Friday, March 23, 2012

Axiom 19: The Power of Travel (Part 2)

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” -Mark Twain

In part 1 I gave an overview with some generalizations of why travel is important. I wanted to continue to expand that idea with some specific personal experiences. My guess is that a lot of people that read part 1 will agree that travel is important but will fail to take any further steps to travel because they do not see specific benefits. Hopefully some of my observations below will show some specific benefits and inspire you to take a journey of enlightenment of your own.

Los Angeles was the first real city that I ventured to on my own. It was intimidating at first, but now that I've been a few times I have grown to love the city and actually know some of the streets better than here in Dallas. LA made me learn about the power of individualism. I find the people there infinitely interesting (in some cases to the point of extreme vanity). From the beach bums, Hollywood weirdos, Beverly Hills socialites, and so on, everyone has their own unique story. What makes it even more interesting is that no one seems to have been born here. 

Las Vegas is really one of the few cities I've really grown to dislike. The fact that there is practically no where to sit down anywhere on the strip that doesn't have a bill changer in front of you is repulsive to me. Fanny-pack wearing tourists are herded like animals from one casino to another. They are plied with alcohol, sex, food, and gambling to the point of exhaustion. The only lesson of value I learned here was one of weakness. Las Vegas will bring out the worst in you if you let it. It will bring out your weakness. Las Vegas taught me what I don't want to be like.

London was a breathe of fresh air in classic style, tradition, formality, and class. Its really one of a few places in the world easily accessible to Americans. For me it was different enough there to throw me totally out of my element yet I still felt comfortable. I'm still figuring this place out, but I can't help deny this is one of the most powerful places I have been to.

New York City made me aware of the importance of the collective. Growing up here in Texas the importance is always placed on the individual because of the abundance of space and resources. NYC is a symphony of people that sometimes hangs delicately in the balance from things as simple as trash pickup. If you're are a republican from the heartland of America coming here will help you understand things from the left. And while you may not agree with their politics, you will at least make sense of the situation.

San Francisco surprisingly taught me about nature. There's almost no where in the city that your not aware of its presence. The bay, the redwood trees in nearby Muir Woods, the cliff side on the beach, the steep hills all throughout the city, and the threat of death by a massive earthquake all make you feel different about your place in the world. The presence of nature may not seem like a big deal to some people but growing up in Texas the power of nature pales in comparison. I can't even remember seeing a mountain until I was a teenager.

Lastly, Paris taught me the importance of learning to live in the moment. Here in America we get caught up so much in productivity and making money we fail to relax enough to do something as simple to sit down and enjoy a meal with our friends and family. In Paris the emphasis is on what's going on today, not what's going on tomorrow. I've realized that as important as planning for the future is it is also equally as important to enjoy life today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Axiom 19: The Power of Travel (Part 1)

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” 
-St. Augustine
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” 
-Martin Buber
Growing up in Texas I never traveled much. Family vacations were relegated to no further than a few hundred miles from home. Nothing even existed beyond the Texas state line as far as I was concerned. However, as a I got older I developed a natural curiosity about the world - something that my parents never had.

After I graduated college in 2003 I was contemplating moving to Los Angeles. I was looking for a job in public relations and most of the PR firms were out there. I flew out there by myself to scope things out. This was my first real adventure into the world outside of Texas and I was terrified. At first everything felt wrong. The "us versus them" mentality I had been raised on was ringing in my head. Everyone talked differently, acted differently, drove differently, ate differently, voted differently, and so on.

It took all of my willpower to approach LA with an open mind. I decided to look for what made LA special instead of trying to find ways in which Texas was better. I didn't end up moving there after all, but I learned a lot about myself and still travel there when I can. From then on each subsequent trip I made around the country became increasingly easier until the apprehension of travelling to a new place was replaced with delight.

I approach each new city with an open mind and a natural curiosity. I want to see what the city is like as a local, not as a tourist. I can't help but always ask myself, "Would I want to live here?" Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. I think ultimately travelling has made me realize that if I was wealthy I wouldn't relocate I would just travel more instead.

One great thing about our modern society is our ability to travel. The ability to wake up in one continent and fall asleep in another. Boat rides that took months have been replaced by plane rides that take hours. Our ancestors would have killed for such an opportunity. Don't let this opportunity go to waste. Travel helps you look at things from another perspective. It eliminates the "us versus them" mentality. It inspires you with new ideas. It pushes you beyond your comfort zone. It changes you for the better. Don't continue to live vicariously through travel shows because the real places are never quite as they seem on TV.

If you're terrified of travelling like I once was, trust from my experience above that it is just an irrational fear that you must overcome. The other excuse for not travelling I often hear is, "I don't have the money." Nonsense. If you're 18 and you have a job you can afford to travel. If you save $1 a day you can buy a round-trip plane ticket to just about anywhere here in the country in less than a year. So cut back on your Playstation budget and instead go somewhere that will really teach you something new.

With an open mind and a natural curiosity I would argue that one would get more benefit from spending $30k travelling the world than spending $30k on a college degree, and next time in Part 2 of this Axiom I will show you specific life lessons I've learned from travelling.