Southern’s offer of traveling ‘ultimately more enriching’

Dr. Gwendolyn Murdock - Department Head of Psychology

Dr. Gwendolyn Murdock – Department Head of Psychology

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain, 1869).

While I would encourage everyone to travel as much as they can, I think the spirit of Mark Twain’s point is that one should “not vegetate in one little corner”, as comfortable as that corner might be.

Modern life encourages us to do just that. Cars and computers insulate people from life.

While the drive through lane and the World Wide Web are convenient, and, in the age of high gas prices, perhaps cost effective.

The real world is in three dimensions, not in the two dimensions of our computer screens.

For example, if one gets out of one’s car and enters a restaurant, then one is bombarded with real social contacts and real atmosphere. If one stays in the car and orders at the drive through, one’s social contacts are limited to the cashier and the atmosphere is limited to your steering wheel.

Going to college is supposed to open the world-the world of new people, new ideas, new experiences. While some people do have new experiences with alcohol, drugs and sexual experimentation, that is not what I am suggesting.

Those kinds of experiences are mechanisms of escape. I am suggesting something that is much scarier and ultimately more enriching. To be ready for a new experience, the first thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be a perfect experience.

Television encourages us to think that we can’t do anything or can’t be someone until everything is perfect. But realize television is a manipulation to encourage us to buy stuff. Use the Internet to find out how to explore the world, then go to it.

Use Missouri Southern’s opportunities to explore the world outside of the four-state area, go to musical productions, plays, movies and lectures to find out about the world. Take part in at least one travel abroad experience.

But not only wait for a study abroad experience, get out of your house and your car.

I am always surprised how little some people seem to have experienced life at home.

Explore the world in the four-state area. If you haven’t done it before, try exploring a natural area (the Chert Glades, the Frisco Trail, Prairie State Park); try eating a new kind of cuisine (Japanese, Thai and certainly Mexican); try listening to a different kind of music (Joplin’s Promusica, Kufara, MSSU recitals); try attending just one time a different kind of religious service (Catholic, Episcopalian, Quaker, Unity or even something more adventurous for you); try a new sport (bocci, pedunque, water polo); try cooking some foreign recipes (Fox Farm is a good resource for food and advice); try campaigning for a political candidate or a political issue; try attending a different sporting event (a rodeo, car races, soccer games), try reading a different kind of magazine or newspaper (bookstores are full of a huge variety).

Remember that the experience doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be something you ever want to do again. The point is to explore. Eventually, you might find something you like a lot better than what you know now. Also, your extra experiences will make you a more interesting person.

Your brain will be prepared to take on other new things. Equally importantly, you will no longer be afraid of the new and the unknown. You will have the skills to cope with the future.