“Brain Travel” – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

“Brain Travel” – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Over spring break I had the pleasure of going home and relaxing with friends and family. I thoroughly enjoyed the time and the relaxation that was available because of the break from school. Once I was home however I took a few journeys. First I went to India to view the vibrant colors and smell wonderful smells. I was surrounded by thousands and millions of people speaking many languages and practicing many faiths. I experienced conflict while I was there. Religious and political infighting that lead to confusion and violence.


Photo courtesy of NSR editor Jenna Algoo

After India I traveled to the deserts of North Africa and the jungles of Southeast Asia. I walked across sand dunes and rode donkeys as well as camels. The great sea of sand spread out and covered all the eye could see except a distant oasis that my party and I tried in vain to reach. The heat of the day was oppressive, while the cold of the night chilled me to my bones despite layers of blankets.

The jungle of Southeast Asia were a drastic difference to the dry heat of the desert. The same groups I was with in the desert searching desperately for was now surrounded by water. The very air seemed saturated with water it was so humid. Small creeks turned into rushing rivers with even the slightest of rains. Vines trapped friends and comrades as they walked. The vast expanse of land and sky in the desert was much wanted when trapped under triple canopy jungle where even night did not bring relief from the heat.

Though these travels seem far-fetched and impossible I did indeed travel to all of these places over a short spring break week. Books enabled me to see these sights, smell those smells, and feel those feelings. Through literature and a decent imagination I was able to travel halfway across the world and back. Reading can bring people to other parts of the world and enable them to begin to understand other cultures and people through reading.


Photo courtesy of NSR editor Jenna Algoo

Undoubtedly, traveling to these places in person would give a whole new level of depth and experience than reading about them in books. The experiences people have in both study abroad and tourist travels as well as any other travels have huge benefits! The flip side of this coin is that experiencing other parts of the world, or different cultures, through reading can open a person’s mind to a world they would otherwise not have had the time or ability to learn about. The experiences I had and the knowledge I gained through reading is beyond measure. I have never set foot in India or Morocco or Vietnam, but I have had the ability to learn and gain some experience of what it would be like to be through the beautiful and descriptive writings of others.

The emphasis that has been placed upon hands-on experiential learning and study abroad are wonderful, but that emphasis should not detract from what reading can provide. Students, scholars, tourists, and everybody in between can learn about other people and cultures from reading. That idea is what made National Geographic great. I am sure that all of you who read this have been shown a whole new world, real or fictitious, through reading. This can be Harry Potter or historical novels on the partition of India. Either way the world is created by your mind with the help of an author. This does not mean it is not a great experience or learning tool, on the contrary, it can be just as important as traveling and the cost as well as availability of books is much less than plane tickets and hotel rooms. Hands on learning is important, but experiencing a world in your own mind using literature can be just as beneficial if one is only willing to take the time to sit down with a good book.

Matthew Breeze serves as social media editor for The North Star Reports

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under Matthew Breeze, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

47 responses to ““Brain Travel” – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. McKenzie Ketcher

    I really enjoyed the metaphor of how books take you to different places because it is beyond true. Reading is a privilege, and I do not think many people realize it, or take the opportunity to mentally be able to experience the places that books can bring you to.

  2. Sarah Burton

    Thank you for sharing your story! Being an avid reader, I know exactly what you are talking about. I get completely immersed into a brand new world with every book that I read. Reading is such an important part of learning and I wish more people were into it. I do not have much time to leisurely read while I am in school, but I always make sure to get some reading in during the summer months.

  3. Donovan Blatz

    When people say that the book was better than the movie I almost always agree with them. Unfortunately, I have started to read less and less since coming to college but a recent class I took allowed me the chance to read again. Reading allows your mind to paint its own picture the way you want it. It makes reading a good novel that much more fun when you can almost see what is happening right in front of you. I know reading allows you to create your own image but there’s something about being there that makes it better. Thanks for the story!

