The Things We Learn From Travel (speech contest draft)

This week, I committed to participating in an International Speech Contest at the end of the month for the Plaza 400 Toastmaster Club. I did so with some reservation because it’s been a while (i.e. years) since I’ve entered this contest. However, since I’m the Club Coach and Vice President of Membership, I felt it my duty to lead by example and “saddle up.” Bellow you will see be a section of that speech, or at least a variation of it because it will be a work in progress till I deliver it on March 28.

Speaking of work, I missed last week’s post because I was devoted to designing and delivering an engagement session for the Kelly Road Secondary School’s Northern Learning Center (NLC). This is a brand new project-based learning curriculum that my son belongs to. For you practitioners, out there, I did a Talk Show, a Press Conference, an Open Space and, coached the NLC Teachers though a Leadership Toss. The goal of the session was to kick-off a School Garden Project that the NLC kids will champion. Read instructor Steve Chase’s summary of the event and this wonderfully innovative way for our children to learn:

And now for something completely different:

Please welcome Greg Jonuk for his speech “The Things We Can Learn From Travel.” “The Thing’s We Can Learn from Travel”, Greg Jonuk.

Some of us travel for work. To go to it, and to get away from it. Others travel for family and friends. To visit them, and to get far from them. I travel to learn. To embrace and experience new things and places. and to un-learn and distance myself from thinking that no longer serve me.

Madam/Mr. Chairperson, fellow Toastmasters, and most welcome guests.

Today, I will share with you a few things that I have learned from my travels. Because I think that travelling is one of the most effective, efficient, and fun learning mechanisms on the market today. It may not be cheap, it may not be green, but in the name of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, man it certainly is keen.

The biggest thing I have learned is how to pack. Sounds trivial, I know. However I contend that how we pack says a lot about ourselves. Much like how Albert Einstein
equated a cluttered desk with a high-octane mind.

When I first started travelling, I brought the kitchen sink. My philosophy was – be prepared. And I though to that I had to bring everything that owned that possibly might come in handy. On my first international trip, I had a 40 L backpack behind me. I had a day back inverted and strapped to my chest, and a fanny-pack below that, because a manly man, such as myself, can always make that work. Then in my left hand I had a carry-on and in the other a suitcase. And since I couldn’t fit all my clothing in all of that, likely because it was crammed to capacity with handy things like duct tape, toilet plungers, and bubble pipes, I was also wearing 2 to 3 layers of extra clothing. I had so much stuff on and around me I was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I could have gone manno-o-mano with the Terminator, Robo Cop, Iron Man, maybe even the Pope-mobile. You’ve seen those on man band contraptions that buskers sometimes wear? Well I was a one-man pack train.

I am happy to report those heavily satchelled days are over for me. Now when I travel abroad, I use only a single daypack. Well that and a fanny pack because I can still rock one. Although my daughter tells me I should tell people it’s a hip-pack to maintain my dignity. I compromised and call it my tickle-trunk utility belt.

I’ve traded in stuff to keep me prepared when I travel for plain old human ingenuity.

I’ve metaphorically, and to be honest literally, thrown that manual egg beater, whoopee cushion, rice crispy snack pack, and other gadgets aside, and instead rely on well honed and pointy-sharp mental acumen. I now use my wit to carpe diem my travels.

In other words, I travel naked, or as naked as I possibly can get without getting arrested and thrown in a foreign prison.

And here’s the rub, not that I ever thought I could get away with using foreign prison and rub in back-to back sentences. But this change in my thinking, this shift to prepare with thought and not with things seems so simple, but it is catastrophically changed how I approach travel.

For example, before I could pack rather quickly. Yeah I was packing a lot of things but all I had to do was stuff volumes of stuff furiously into luggage without thinking. Now I need to prepare ahead of time to make sure I’m mentally prepared to overcome the challenges I might encounter. And since I restrict myself to a single carry-on, and my manly fanny pack, I have to deliberate over each item. Packing used to be a tasteless buffet for me, now it’s a gourmet experience, where I each offering

I’m also now better able to look up and enjoy where I am. I’m more present, more in the now. If you believe all that Eckhart Tolle new age weirdo stuff crap. Before I would be grunting and groaning under a Sherpa’s load of luggage and couldn’t see a thing with sea of sweat swarming my eyes. And I had to worry about where I was going to put my stuff before I could venture out and explore. Now I’m so light, not me, my luggage, that I’m able to sightsee effectively, even if I have nowhere to check my bag. You can be nimble when you’re naked.

