The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

The Privilege of Travel

Travel is such a privilege and the recent restrictions on travel have led many of us to appreciate this even more keenly than we might otherwise have done. By privilege, I don’t simply mean that we might have enough money to buy a ticket on a plane or train or boat or bus, as well as being able to afford accommodation when we get to the place we are visiting. It is also a privilege to be able to visit other parts of the planet, to see and experience how other people live, to see sights and hear sounds and smell different places.

If you have been fortunate to fly, you will hopefully remember that joyous, slightly nervous feeling when the plane takes off. You may remember looking out of the window as you leave Perth, rising up and looking down at the Swan River, then crossing the coast, trying to find your little home and heading out across the ocean and up the coast. At some stage, if you are like me, you look down on the landscape or the clouds and think about the incredible feat of engineering which enables you to be up there; how beautiful it all looks; how peaceful it seems – even though you know down at ground level it is quite a different story. 

Travel expands the mind and hopefully makes us better people. By that, I mean it leads us to wonder about the world, to be curious and to have compassion for others. It enables us to be awed by the natural landscape and the built environment, as well as the people and other life within it. It can enhance our sense of empathy, which must be a good thing for the world. It can lead us to be grateful for our own lives, and what we have, and where we live. One of the great joys of travel is returning home to the place and people we know and love.

There are so many different elements to travelling: the shock of the new; the joy of the interesting; the benefits of boredom, whether waiting for a flight or a bus; the curiosity of different food; and the curiosity of a new language. Each of these expands our horizons and changes us, hopefully enabling us to understand more about ourselves and to become a better person in the process. 

Travel is a way of exploring. We explore new places, or rediscover places we visited long ago. Or we can explore places we think we know well.

With the restrictions on travel, I have taken to exploring my local area more, walking with my dog and committing to a different path each morning. I have walked the laneways and back streets which I have previously ignored. It is a different view of an area I thought I knew, and I have been surprised by the pleasure there is in recalibrating what I look for and what I experience.

But, even more than this, the past few months have reinforced for me the realisation that travel is much more than simply changing our location. Even though there have been limits placed on our movement, this should not stop us from travelling. Along with the privilege of travel, there is also an obligation to travel, which can take many forms. We can engage in virtual travel. Something as simple as a travel show on TV can fill us with a sense of wonder at a place we have always wanted to visit, and delving into a photo album can fill us with powerful memories of our previous experiences. Or we can travel in time. Studying and reading about history deepens our understanding of society; studying ideas can profoundly change how we see the world. 

Or perhaps, if we are brave enough, we may choose to visit one of our least-preferred destinations by travelling inwards, to explore or confront who we are and what we believe. We can even engage in a moral journey, asking ethical questions of each other, thereby changing the way we see the world without ever having to go out into it.

The School of Life puts it far better than I could:

“This might, at first, strike us as unnecessary – after all, who knows us better than ourselves? But familiarity doesn’t equal understanding. In truth, your ‘self’ is a largely undiscovered country: one with byways and backwaters that have never been mapped. Many of the difficulties we face – from our difficulties with relationships, to a vagueness around our career ambitions, to feeling our lives lack direction and purpose – stem from a poor understanding of how our minds really work. The path to fulfillment starts with a search for self-knowledge: a quest to uncover how our childhoods, emotions, and life experiences have shaped us as people.”

Each of these options above are available to each of us and our boys. Please encourage him to explore. Impress upon him the obligation to travel, especially on that more challenging inward journey. The point of travel is to be changed, hopefully for the better. We don’t have to leave home for that to happen.


Year 4s and 5s had their first yoga session for the term last Friday. These will continue throughout the term. Please ask your son what they have been doing and get them to teach you!

Yogi in Residence

This week, throughout Week 2 in Middle School, Helen Heppingstone will be taking each class for a mindfulness session. We have set up a dedicated room for these sessions and, with the help of Karen Woods, staff have been provided with mindfulness activities to use pre- and post-session. This builds on the work we have done previously with Mindful Meditation Australia. 

Brain Reset

Helen Heppingstone will continue to run these sessions in the Senior School on Wednesdays after school for any interested Year 11s and 12s.

As we move into the final school exams for each of these year groups, now is the perfect time for your son to practise simple physical and mental relaxation techniques which he can use up to, during and beyond the examination period. These are skills for life and I have strongly encouraged the boys to attend. If you could also encourage your son to attend, that would be wonderful. There are so many benefits to mindfulness, from better academic performance, lower stress, better health and sleep, stronger relationships, greater capacity to concentrate and deal with difficulties, I cannot recommend it enough.

If we can provide our young men with these skills now, we will be doing them an enormous favour for the rest of their life.