  4. Holly Kampa

    Matthew, thank you for sharing. Your descriptions in the beginning made me believe that you actually visited these places. I agree that you can learn so much from a book, but the real life experience is just as important. Do you think that with advances in technology and it being so apparent in our every day lives that reading books will fade out? There’s something about a book that makes reading so much better than on a screen. When buying books this semester I made sure to get a hard copy versus an ebook. Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Molly Enich

    This is a great piece that addresses the importance of literature. Just by reading your description of the jungles I could feel the humidity and imagine the sounds of the jungle. Reading is great way to mentally transport yourself to another place. I agree with you that although traveling abroad is wonderful, reading can produce the same feeling of being in an exotic location. I also like how you addressed that National Geographic transports it’s readers through descriptive stories and great photography. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Emily Ciernia

    Thank you for sharing, Matt! I really enjoyed reading this piece, mainly because I can really relate to it. Although I have never been to many exotic, exciting places in person, reading has allowed me to use my imagination an pretend like I am in a different place ant time. I think that that is one of the best things about literature is the ability to transport you anywhere (with little to no money!) Maybe one day I’ll be able to go to some of the places that I have read about, but for now, books are good enough.

  7. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    You had me hooked there, thinking you traveled to all of those places in just one short week. That right there is called creative writing – well done! Your metaphor is unique and spot on. Not only are books good for the mind and one’s intelligence, but they are good for the soul. They can take away a stressful day, by just a flip of a page and give you an idea of what our beautiful world is like (even if we can’t see it ourselves). Well done- I really enjoyed this article!

  8. Sofia Pineda

    I really enjoyed reading your article , Matt. I think that sometimes people underestimate the power books have and the many experiences that they can provide. It is amazing how words can transport us to a completely different part of the world and allow us to have an experience a new culture. Also, it is very fascinating how literature besides allowing us to experience different places allow us to experience different time periods.

  9. Martti Maunula

    Very interesting depiction of what our mind does when reading. One of the things I noticed most was how when I read your description I was also “transported” in a way, and I noticed more than I maybe would have if I was watching a video. When you said “the whole air seemed saturated in water,” I had a very solid picture in my mind of what it looked like, and not matter how HD a video is, without some explanation it can be hard to fully grasp a place without being there, and that’s part of why I believe reading will never become an obsolete method of communication.

  10. Sara Desrocher

    I really liked reading this article. It makes me think about all of the ‘trips’ that I have been on while reading books. It is an unappreciated gift: gaining experience from books. I have gained so much knowledge from simply reading and learning how to think in another person’s perspective. It is very interesting seeing what it is like in another person’s head, seeing the character’s direct thoughts about what is happening.

  11. Rachel Reicher

    What a different perspective on how to spend spring break. I myself, also began reading during my time at home. I love the feeling and imagination that goes along with literature. It is something that can be done on your own time and more likely than not, at no cost. Thank you for sharing your story, Matt.

  12. Gina Palmi

    I love to read and I can definitely relate to this. Reading can take you places you’ve never been before, in the comfort of your home. It can take you out of your own world for a brief amount of time and make you forget about your troubles. Reading has always been a great escape for me.

  13. Kyle Dosan

    You have such a unique outlook on how to get a sense of what is really going on in the world around us. When any person reads a piece of literature they feel like they are in the story. You are right that there are more ways to learn about a certain place in the world than just by physically going to a certain location. Really interesting take, and a great article as well.

  14. Roman Schnobrich

    Awesome idea and article, Matt! Like McKenzie said, I think many Americans forget how much of a privilege it is to be able to read as well as we can. And we take for granted our access to reading materials– books, magazines, websites, newspapers… The options are endless. Not to mention how much reading assists writing, there are just too many advantages to list.

  15. I like this a lot! I as well spent the spring break reading books and taking myself on a vacation in my own bedroom. I love how reading can bring on new knowledge as well as keep you sharp on things that go one outside of our little world. Thank you!

