Aug 9, 2018

By Shannon Wall, Instructor

I’m sitting on a rock beside a turquoise Mediterranean sea on the North East coast of Majorca, Spain. It is ridiculously beautiful here- I almost can’t believe my eyes. I’ve scrambled up and down a steep rocky path three times in two days just to make sure I didn’t dream it up. But it is indeed the place of dreams. The way the sun dances across the turquoise water, making patterns in the sand. The crystal-clear, perfectly warm water, with tropical fish swimming by. The rocky caves, carved into a backdrop of jagged mountains. 

Magic. All of it. Pure magic. 


Beauty such as this has always made me contemplative. And so I sit here and contemplate how I ended up here, on this little piece of paradise, many miles from home.

In our RECR 3230 class at Langara, we study the writings of Charles Brightbill, an early American professor of Recreation who in 1961 wrote a book called Man and Leisure: A Philosophy of Recreation. In it, he argues - among other things - that recreation is the road to self-making. He believes it is the place where we can be most ourselves; where we can begin to actualize our potential. 

He says:

The attractiveness of leisure as a force for encouraging individuality and self-making is that it provides another 
kind of environment for us, one quite different from our work-day environment and one which lets new forces 
play upon our unused talents. It is the time for new and different occupations and experiences (Brightbill, 179).

Some people “make themselves” - where they learn to know themselves, and like themselves - through playing hockey or dancing or throwing pottery. It is in these new environments where they flourish, where they shine; where they find out who they are, deep down when everything else falls away. As Brightbill says: 

Recreation is the open road to self-making because it deals with the spirit of people, their favorable, positive 
attitudes, and their limitless enthusiasms.  It has to do with whatever sparks there are within us, no matter how 
small, to achieve and excel (185). 

For me, the road to self-making has always been through travel. It was in run-down hostels in Paris and thatched beach huts in Indonesia and rusty old trains I rode across Siberia where I discovered who I really was, and what I wanted out of life. As I explored the world, I uncovered new things all around me, and inside of me as well. It was where I learned to be brave (even when I was feeling anything but), where I discovered my love of planning- and also where I learned to come up with creative solutions when the plans I had so carefully crafted fell through. It was where I learned to not freak out when things went wrong, but to keep going, one step at a time. It was where I found the joy in slowing down and savouring the wonder all around me- like these turquoise waters I can’t stop staring at. (Do you want me to stop saying “turquoise” now? Sorry...)

It’s not that there isn’t joy and wonder to be had in our everyday life. (If anything, that is what having children has taught me!) But somehow, the joy and wonder are more accessible to me when I travel. They abide in the “other”, in that which is not familiar - in those “new environments” that Brightbill refers to. In the crowded markets, overflowing with foods I’ve never seen or tasted before; in the worn, wooden doors that line the cobble-stoned streets; in the languages I don’t understand but love to listen to, as I sip my coffee in a cafe and watch people interact together. The self I make while I travel is one that cries out, “Yes! This is me!” 

And then, when I return home, back to the familiar, I see everything with new eyes, and renewed joy. 

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that I find myself on a year’s leave from teaching at Langara, on a twelve month trip around the world with my family. Luckily, my husband shares my love of travel, and we have long wanted to plan a year away with our children. (If you want to read more about my motivation for this year away, you can read my post about it here.)

The self we are making on this trip, however, is not just our individual selves, but our “united self”: our family. Who are we, as a family, without school and work and swimming lessons and baseball practice? Can we be resilient together? Can we embrace the “other”, and thrive together, alone in the world? We are about to find out. One month in, and we are doing just fine. Eleven months to go! We’ll see…  

I can’t be sure, but I have a hunch that Brightbill would be supportive of this type of endeavour. I think he would approve of taking this year out of our busy lives to soak up as much joy and wonder as we can, together as a family. To slow down and enjoy these “new and different experiences” together. At least, I like to think he would. But enough contemplation.  It’s getting warm here on my rock. I think it’s time for a swim…



Brightbill, Charles (1961) Man and Leisure: A Philosophy of Recreation

If you would like to follow along on our family’s adventure, I will also be blogging at