Travel, like supporting local businesses rather than corporate chains, is often positioned as a luxury…something upper middle class people are able to do, but not us. At least, that’s how I grew up.
I remember every trip I took growing up not because they were out of the country and full of worldly wonders or because we stayed in nice homes or hotels and saw Broadway shows or ate gourmet meals, but because there were so few of them in comparison to other kids I went to school with.
The cross-country U-Haul ride from Texas to South Carolina when I was seven. The occasional trips Six Flags or Carowinds which were both within a couple hours of my hometown in South Carolina. My 8th grade Beta Club bus trip to Washington, D.C. My church choir trips to Daytona Beach that I helped pay for out of the money I made cutting grass and raking leaves. Band competitions and track meets across the state. That time my mom’s boss helped accommodate my mom, brothers and I going down to Myrtle Beach for spring break when I was in 9th grade and my brother Ramiah and I slept on the balcony with the cool ocean breeze gusting in the air. That was the only year my older brothers and I all attended the same school. These were moments I’ll never forget, from the creaky, wooden rollercoasters to the time I saw an older man crying as he found a name he’d been looking for several minutes in front of the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C.
Travel matters not because of the places you’ll go and the things you’ll do. Travel matters because of the experiences you’ll have, the people you’ll come across, the feelings that will come over you, and the lessons you’ll learn that simply don’t come from being the city you call home on a daily basis.
Yes, travel can be fun, but so can taking a shot of tequila or going for a summer swim. What makes travel special and unique and oh-so-worth-it despite it's perceived stress on your budget and time isn’t just about fun and excitement, but about overcoming challenges, learning about yourself and the moments of doubt and fear that you experience when you’re in a new place for the first time figuring out who you really are, what you truly care about, what things you’re genuinely passionate about and how you fit into the world.
For me personally, here are the top five things I love about travel. I think some of you may share some of these:
1) Travel helps me have a stronger understanding of what I love about Austin, the city I’ve chosen to call home. Sure, the traffic is bad here and there isn’t any legit public transit and it’s not the most diverse city and the bars only stay open until 2 a.m., but those are all things I quickly realize pale in comparison to the pain points of other cities in America and around the world in the grand scheme of things. It’s no wonder people keep moving here. I get it.
2) Travel helps me take a break from my day-to-day and seek out inspiration. I am deeply motivated to succeed here in Austin, but a lot of my motivation comes not by looking out at the tech industry leaders in Austin or the community activists in Austin, but also by seeing what people in other major cities have built and have done for their communities and their cities through business, civic and nonprofit channels that may not yet exist in Austin be it the $10 billion technology company Austin has yet to have, the major art museum you can’t yet find in Austin or a vibrant Black business community that penetrates more than just one neighborhood of the city.
3) Travel helps me see my place in the world. I’m just one man trying to reach my potential, and the world is big. Travel helps me realize that it’s going to take many of us, not just me, to reach our collective potential to truly solve the world’s most pressing problems and leave it better than when we got here. That drives me to think about solving problems bigger than the ones I may see on a daily basis.
4) Travel helps me build a more diverse community and network. I don’t go to networking events much anymore, but what I do invest a lot of time and energy into is community building. Whether it’s the lunches I started doing last year or the coffee shop meetings I have with friends, I’m routinely seeking out ways to feed the ecosystem and community I’ve chosen to be a part of. Travel helps me to do this at a much bigger scale than if I were to limit myself to Austin. I have friends in Paris, Hong Kong, San Francisco, LA, New York and all the places in between and my travels help me build these relationships in a way even Facebook can’t support.
5) Travel helps me not get so attached to things. A lot of people I know who don't travel are able to invest in things like cars and clothes, but not travel. It's weird to me mostly because those things - like most things you can purchase - don't create many lasting experiences or lessons or connection points for other people in the way travel does. You don't have to love flying or love driving or love packing suitcases, sometimes even a day trip can help you see the benefits like the ones I've listed above. When you travel, and enjoy the process of being inspired, being on the trip, then thinking back to the trip in your mind, you realize that it carries more value than any one thing you can buy in the mall or any thing you can put on a shelf in your home.
Not everyone is going to feel the same connection to travel that I feel, but besides having a true love for reading or constantly making new friends, I have yet to find any single activity besides travel that does more to open people's eyes and hearts up to the world and the joy of knowing we each have a special place in it and a unique purpose to fulfill while we're here.