  16. Nancy Thao

    It sounds like you had a great spring break! Did you travel by yourself or did you travel with others? One thing that amazes me from your traveling was the climate changes in different regions of the world. After traveling in different parts of the world with such a short time span, what is your estimated time range needed to be able to immerse yourself into the culture?

  17. Meghan Lozinski

    As a future English teacher, this is the exact reason reading in classrooms is so important. As a teacher I can ask my students to read a book in a different place, culture, or time and help them see a way of life totally different than their own and help them learn the importance of these differences. Many young students have never traveled and are ethocentric just by nature of human development and by doing exactly as you did, reading about different places and people, they will realize that the world they live in is not the same for everyone. And that is a very important thing to know.

  18. Catherine McConnell

    This article is wonderful. I am an avid reader and always find books that take me to different places the best. I read alot of historical fiction because even though the adventures may be fabricated the setting in which it takes places is real and I learn so much more about an environment than if I was just reading newspaper articles all day. My reading for enjoyment has cut down dramatically since I have been in college but I still make time for it when I can, often finishing whole books over break like you.

  19. Jena O'Byrne

    I really enjoyed reading your experience with books. Books are so amazing in the way you describe them, how they can transport you to the other side of the world. I completely agree with you in that they are tools we can use for knowledge but also experience things we may never get that chance to go to in person. Personally I wish I read more myself just so I could experience so much more. I am lucky to be able to know how to read, when so many are unable to do so.

  20. Not only can reading take you to distant lands, it can also provide one with a new angle on the human experience. Depending on what material you are reading the author or point of view can share with you more about their own thought processes and feelings. Reading can place you in another person’s shoes as well as in another country or time period. It is simply amazing! Thank you so much for sharing and describing your experience and thoughts on this!

  21. Courtney Banks

    Sounds like quite the adventure! I couldn’t help but think of Indiana Jones when you explained the different climates. The adventures in this movie series shows how different cultures are within the story line. I think that studying abroad changes people for the better. I’ve had friends who weren’t open to the experience, went overseas, and came back wanting to travel more and go through the process again. I hope everyone gets the opportunity to go overseas at least once in their lifetime.

  22. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you Matt for sharing! I couldn’t agree with you anymore books are so important and they allow you to experience things that you wouldn’t know when you are stuck at home. I feel like the NSR is doing exactly what you said, books or articles of foreign places allow others who can’t travel the ability to learn about new places and cultures. A book is like a plane ticket you can travel almost anywhere in the world with it. Great Article!

  23. Nichole DeBoom

    What a relaxing Spring Break. It is amazing what places our brain brings us. Using your imagination keeps us young. I feel as though reading is becoming less popular among people as television and electronics are very prevalent. Keep reading, or perhaps vacationing!

  24. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    Thanks for sharing Matt. Although I do not read nearly as much as I used to, and probably not as much as I should, I completely understand the point you made about the experiences you can gain through literature. I feel like many people who are able to travel the world take this for granted as many people don’t the time or money to do this. Reading about different cultures can still provide an immense amount of understanding and with a bit of imagination you can feel like you are there yourself. I hope to one day travel around the world as there is no equivalent to first hand experience; however is I cannot do this literature is a very good second option.

  25. Jacob Carson

    Matt, I absolutely agree that reading can bring us to a variety of environments without actually having to physically be there. generally the better the book, the more real the experience, and of all the books that i have read, the ones that I enjoy the most are those that paint pictures with their words for me to interact with. ALong with the experience that reading gives me, I also think it is important to use all parts of the brain to keep it functioning at full capacity. I am glad to see that still many people place importance on reading in todays society.

  26. Mike Zupfer

    I used to read a lot as a kid and now i have transitioned to more tv shows, movies, and the oh so popular Facebook feed. These tend to open my horizons, maybe not as much as a book would, but in good amounts that let me see the world around us today. As a kid, i was not to much of a keen reader on non fiction books. I liked fiction as it would bring you into a world that no body knows. Glad you had a wonderful spring break. Great read this week.

