This piece was originally published in The GEAR, volume LXXXIX, No. 2, Spring 2010
Experts in the travel and tourism industry have determined that there are two main reasons why leisure travelers travel: the first is to seek familiarity; the second is to seek novelty. In our current economic condition, we find more travelers seeking familiarity than novelty. We hear the terms “ daycation” and “ staycation” regularly, and gone are the days of expansive trips across Europe and Asia.
I am a novelty seeker.
In a world that is highly connected via fiberoptic cables with 24-hour news in 1080p Full HD and video conferencing with anyone in the world during a downturned economy, many businesses are cutting back on their travel budgets, while consumers spend more on tangible items rather than experiences. As we determine what we as a society value most, it appears that we’ve selected objects we can hold. They appear, at least on the surface, to last longer. But I support a different slogan - JetSetter: Travel. Eat. Dance. Sing. Listen. Write. Edit. Film. Learn. Experience.
I want to see all corners of the world, try foods from every kitchen, meet every local, and experience the way others live. Through traveling, I’ve met and befriended people that hail from five of the six continents, all fifty states, and roughly sixty other countries. I travel because I want to feel, smell, taste, hear, see, or otherwise experience what the world has to offer. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve learned something about people, whether it’s in my own backyard or across the world. I always seem to have a greater understanding of people when I experience something, be it the cold of the winter air or the warmth of two million people around you waiting for the same ball to drop in Times Square; smelling the hot cheese whiz coming off your original Philly Cheese Steak or tasting a melt-in-your-mouth slice of A5 Kobe Beef steak in Japan; hearing the sounds of eighty thousand people singing and dancing in LA or seeing the sun creep up behind the Eiffel Tower at 15,000 feet.
I flew over 60,000 miles in 2009 with Continental Airlines alone, and between September 2009 and January 2010, I made roughly 30 flight segments on board their aircraft. I believe that travel and personal contact are the only ways to understand the true workings of a people, a culture, a society, and a person. I’ve also discovered that, in general, travelers are inherently uncomfortable because they are out of their element and under a constant barrage of information. As such, most travelers welcome a friendly face and much more likely to dive into a conversation about themselves, where they’re from, and where they’re headed. If you listen carefully, you’ll find that you can learn more about the world than just what your destination has to offer. Those moments are special, and I find the greatest value in the memories and friendships I take with me from my travel experiences. The more we experience other cultures and societies, the more we begin to understand the actions and feelings of other people. It is when we better understand others that we, as individuals, can better ourselves and work and live together as one human race.