“I chose Afghanistan.”
~A student in one of my classes, when asked what country she was planning a trip to as part of our final assignment.
Trevor Noah, whom I often refer to semi-jocularly as “The Philosopher, Trevor Noah,” once said in a standup comedy routine that “The antidote to ignorance is travel.” I’ve always believed this to be true, though I never managed to phrase it as succinctly as did the philosopher comedian.
There is a lot of privilege packed into that statement, of course. Travel is expensive, a favorite pastime of the wealthy, and of course I count myself among them. My plane ticket alone this summer, a roundtrip ticket from Omaha to Sarajevo, cost over $2,000. I have grant money to pay for it, but of course that’s not the case for most. And yet, with that being said, I have for the past eighteen years all but begged my students to travel. I’ve taken them all around the country, to KC, DC, NYC, and to the acronym-less Chicago. And so, as part of our final in my Honors Humanities class, I’ve asked students to plan their own trip. They have nine days, a week with weekends on either side of it, and instructions to create a full itinerary, budget, and short presentation to share with the class. They were told they could choose any place we studied—Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Germany. One young lady chose Afghanistan.
Running this week was difficult at times. Monday I ran ten miles, but realized quickly I hadn’t taken any rest in four or five days, and not since my twenty-miler on the previous weekend. Tuesday, despite my realization, I ran a half marathon, but by the end was so tired that I took Wednesday off. Thursday, presumably better rested, I got up and ran ten miles again, but in all actuality they, too, were drudgery. I enjoyed the run, but I didn’t feel strong. My hips ached and my head was cloudy. Friday I rolled out of bed and trotted along the trail for several miles before loosening up. My hips are tight, a new sensation, and I had what felt like a slight bruise on the outside of my right foot, just below the pinky toe. Eight and a half miles flew by quickly in the cool, moist morning air, and by the time I was stepping through our back door into the kitchen I felt fantastic.
Saturday, my long run was sixteen miles–a bit shorter than usual to balance out the twenty-four miler I have scheduled next week. I managed the entire distance at an average pace of 8:29, with mile two coming in at 8:59 and mile fifteen at 8:06, giving me some real consistency over that span. I finished with energy left in the tank. Sunday, a recovery jog of six miles put my total distance for the week at just over sixty-three miles, a new record for me by quite a bit and the first time I’ve ever broken sixty. I found out Sunday night I’d be pacing the two-hour group at the Des Moines Marathon this fall. In all, as running goes, the week was a triumph.
I went to bed Sunday night thinking about Afghanistan, and looking forward to Tuesday and the presentations I’d be hearing. I hope to discover that I’ve inspired some of them to travel the world as time goes by. “There are no foreign lands; only the traveler is foreign,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in one of his lesser-known works, The Silverado Squatters. Perhaps he’s right. Regardless, I continue to seek out the antidote to my ignorance, and encourage others to do similarly.