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Special Feature: The Adventures of a Global Traveler: A Sampling of 15 Countries

This is part one of two in a special series on the sabbatical travels of Sarah Toevs, professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health and director of the Center for the Study of Aging. 

By Sarah Toevs

How does one begin to capture the many impressions and experiences of seven months of international travel? The task feels somewhat insurmountable, but to not give it a try is a missed opportunity to connect with and inspire others.

First, I offer sincere thanks to the Department of Community and Environmental Health, the College of Health Sciences, and Boise State University for affording me a sabbatical. The opportunity was priceless and I look forward to using the experience to enhance the education, research and service ventures of the university.

One prevailing thought as we traveled was how relatively easy it was. We (my husband Kevin and I) accomplished most of our ventures as independent travelers making arrangements using the Internet. We were able to rely on technology to conduct an array of business including:

  • Reservations for a Christmas holiday with Noleen, an 81 years old New Zealander, who lives on her own and rents out rooms to those walking the Queen Charlotte Track
  • Arranging a two-week stay at a bed and breakfast in the south of France
  • Figuring out how to use the metro system in New Delhi, India, a city of approximate 22 million people.

These are just a few examples of the connections made through a click or two. We would be delighted to share our resources and connections, as well as lessons learned along the way.

I was also struck by the power of experiential learning that travel generates and I applaud the investment the college has made in international exchange opportunities for students and faculty. Again, I could go on and on with examples, but here are a few highlights to stimulate your imagination. We had the opportunity to:

  • Experience eco-tourism in the Amazon Basin, the high Andes and Fiji
  • Observe the many uses of a moped — did I just see a stack of mattresses go by?
  • Visit with nursing and health science faculty about research interests at the University of Auckland in New Zealand
  • See the impact of the Vietnam War on Laos 40 years later
  • Speak with Kurds and Syrians during our stay in Turkey about opportunities for peace
  • Visit with individuals of Muslim and Hindu heritage, who experienced the division of India and Pakistan, and have figured out how to appreciate the differences between cultures and customs.

These exchanges and observations were inspiring and educational, especially when paired with books on similar topics and — once again — access to reading material was only a click away.

I welcome the opportunity to visit with you and your students about travel opportunities. My primary message is: “Go (with the smallest bag possible), see (with an inquisitive eye), and connect with people (being mindful to dampen the inclination to judge).” The following are a few photos (Kevin has a collection of 14,000) from our venture. And again, thank you to all who made our international sabbatical experience a reality.

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