Ben Stiller’s 2006 fantasy-comedy film, A Night at the Museum, tells the story of a security guard who discovers exhibits which come alive at night. Children and families loved the movie (and critics mainly panned it). And some travelers like me, who especially enjoy a good museum, found a certain truth in it.
For me, a good museum is more than a place that displays artifacts and specimens; just like a hostel is more than a building, and travel is more than the process of getting from one point to another. A museum is always a place to learn, and on special days, be truly inspired.
A recent trip to London led me to the British Museum, an astonishing place where cultures of the world can be explored literally under one roof. My visit was not unplanned. For the past seven years, when I have had the opportunity to visit London I have returned yet one more time for a very specific exhibit, on the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment. For me, it delivers an experience that brings to life an Age of ideas, curiosity and progress.
Yet travel is not so different. Like a portable museum, travel promotes learning and inspiration. On those special travel days, we make unexpected connections among personalities and places. And we wish we could have more of them.
Then it’s probably no accident that at the museum’s bookstore I “discovered” an unusual book that holds special promise for the curious traveler, and for those of us who aspire to be. It’s called “How To Be An Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith, and aptly subtitled “Portable Life Museum”. It shares ways for the reader to “observe the world around you as if you never seen it before”. It’s all about being a bit more purposeful with our time on the road.
Whether it’s a book or a movie (did I mention that Night at the Museum is credited by the American Museum of History for increasing museum visitation by 20 percent during its run?), promoting healthy curiosity is a good thing. And whether it’s at a museum or in a hostel or on the road, forging on one’s own new connections among people, places and cultures delivers an education unequalled.