  27. Jessica Richart

    Wow, I felt a little silly at first because I thought I might have been the only one you had fooled…but from seeing some other comments it looks like you had us all! Very creative way to express your point you were trying to get across. I don’t have a lot of time to do casual reading, but when I do I really enjoy it. It is so easy to get wrapped up in a story, so much to where it feels like it is real life. The people and places all seem so real when you let yourself fully get drawn in. I hope that this summer I will get in at least a few good books! Thanks again for sharing and reminding us of the beauty of reading!

  28. Andrea Ramler

    Matt, I totally agree with your stand point when reading books. Its like you are in a whole different world where you have to learn and understand new things. I use to read a lot of books when I was younger and definitely think they had more of an impact on me then any movie. Sure the two are completely different but it is easier to get engaged in a book in my opinion. I think many look past the art of literature and take it for granted more often then not. Our society has evolved into technology, and often forgets about what is still important. I think it’s important that people continue to read books, yu can get a lot out of them.

  29. Samantha Wollin

    Thanks for sharing your story!! I love reading too, so I know what you mean about how books can take you different places. Since college has started, I have been reading less, but once summer vacation starts I hope I’ll be able to read more, because I love reading!! Thanks for sharing your story again!

  30. My brother has a TARDIS case for his Kindle, and this strikes me as incredibly appropriate. For those who don’t know, a TARDIS is a fictional spaceship that can travel anywhere in time and space; books do this exact same thing. Books have incredible power to take us to different worlds within our world, and you’ve captured that brilliantly. Great article!

  31. Nick Campbell

    Very creative article! In the beginning, I found myself thinking just how boring my spring break was compared to yours. Genuinely had me fooled thinking you were actually traveling to all these wonderful places. Nonetheless, it’s true that books can serve as a portal to places we are not capable of traveling to. I think books serve as this portal more than anything else can.

  32. Jodi Moran

    I never was much of a reader as a child or even now, but there is such beauty in reading and getting “lost” in a great book. What I think is so cool is that every person can experience different feelings while reading the same text. In our ever so fast paced hectic world, being able to escape to another land through reading is something that more people should do. Thank you for showing the importance and beauty of reading!

  33. I was really captivated by your article. I always loved reading that journey into your own mind painting a picture i believe is pivotal in developing. My little brother doesn’t understand how i can sit on the porch and read a book. To him reading is a chore and watching movies is relaxing. i think its so interesting that the mindset has shifted like this. I think people have shifted from being so creative themselves and abstract thinking and prefer to just watch it.

  34. Matt, I really like the style that you wrote this in. I think it just shows how powerful reading can be for us. I also think many of us agree that reading can make you feel like you’re in a whole different world, or traveling to a different spot. We can also learn so much about other cultures from reading – just as you show here with India, North Africa, and Asia. Again, I really liked reading your article and thanks for sharing your spring break with us!

  35. Thank you for sharing your insightful journey Matt! The power of literature is that it can transform us to another place, somewhere we desire or hope to experience someday. It is a great ability we have, to be able to see a way of life that differs from our own. You mentioned the Harry Potter books in your article, I remember how reading these really opened up my imagination and encouraged me to explore creative writing. Historical fiction can also be a useful tool when you do travel. I hope you get to travel and experience the world, in all its glory!

  36. Jenna Algoo

    Matt, I love your description of books and the way they offer people a chance to travel by means of imagination. The mind is such a powerful tool and reading seems to be one of the best ways to utilize it for fun instead of the constant work we are so often required to do. It sounds like your spring break was filled with many beautiful, scary, and exciting journeys that I hope one day everyone experiences through the power of reading. Thanks for your article!