I’m also a lot less girthy. Before I had to use a taxi, or at least a small transport vehicle to get to and from the airport or train station. Now that I can capably fit on any form of public transit, I too can have the pleasure of placing my face in someone’s armpit in a jammed-packed rush hour subway. The world has opened up for me. It’s good to be naked.

It’s also more affordable. With less to carry, there’s less to loose and less to replace. You make connections quicker without checked baggage and I can stay in hostels because I’ve got nothing to steal. I no longer have to rent a 2nd hotel room to store my luggage. And with less pack hauling, I no longer have to have a budget for foreign massage therapists. Although, I admit letting go of that aspect was tough.

On that deprived note, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve shifted the way I think about travel, specifically how I pack. I’ve moved away from using a plethora of gadgets and volumes of stuff and towards my wonderfully compact and elegant strategy of trusting my wit and ingenuity. I’m now a naked traveler, and I don’t know about you and those around me, but I’m richer for it (end).

It’s raw at this stage, a rambling first draft. However I would really appreciate your feedback on it. Both on what is landing with you and what you think needs revamping.

Comment below, tweet me @gsjonuk, or email me at

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5 Responses to The Things We Learn From Travel (speech contest draft)

  1. Bob Annand says:

    Greg – First of all, good on you for 1) putting your speech out there for critique – it’s gutsy but you trust in this team – this is a good Team Learning opportunity and, 2) taking on a speech contest (TI and contests are also a great Team Learning experience).
    What a great title, what a great concept. Especially from an LO guy. Linking learning with travel is creative and rich.

    The speech is funny man. This would be an awesome entry for the humorous speech contest too.

    So there lies a bit of the rub. From what I know of the international contest – it’s about inspiring and motivating people to get off their cans and do something, like seeing what they can learn through travel. Like Dewitt Jones and his Everyday Creativity message you could inspire us through what you did learn on a specific day of your travel foe example, and with a new eye – there is more than one thing to learn, or more than one way to look at learning during a day in your journey.

    This speech is a winner, no matter what, but especially for the Humorous Speech Contest! If you want to take this to the next levels in the International Contest you may have to light a fire under us to get us off our butts and out on the road to learn.

    Hey, and Batman had an awesome utility belt.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment Greg.

  2. Igor says:

    I agree that travelling is an art to be mastered, and the visual sign of how good one is at it, is how much luggage one carries. Here I would mention that in all my travels, my must-have lugggae item is a credit card that works everywhere. Using it one can get all the desired staff left behind!

  3. gsjonuk says:

    @ Igor, excellent point regarding a universal credit card. I try to use mine as much as I can, more affordable than traveller’s checks, convenient, and I like earning travel points on my purchases. That said, I always make sure I have cash for markets, shops, and neighborhood restaurants that only take cash. These are the places that the world comes alive. Thanks again for visiting, Igor.

  4. gsjonuk says:

    Awesome feedback Bob. I see from your Tongue Fu that you are knowledgeable in the way of the Toastmaster contests. I absolutely agree with you that this might be a better Humorous speech than an International speech. I didn’t expect it to turn out that way, I wrote the blog post as a “hit two birds” exercise to devote time to it and it came out all twisted and demented 🙂

    That said, I think there is room to make it more savory. The theme of relying on our ingenuity and preparing ourselves to thrive by honing our improvisational and thinking skills is of course a key aspect of Toastmasters and I suppose also for a LO practice work. My goal is to temper some of the humor so it doesn’t overpower the meaning.

    I have been batting around a few alternate titles, tell me which one do you prefer (please everyone chime in also):
    1) The Things We Learn From Travel (as per the draft above)
    2) Oh, The Things We Can Learn From The Places That We Go (a homage to Dr. Seuss)
    3) The Indispensable Value of Naked Travel (punchy and funny from the start although I wonder if it its too edgy)

  5. TerriJ says:

    so funny!

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