When I travel internationally, I always face two challenges related to my sense of direction. First, as family and friends who have traveled with me are all too aware, on a practical level I am very directionally challenged. I tend to get lost, and to do so quickly, despite my best advance planning and map referencing efforts. I seem to navigate best by visual cues, so when I am in new surroundings the lack of familiar landmarks makes it difficult to manage getting from “point A” to “point B.” Given this limitation, I often rely on the kindness of others – so I look forward to the navigational support of traveling as part of a larger faculty group for the first time!
Second, on a conceptual level, as an International Relations scholar a part of me always views my travel experiences through that academic lens. The subjective personal experience is thereby continually supplemented by analytical considerations of the global and political implications. For example, when traveling in Moscow and Brasilia with my colleagues Matt Krain and Jeff Lantis to run active teaching and learning workshops, we could not escape discussing our political surroundings during side trips to the Kremlin and Brazilian government buildings. Sometimes the travel and related analysis is more intentional. For example, last year I traveled to Bhutan, in part to explore their approach of Gross National Happiness for inclusion in my Peace Studies course.
The trip to Jordan and Jerusalem certainly provides plenty of opportunity to consider the political implications linked to our group’s theme this year: Conflict and Cooperation in the Middle East. Throughout the year I brought my Political Science analytical frameworks to bear on readings and discussions, and given the centrality of the Middle East to international relations considerations I will certainly be continuing to do so during my travels. At the same time, the interdisciplinary Hales group discussions over the past academic year have provided me with new perspectives provided from the wide range of personal experiences and academic lenses. I look forward to continuing such engagement with the differing “senses of direction” from my colleagues as we travel and learn together.