The Art of Travel—Gregory Hess and Don Morel
Two Wabash leaders—Wabash President Gregory Hess and Head Football Coach Don Morel— offer their takes, from very different perspectives, on the value of travel.
The Art of Travel
by Gregory Hess
When I was about to enter college and Freddie Laker and People’s Express were driving down international airfares, my father found an inexpensive flight that allowed my older sister and me to explore France for two months.
Five stops (including an emergency landing in Shannon, Ireland “to pick up parts”) and too many hours later, we landed in Paris. We found a rickety student hostel near to the Oberkampf Metro station and collapsed.
Jet-lagged when I woke up the next morning, I stumbled downstairs to light pouring into the room and breakfast on the table—baskets of baguettes next to bowls of butter and jam and slices of bread.
“Café ou chocolat?” the waiter asked.
I wasn’t a coffee drinker, but figured this must be the kind of moment it was made for. The waiter brought me a bowl of coffee with steamed milk.
I’ve been hooked ever since.
Two months wandering the cities, towns, and countryside of France made travel a lifetime habit, too.
It’s exhilarating, it’s exhausting. Sometimes travel recharges you, sometimes it’s like putting your finger in a light socket.
It amplifies everything about life, which may be why travel stories are some of our most memorable.
Travel has brought Lora, our daughters, and me together in ways few things can. Without the distractions of our everyday lives, we’re all four locked in and focused, all in it together.
Creating a sense of home in an unfamiliar place becomes an art, and there are many skills to be learned.
That’s also why we try to make a travel experience part of every student’s Wabash education.
The face-to-face learning that infuses our classrooms is excellent preparation for stepping into another culture.
Travel strengthens you, no matter what you encounter in life. You learn to deal with setbacks and late trains; you learn how to figure it out when things go completely awry and you don’t speak the language. It teaches you about responsibility: how to protect your passport, money, and to help your fellow travelers (even if you’re just carrying their luggage) along the way.
There’s a lot of downtime, too. Sometimes you are waiting hours for a bus or plane. Sometimes the train doesn’t have Wi-Fi. You get a chance to disconnect and reflect. Many people make major life decisions while traveling, because you can take a deep breath, look at a blanker slate.
Then there’s the adventure.
When I was studying at the London School of Economics during my junior year in college, a couple friends and I decided to go to Spain. I remember reading The Sun Also Rises on what had to be the slowest train between Paris and Madrid, arriving during Easter Week and the Semana Santaprocessions.
Toward the end of that trip we traveled to Morocco, with me lugging my econ books through the streets of Meknes and Fez. In the latter city we got to know some Moroccan students, and we decided to go to a movie together—Raiders of the Lost Ark, a favorite of my father’s and mine and a film I’d seen several times.
You may recall the famous scene (filmed in neighboring Tunisia) in which Indiana Jones encounters an Arab swordsman who displays his skills with the blade and threatens to kill him. In the improvised version of the scene used in the movie, Jones simply draws his gun and shoots him. In the United States it drew the biggest laughs in the film.
But sitting with our new Arab friends and as one of only three non-Arabs in the theater, I started looking around to make sure I knew where the exits were. I just wasn’t sure how that scene would translate culturally.
But our Moroccan friends laughed harder than I did. It seemed like everyone in the theater thought the scene was the funniest thing imaginable.
I realized then that there really are some universal constants. You don’t always know where they are, and you have to be cautious and humble as you search for them. But that was a moment of understanding for me, one I could only get by traveling thousands of miles from home to an unfamiliar culture and place.
Like most learned from traveling, it is a lesson that informs me still.
The Morel Mindset
by Richard Paige
Life is more than school and football for Coach Don Morel. His philosophy is on full display when the Little Giants are on the road.
Sure, expectations are high—to play well and to win—and the team travels first class to road games, stays in nice hotels, and shuttles around in busses equipped with Wi-Fi and satellite TV.
And rest—the players get a chance to rest.
“With the rigors of Wabash College, a road game is better for our kids,” Morel says. “They look at the trip as a three- or four-hour nap.
“Typically, on our way to a game, the kids do some studying and we might put a movie on. After the game, it’s more fun. We put other games on, there is food on the bus, and we try and get back to campus as quickly as possible so the kids can get back to a normal routine.”
It’s what happens between those bus rides that reveals the Morel mindset.
A Wabash football coach since 2011, Morel is a master of the side trip—a brief excursion to take the focus off of football and school. In 2012, the squad visited the St. Louis Zoo while on a road trip to face Washington University. Just last year, the team visited Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln and Washington Monuments while in Virginia on the season-opening road trip.
It breaks the monotony and can leave a lasting impression.
“There is just so much to see out there,” Morel explains. “Going to the zoo might not sound like a big deal, but when you’ve been blasted away with academics for seven weeks and you get to spend the day at a zoo, that’s a great experience. And if you are going to be in Washington, D.C., you might as well see Washington, D.C. If you talk to kids who went on that trip, they will talk about that visit to Arlington and the monuments. At some point, they will mention, by the way, we won the football game.”
Morel’s sense of place even applies to the after-game menu on the bus. Although he grew up in Los Angeles and lived in Chicago, the coach fiercely appreciates the uniqueness of small town life.
“Every small town has one place that makes something special,” he said.
“A lot of our opponents go the franchise route and save a buck a sandwich. To me that’s silly. You’ve got 60 kids on a trip and you save 60 bucks for a lousy sandwich. Life’s too short.”
He rattles off some of the places he frequents—Nelson’s Cheese & Deli in St. Thomas, or Der Dutchman, a broasted chicken place at Ohio Wesleyan, or The Whole Darn Thing (“the best meatball sub I’ve ever had.”) near Allegheny. It adds a little spice (sometimes literally) to the trip.
The Morel mindset carries into the postseason, as well. Last year during the Little Giants’ quarterfinal playoff appearance in St. Paul, MN, the team squeezed in another side trip.
“If you are going to be in Minnesota, you gotta go see that Mall of America,” he says. “It was an absolutely great experience. Something else besides school and football.”