“We travel initially to lose ourselves, and we travel next to find ourselves.” – Pico Iyer

Lilli Jackson is an extraordinary teenager whose life story combines global exploration, academic excellence, and dance mastery. Starting at 10, she travelled to 50 countries with her parents and younger brother, gaining invaluable experiences and perspectives. Now a full-time student in South Africa at Education Incorporated, Lilli uses her travel wisdom in her academic and dance pursuits. She represented South Africa in 2023 at Dance Star World Masters in Croatia and earned Senior Gauteng Colours for her jazz, lyrical, and tap skills. Here, Lilli shares her journey, challenges, triumphs, and aspirations.

A Unique Start

Lilli’s journey began at 10 when her family decided to travel the world. Reflecting on this unique start, Lilli recalls the excitement and curiosity fuelling her adventure. “When I learned we would travel the world, I was thrilled and apprehensive,” she shares. Her parents’ desire to provide a unique learning experience and immerse their family in diverse cultures drove this decision. Remarkably, her parents had already travelled extensively while her mother was pregnant with Lilli, doing the famous Cape to Cairo route in a van. This sparked their passion for exploration and the desire to instil wanderlust and a sense of adventure in their children.

The World as a Classroom

“Travelling in a van allowed us to experience the world up close,” Lilli recalls. Due to visa restrictions, the family had to backpack through some countries, adding to the adventure. Each destination offered unique learning opportunities, enriching Lilli’s understanding of history, cultures, and faiths. “I just loved Denmark. That was probably one of my favourite destinations. I also really enjoyed Vietnam. Getting a chance to see their perspective on, what they refer to as, the American War was particularly eye-opening,” she notes. “It helped me understand that history is all about perspective.” Witnessing various faiths, cultures, and traditions firsthand enriched her understanding of the world. “Seeing how different cultures practice their beliefs gave me an interesting perspective on history and humanity.”

Balancing travel and education was a unique challenge. “Learning while travelling was challenging yet incredibly rewarding,” Lilli explains. “It allowed me to tailor my education to my interests and the places we visited.” This approach kept her academically engaged and connected her studies to real-world contexts, making learning more meaningful.

The journey was also a profound period of personal growth. “Travelling taught me resilience, independence, and cultural sensitivity,” Lilli reflects. Each country brought new experiences, making her more adaptable and open-minded. “I learned to appreciate different ways of life and to see the world from multiple perspectives.”

Strengthening Bonds

Travelling with family for several years brought them closer together. “The experience strengthened our family bonds,” Lilli shares. “We faced challenges as a team and celebrated each discovery together.” Spending so much time in a small space made enjoying each other’s company essential. “It was helpful to have a close family who genuinely enjoyed being together,” Lilli adds. “We learned to communicate better, be patient, and support each other through everything.” Her dad’s eclectic taste in music often set the soundtrack for their travels, adding a fun element to their journey. “His music choices became a memorable part of our travels, creating a soundtrack of memories we all cherish.”

Discovering Dance: A Passion on the Move

Lilli’s passion for dance began when she was a small child living in Canada. Her travels certainly didn’t interfere with her immense talent and potential. Despite the constant movement, she continued performing and trained in various countries. A significant recent highlight was representing South Africa in the Dance Star competition in Croatia. “Competing in DanceStar was a pivotal moment for me,” Lilli says. “It showcased my dedication and allowed me to measure my skills against international peers.” She also represented South Africa via video submission in tap dance at the 2021 Dance World Cup, further establishing her talent.

Embracing Traditional Schooling

Returning to traditional schooling in South Africa was a significant transition. Lilli embraced the challenges and rewards, applying the adaptability and resilience honed during her travels. “Adjusting to a fixed schedule was challenging,” she admits, “but the rewards of structured learning and peer interactions were immense.” Her travel experiences enriched her academic journey, providing a unique perspective that set her apart.

Lilli’s commitment to her studies is evident in her outstanding academic performance. “Travelling taught me discipline and time management,” she explains. Her ability to balance rigorous academics with her passion for dance is a testament to her dedication and hard work. “Finding a balance is crucial,” she explains. “It’s about prioritising and staying organised.” Education Incorporated has supported Lilli’s academic and personal growth, providing an environment that recognises and nurtures her unique talents.

As an Education Incorporated ambassador, Lilli embodies the school’s core values of respect, tolerance, and selflessness. “Being an ambassador is a prestigious role,” she says. “It’s about inspiring peers and representing the school’s ethos.” Lilli values the opportunity to impact her community positively and strives to be a role model for younger students. Her ambassadorship reflects her commitment to authenticity and leadership, guiding others by example.

Future Aspirations

Looking ahead, Lilli aspires to excel academically and pursue a career where she can use her love of science to fuel her creative passions, showcasing her multifaceted interests.

Lilli’s advice to peers balancing multiple passions is to remain authentic. “Your authentic self is your greatest strength,” she advises. Embracing her role as an ambassador has taught her the importance of authenticity and integrity. “Be yourself, have courage, and the rest will fall into place.”

As Lilli reflects on her journey, she hopes to leave a lasting impact as an Education Incorporated ambassador. “I want to be remembered for my authenticity and dedication,” she says. Her journey exemplifies the values of her school and inspires her peers.