There have been a myriad of books written about how travel provides an education that no school ever could. The basic idea is summed up in the famous quote “I never really started learning until I began to travel.”

Over the years the travel experience has embraced, rejected, created, and re-embraced many different identities, be it group tours, luxury travel, or thumbing your way from point A to Z. They all mean different things to different people.

But one that’s closest to our heart is travel defined by a concept known as ‘experiential learning’. The phrase was coined by David Kolb, an educational theorist (yes, that’s a thing) with a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard.

There are many ways to experience Asia, but applying some of the techniques that drive the experiential learning theory is a great way to make sure the trip a) stays with you long after you leave and b) teaches you something valuable. Along with elements that are already Smiling Albino mainstays (such as small groups and an itinerary with plenty of time for self-guided exploration), Kolb’s four elements of experiential travel are:

  1. Concrete experience
  2. Observation and reflection
  3. Formation of concepts
  4. Testing the new concepts

Concrete experience? Check. Indeed, that’s what Smiling Albino is all about. We’ve long urged our guests to step out of their comfort zone, try something new, or do something that allows them to see a place or experience from a different angle. Whether it’s pushing yourself to crest the final ridge on an uphill bike ride in Nepal, or eating fried bugs on the steamy streets of Bangkok, creating concrete, unique experiences is in our DNA.

But as hosts we can only open the door – the next three steps are up to you. If it helps, other researchers expanded on Kolb’s ideas a bit to provide five questions you can ask yourself to help trigger the ‘learning’ part of experiential learning:

  1. Did you notice that…?
  2. Why did that happen?
  3. Does that happen in my life?
  4. Why does that happen?
  5. How can I use that to my advantage?

It might sound a little counter-intuitive, applying mental analytics to a trip, but trust us – when you analyze the pieces of an adventure, there’s a lot to learn about your trip – and yourself – that may not have been obvious before.