The Thankful November: Traveling.

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It took me being still, being engulfed by despair to fully
understand and comprehend why travel and the act of
traveling was and is vital to my existence.

For me, the love of travel began when I was 3 years old.
My parents took me with them to Puerto Rico. I can recall
bits and pieces of that trip, certain sensations. (In a moment
of “coincidence”, I touched upon this in a writing challenge
I’m currently undergoing for the month.) From then on, flying
on an airplane or riding in the back of the car somewhere was
an adventure. Now, I was lucky in a way. Lucky to have folks
who enjoyed traveling. Lucky to have a grandmother who
not only helped to organize trips with her church everywhere
but insisted that I come along with my father’s side of the family.
By the time I was in junior high, I had already seen a good chunk
of the United States, been to Canada and to my family’s native
Jamaica. Far more than my peers at the time. And I didn’t really
brag about it. Didn’t feel right to brag.

As I got older, I managed to take in different adventures. Grandma
Smith used to always say “the world doesn’t end at your block.”
With that in mind, once I got to college I got to check out Europe
more – visited the Czech Republic and England with Mom, and went
back over to London and took the train to Amsterdam, stopping
briefly in France and Belgium along the way. I saw more of Mexico.
And Canada came calling because of love. But as I left one job due
to the stress and turmoil it caused within me, I found my travel options
limited. I began to be more in Washington D.C., Boston and Philadelphia.
Short jaunts that weren’t too costly. It was then that I began to look
back and truly appreciate where travel has taken me. And just how
it made me better. I remember sitting in a hotel lobby with my Uncle
Roy and other older gentlemen talking about history in San Francisco.
I remember the churning of the waves at Peggy’s Cove in Nova
Scotia. The foreboding waters of the great Mississippi River. Walking
quietly in Harvard Square as leaves rustled.

It’s all the more important, these worlds that travel has opened within
me. Being a Black American male, the expectation from some is that
you haven’t BEEN anywhere or won’t be anywhere. And in some respects,
there are those that don’t want you to. Because claiming your right as
a citizen of the world means that you will expand your viewpoint beyond
the limits of your flat screen TV. It means that you’ll have more compassion,
more understanding of what it means to be human. What it means to
think locally and act globally. Hell, a passport these days is a vital thing
to own. Traveling these days is not something I take for granted. Not
when people are dying just to get somewhere to have a semblance of
freedom. I still remember one instance from when I worked as a temp in
an international bank. There was a conversation about travel in Europe.
This intern, a white guy, couldn’t have been more than nineteen gets this
overly shocked look on his face when I mention I’ve been to Amsterdam
and London. He goes, “really?!!” I turned and looked at him and go, “Yes.
That surprises you?” He went blank and realized how he sounded. For the
rest of his time there, he kind of avoided me. It was then that I saw how
valuable my traveling was. I never saw fit to make assumptions anymore.
Here was someone who did, by virtue of skin color and privilege. A combo
that afforded him a certain ignorance that was and is dangerous.

So I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to travel. I’m grateful for the
many good people I’ve met on these trips, the sights I’ve been blessed to
see. The good times I’ve had. I’m so glad my parents and family instilled
that in me. And I’ll be grateful for the journeys to come.

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