  37. Jimmy Lovrien

    Very cool, Matt! While I think you are correct in saying true, experiential learning serves a purpose, reading books, watching movies, and trying to be informed/exposed to as many things as possible can be more beneficial than even being there in person. A few other articles on this site have explained how tourist and students tend to stay in their comfort zones while traveling or studying abroad. I think in some regards, readers of an area might experience the place more than actual visitors.

  38. My favorite genre of literature is hands down historical fiction, period plays, shows, and books are amazing to me. I feel that they add to my appreciation of historical narratives (even if they are constructing a story from many shared experiences). When reading it is important to remember that often times the use of a single story is not optimal for understanding an issue in full, but it certainly gives you an idea of what a certain viewpoint is like. Reading is magical, thank you for sharing this with us!

  39. Carley Nadeau

    This is very wonderful, Matt. I also went home for spring break and was trying to figure out if I was doing anything that was exciting to write about for NSR, but I forgot just the simple things can be written about too. Is there any books you would recommend? What was your favorite book you read over spring break?

  40. Cassie Mahlberg

    I stumbled upon this article after scrolling quite a ways down, but I am so happy that I did. While on my first college spring break, I opted into a service trip by bus down to Atlanta, GA, leaving no time for personal space or reading. This of course, was not exotic, but a wonderful experience; however, the descriptions you give of the books you read, the places you saw, made me wonder what it is like to love reading. I did once love reading, when I was young and excelling at it, but my love faltered upon my first meeting with a textbook in high school. I want to feel the passion I used to have for reading for pleasure, to travel to interesting new places, and genuinely be excited to start and finish a book. Thank you for making me curious again; curiosity is the first step in discovery and I hope to rediscover my love for books in my time at CSS.

  41. Breena Alfredson

    I really appreciate the vivid imagery you shared, and your ability to enjoy casual reading as a college student. As someone who tends to read only philosophy I sometimes miss the lovely art that a narrative can provide. I think it was important how you connected traveling the world to reading and how that can provide you with an opportunity to ‘see’ things you might not otherwise. I would caution it can also misconstrue things.

  42. Great article Matt. I could not agree with you more about how reading can teach you so much about so many different places. And the best part is that you can do all that from inside of your bedroom. We must of course be careful because these stories are written from someone else’s perspective and can give us a wrong impression of what is out there. That being said I must say that reading books has played a big part in who I am today. I am glad you mentioned Harry Potter because that was my first love as a kid and I believe it is what made me a reader. I want to ask you if travelling to New Zealand has given you a different opinion on the difference between reading a book about a place and actually experiencing the it?

  43. Emily Bugni

    I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel. I would like to travel abroad very soon. A life without traveling for me would be very different. Traveling has brought me many new experiences and opened many new pathways for me. I realize that many people do not have the opportunity to travel. This saddens me, but I have realized that by reading, you are exposed to many new places. Reading brings a journey within these new atmospheres and this journey costs all but 7-10 dollars. I used to love traveling and don’t get me wrong I still do, but reading brings you to the same place for a smaller cost and a faster vacation!

  44. Der Yang

    Hello Matthew!
    I am upset to admit that I have not been reading books as much as I should be. I mean, of course I read all of the ones that are assigned for classes. But I think it is safe for me to say that that is not the same as reading a book you picked up on your own. While reading your essay, I was amazed at how elaborate you shared you mental adventures with us that I picture you in the actual locations. Your story-telling skills are great, as myself and my peers will be telling stories of the history to the rest of the class! I also loved how you connected your stories with the importance of hands-on learning. I also believe that hands-on learning is crucial to succeeding in life. Thank you for sharing!

  45. Matt,

    I hope all is well in China! I really appreciate this article from your formative years at CSS. I too love to travel physically and through literature (and music, moves, documentaries, food, etc.). I agree with you in that we don’t seem to give these experiences enough credit—though of course they aren’t a substitute for the lived experience.
    We recently read a book in class where the author cited the modern novel as a major contributor in the rise of consciousness and empathy toward others as it allowed people to see the world from a different point of view. Would you agree that reading causes us to become more empathetic?


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