My family takes two types of vacations: relaxing vacations, which usually involve sitting on a beach, and learning vacations, where you get up early each day to explore and discover something new.
My recent trip to Israel and Jordan was the most intense learning vacation I have ever experienced. Each stop held historical and spiritual significance and presented breathtaking landscapes from Tiberias to Jerusalem and Amman, and from the Dead Sea to Petra. The experience transformed my academic knowledge into something personal and relatable. My understanding of these places and their history grew exponentially.
Like many learning vacations, it became a part of me. The memories and knowledge I gained will stick with me for the rest of my life. How can we make the knowledge we seek on a regular, non-vacation basis stick like that? Recreating some of the conditions of a vacation can help us acquire and retain new information.
Here is how to treat learning like a vacation:
1. Start with a Great Attitude
What's not to like about a vacation, right? Having a great attitude about a trip to the beach or exploring a new city is easy. The fulfillment of a long-awaited adventure in a new locality is a reason for excitement.
A positive attitude frees our minds to absorb and process the experience.
Honestly, I wasn’t excited about this trip because it took me away from my family for two weeks. It required logistical arrangements for my teenagers, and there were safety concerns as visa and Covid regulations were evolving. I had to adjust my attitude because my apprehensions were counterproductive. My husband kept reminding me this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I needed to enjoy it. He was right and letting go of my worries allowed me to embrace the adventure.
What else am I not excited about? The webinar on my calendar for tomorrow. I'm confident it will have helpful information, but right now I'm thinking of all the other obligations competing for my time. If "too busy" is a reason to skip a training opportunity, I would never receive training. So, I adjust my attitude. Being positive about the webinar will help me engage and absorb the information, maximizing this time invested in my professional development.
2. Remove all Distractions
One could argue the best part of any vacation is what we don't do. We don't worry about work or homework, bills or invoicing, laundry, or grocery shopping. We take a physical and mental break from those tasks when we stroll through museums, tour historic sites, and hike mountainous trails. Our responsibilities will be waiting for us when the vacation is over, but they don't need to take up space in our heads as we soak up the new experience.
Clearing our minds for learning is the same. Whether it's an in-person workshop, a webinar, or even reading a book, we soak up and retain more information with fewer distractions. You know what I'm about to say next…ditch your phone! It isn't enough to place it face down. Turn it off and put it inside a drawer or behind you. It needs to be out of sight to be out of mind. Video sessions present a temptation to multitask. No one will know if you sneak in an email or two. Close your email and all the extra windows on your screen.
Multitasking interferes with comprehension and recall.*
If you have set aside time for learning, make it count. Remove your distractions and immerse yourself in the learning experience. Don’t worry, the emails will be waiting for you when you return from your mini vacation.
3. Hire a Great Guide
Our tour was led by an extraordinary guide. George has a passion for sharing his homeland. He painted vivid pictures of its rich history backed up with references to research and archeologists' findings. His energy was contagious and made us eager for early morning starts and squeezing in one more site at the end of a long day.
Each evening he reviewed the next day’s itinerary, checked the weather, and told us how to prepare to ensure a wonderous excursion. He called us his friends, greeting us with "Good morning, friends," and getting our attention with "Ok, friends, at the next stop…" It was evident he cared about us and wanted us to have an amazing time, which we did! George is an expert, loves what he does, and cares about the traveler's experience.
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Here are a few photos from my trip:
* University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau. "Distracted learning a big problem, golden opportunity for educators, students." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201014140932.htm>.