travels. By immersion, I mean to really be in the moment. Carpe Diem (Seize the day).

Now that we are all bombarded by the influx of modern devices, it is getting increasingly challenging not to take your phone out and snap a photo or record a video and to upload it immediately onto your Facebook or Instagram. You probably would receive instant gratification in the form of likes. But does your photo tell a story?

To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from The Little Prince: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

One major point of language learning is to have the capacity to feel. If you snap a picture without feeling anything, your photo is as good as not taken. Captions add details to a photo. Many a time, they complement each other. Based on this reasoning, if you write a diary because you are forced to chronicle each day by writing the mundane – alarm clock rings, wake up, brush teeth, wash face, wear school uniform/dress for work, go to school/office, chances are that it will turn out to be a boring entry.

I encourage my students who are learning English or Chinese to keep a diary or a blog. Through their diary writing, it allows me to peer into their thought patterns, which provide insights on who they are as a person, what they enjoy doing, their relationships with their family members or friends, and so on. I find it very helpful in tailoring how I could teach them. I usually don’t dictate what they should write about, as I want them to write freely. And I will always leave a response after each entry.

Through this way of free writing, students are able to dwell into their own world of thoughts. By confiding in their diary/blog and eventually showing me (as a reader), they give me a good look into their way of life. It is definitely useful as some students may express better through writing instead of speaking. So why should we close such doors?

So back to what we were saying, what’s your vacation story? You are welcome to share any of your travels or happenings with me at anzzon@gmail.com. 🙂