Wednesday 2015-02-04, updated 2015-02-05, 2016-10-07

I believe that travel -- when done intelligently -- is the most fundamental method of learning. And yet most travel books are a crashing bore.
-- Tyler Cowen

Is this because:

  1. You can make mistakes and then leave them behind?
  2. Obligation load drops temporarily, allowing in-depth research?
  3. Daily routine is gone, brain is beset with all kinds of new info?
  4. Other?

I don't understand how travel beats either a staycation or reading.

I emailed him about this, and he wrote back with:

all of the above!

But mainly just the sheer new blast of an entirely novel place, where everything is different, and many more

-- Tyler Cowen

For this to work, it seems that travel would have to be more like temporarily living in a new place. Our brains need time to boot up on the language, the customs, etc. so that the differentials are intelligible rather than bewildering.

Perhaps we can travel better by studying these ahead of time, and by increasing the time we spend in each locale.

This seems to be what Ezra Klein does:

The one thing I really love about it, that maybe is a little bit weird, is I think that a lot of what is great about travel is focusing your attention on a place in a way that is not necessarily related, actually all the time, to being there.

Often times, when I’m traveling somewhere, part of why I learn so much about the place I’m going is that I’m thinking about it, I’m reading about it as I’m there watching it. A lot of it is the mustering of other kinds of attentional resources, watching movies, or documentaries, or consuming other kinds of culture from it before.

There is more than just the seeing. Sometimes people feel like the learning about a place is just going and seeing it. For me, I find that a lot of the benefits of travel are actually about things that I could have done even if I haven’t been there, but I would have never focused on in the same way, and with the same intensity, for the same period of time.

-- Ezra Klein