BYU Travel Studies offers cultural, missionary opportunities



    Richard Gunn, a faculty director for BYU Travel Studies for over 35 years, has used his experience as a missionary opportunity.

    Gunn’s travels have taken him to over 130 countries, including a trip to Antarctica. This year he and his wife Jeanine went to Italy, India and South Africa and they are currently planning a trip in February to India, Nepal and Hong Kong. The couple averages about three to five trips a year.

    Gunn, a BYU Alumnus with a doctorate from Stanford, said he enjoys his travels and could not pick a favorite destination.

    “I love them all, it’s like asking someone if they have a favorite child. Each one is unique and has something special to offer,” he said.

    Gunn conducted four study abroad programs to London and France in the 1970s and 1980s, but now focuses his time on Travel Studies, which is open to anyone who wants to travel.

    Travel Studies through BYU is different than most travel programs because it has an emphasis on learning and studying cultures. Gunn said that taking LDS groups all over the world works as a good missionary tool.

    Gunn was a professor of Art History when he was asked to participate in the newly formed BYU Travel Studies in 1956.

    After Gunn comes home after a trip, he records it onto a journal. The journals include what the group did on that trip and historical facts. As they are over a hundred pages for each trip, he writes about ten pages a day and later sends them to those who traveled in the group.

    “I do the journals as a service project and to also help those who went with us remember their trip,” he said.

    Gunn and his wife always take advantage of being examples of the LDS church when they travel.

    Jeanine said she enjoys meeting people from all over the world and acting as a missionary.

    “One thing you really learn is that children are the same where ever you go and mothers are the same. Mothers all want their children to have an education and more in life,” she said.

    As a BYU affiliated group they are known for their high standards and have some interesting stories related to this.

    “On a trip to Russia with a study abroad group, we had a man come up to us and ask about the young people we were traveling with. ‘There’s something different about those kids and I want to know what it is,’ said the man,” Gunn said.

    On a trip to Nepal the group was delayed at an outdoor airport that consisted of a grass runway and thatched roof shelter. While some on the group complained about the three hour wait, a man and his wife walked over to a Nepalese family who were watching the tour group and started to tell them about the church; the family was later baptized into the LDS church.

    A teacher at Stanford taught Gunn the phrase: If men where fish the last thing we’d discover would be water.

    “Often we cannot see how our own culture works until we leave it and experience another one. Traveling and seeing cultures that are different from what you know helps you to learn about your own country, yourself and the church,” he said.

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