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My Continuing Education

Posted by: Stuart Comstock-Gay on 8/13/2015

I’m fresh back from a great trip to Turkey—with lots of family, including new family, as the occasion of the trip was my daughter’s engagement to a wonderful Turkish guy. In Turkey, the engagement ceremony is a very big deal. The families met, we engaged in the formal ceremonies, and had a big party. And we learned.

Beyond the beautiful views, a stunning trip to Ephesus, wild experiences driving, great kayaking, and swimming on the Mediterranean, we also had the tremendous privilege of being welcomed by—and getting inside of—a big Turkish family. We had the privilege of sharing their meals, of getting their perspectives on Turkish politics, America, and Russia, of hearing about their lives and the tremendous changes they have seen.

For example, until the early 1990s, there was only one television station in Turkey. Many of the roads were nothing short of treacherous until recent times. Exposure to Americans—and many other nationalities—was very limited until recently. Travel to Istanbul from their town on the Mediterranean used to take a day. Today, they can make that trip in an hour. Now, our new Turkish relatives have a son living in America, a nephew in Munich, and relatives living throughout the region. Now, they have dozens of television stations to watch, including religious, political, and sports programs, and more. They see thousands and thousands of visitors to their beach-towns. Their world is changing at a rate as fast as ours; in different ways to be sure, but at an incredible clip.

We saw many things that surprised and impressed us, and many things that reminded us of Vermont.

We visited the school of my daughter’s future mother-in-law. She’s a much sought-after primary school teacher. At her school, the pre-school sits on the same campus. For many families, pre-school is provided by family members—but the pre-school is a growing part of the solution, too, in recognition of the value of providing early care and education.


As in Vermont, there is a real interest in renewable energy—as evidenced by the ridgeline windmills that crop up occasionally …


… to the hot-water heaters which are installed pretty much everywhere.  Here’s a picture of a small apartment building with the heaters installed. You can buy the panels and the heaters in almost every small town.  (The only place we didn’t see them was in Istanbul—where natural gas is a primary source of energy.)


It’s a humbling thing to get a perspective on other people and other places—both to understand them better, to understand ourselves better, and to see where ideas and values find common ground. It’s often true, that through travel, one feels closer to home, and this trip was no exception.

This month, the Turkish Airlines magazine Skylife had a brief article entitled "More Productive Holidays." In addition to discussing the general value of travel, the writer discussed a study suggesting that “travel is directly correlated with a belief in the goodness of human nature. In other words, if you travel, you’re more likely to be trusting and optimistic about the world,” and to have “generalized trust.”

The writer goes on: “The increased levels of generalized trust are ‘a key element of successful societies.’ A person with high levels of generalized trust is more likely to be able to thrive in today’s globalized world, where interaction with unfamiliar societies is inevitable. People who are willing to take a chance on a stranger are more likely to be able to get business done.”

All of which is to say, I feel privileged to be part of a global community where such interaction is possible, and where meaningful touchstones for our everyday work can so easily be found with countries on the other side of the world. It’s all a part of my continuing education.



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