Behind the desk: Francisco Henning

Henning discusses living around the world and the lessons learned


Penelope Kladopoulos / Talon

Francisco Henning has lived in seven different countries over his lifetime: India, Singapore, Germany, England, Venezuela, Canada and the United States. Through his travels abroad and research at home, Henning has developed an appreciation for the unique traditions and cultures represented around the world.

When Henning was younger, he was introduced to two different ideas about travel and its importance. Henning got to experience both ways of thinking and their individual benefits.

“When I returned from Germany to Venezuela I was still very young and my family did not have the economical resources to travel abroad for many years after that,” said Henning. “For my parents, they thought it was important for us to learn about our own country and all the diversity that you can find even within your own borders. But on the other hand, I had this college professor who thought that you had to travel abroad and give yourself something new to compare your previous experiences to.”

From his brief time as a kid in Germany to his job as a teacher in India, one thing remained constant for Henning both at home and abroad: his desire to learn and absorb as much of his surroundings as he could.

“When I travel I go with an open mind, enjoy and learn all about the culture,“ Henning said. “In fact people always get surprised by how much I know about their countries because when I go there I do research on their history and cultural nuances. I try to immerse myself in their traditions and soak up as much as I can.”

Henning would listen to the country’s music, watch their shows, read their books and spend time with the locals to give himself an honest experience of the countries he visited. He believed that being respectful of them and their way of life was very important.

“I always tried to make friends with the locals and go out and experience their way of doing things,” Henning said. “You have to be respectful, and in order to be respectful you have to understand or at least try to understand. Every place does things differently and just because it doesn’t work the way you are used to doesn’t make it wrong or worse.”

While working as a teacher in Singapore and India, Henning noticed that his colleagues liked to call themselves expats instead of immigrants. He had a very different way of looking at their situation.

“I had a lot of colleagues from English speaking countries and they never called themselves immigrants, they always called themselves expats. There is something about being an expat and that mentality is, I am not integrating myself. Whereas for me, I am always an immigrant and I always try to integrate myself.” Henning said.

When talking to others who have traveled to many places, Henning found that their exposure to the real lifestyle of the country was limited. 

“I have met so many people who have said they have traveled around the world and yet they have such little understanding of what those countries are really like because they were staying in five star hotels and not experiencing the day to day. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a big difference in your experience and perception of that country” Henning said.

Henning thinks that just visiting a new place won’t help diversify your understanding of the world, but that it is ultimately your mentality towards travel that will determine what you take away from your trips. 

“What you take away from a trip really depends on how you approach your stay,” Henning said. “You can travel and travel, but if you don’t make an effort to absorb what’s around you, you will leave that trip with no lessons in life. If you want to learn, you have to keep an open mind and make an effort.” 

Henning enjoyed more than just great food and celebration while abroad; he was also exposed to new perspectives on relatively unchallenged stories told by the western world.

“In the West everybody idolizes Gandhi but in India there is a big chunk of the population that have an opposing view,” Henning said. “Once I was there, I was able to meet the people and listen to their perspectives.” 

Though Henning loves physically being present in new and engaging environments, he also acknowledges that even reading about a new place or type of people can be rewarding and insightful.

“You can even grab a book to read about different people, different communities and have eye opening or life changing experiences without any travel. It truly depends on your mentality toward the situation and what you want to learn,” Henning said.

Even now, Henning wishes to add countries to his already impressive travel repertoire.

“Travel takes you out of your box and that’s a joy I find in life,” said Henning. “For me the most boring thing is staying in the same place. If I had a wish it would be to not have the limits of money and time so that I could travel, explore and live in all different types of places.”