Thoughts on a Passion For Travel and Our Mortality
O ne of the many things I do — other than writing articles for The Gate, of course — is that I volunteer to mentor individual micro-entrepreneurs who are launching businesses in a neighborhood of Atlanta.
I attended a meeting last night where the topic was for each participant to give a presentation or speech of no greater than three minutes describing their companies; why people should invest in them; and what benefits they and their companies will provide to the local community. The mentors took notes and rated them while providing comments for improvement.
One woman began her presentation; and twice she stumbled and apologized profusely, taking a long moment each time before continuing. She then suddenly spontaneously broke away from what she planned on speaking about her company and launched into an emotional tribute to a friend who had died along with her husband and unborn child earlier yesterday.
“You really need to come to Asheville,” the friend — originally from Biloxi, Mississippi and relocated to Los Angeles before moving to the small city nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina — had said to her seven days earlier. “It is really nice here. You will love it.”
Everyone in the room was stunned at the tragic news. We never did find out what exactly happened to her friend and her family; but this woman took a tragedy and turned it into a powerful and compelling speech from the heart which ironically more than fulfilled the requirements of her presentation — and she did not even realize it at first.
The first thought which came into my head is that her story is a stark reminder that we never know when our time will run out. I am the type of person who would rather actually try things and do things — attempt to play a guitar, act in films and commercials which you will most likely never see, become a certified managerial executive coach, earn my Master of Business Administration degree as only a few of many examples — than watch other people do things. People are surprised that I am an actor on the side and yet rarely watch movies — primarily because I would rather act in them rather than watch other people act. That is just the way I am and have always been that way.
Travel has always been a passion of mine. I know of many people who have the desire to visit certain places around the world; but they almost always have a reason — or excuse — as to why they cannot travel. It is incredibly easy to simply put off travel until a later date — but I also knew people who did just that and are now no longer living, having never fulfilled their travel dreams.
When I listened to that woman give her impassioned speech, I was reminded of just how important it is to me to continue traveling and experience what the world offers. As I have said many times in the past, frequent travel miles and points are great to earn and use — but they are not the focus for me. Travel is my focus. Miles and points only help to reduce the cost of travel; while elite level status helps to take some of the stress out of travel — but travel is one of the most important things to me. Always has been; and probably always will.
For me, there is no platform more effective at educating a person than travel. Reading from a book, listening to the experiences of another person, sitting in a classroom — none of those activities can ever replace actual travel itself to wherever you want to go in this world. Nothing can be substituted for first-hand experience and the enrichment of one’s life as a result.
I have already traveled extensively around the world; but I want to travel more before my inevitable demise — whenever that may occur. I want to have been at the South Pole; to have at least slept overnight in every country and autonomous territory in the world; to learn from other cultures with my own eyes and ears; and to make a positive difference while leaving my mark in this world.
Those are some of what can be considered lofty goals, to be certain. Sometimes it frustrates me that there is not enough time in a typical single lifetime in a human being to accomplish everything that the world has to offer, which is why we have to choose that is most important to us. Sometimes opportunities present themselves which alter the course of our lives — good or bad…
…and sometimes an unexpected ailment can cause an unseen detour — sometimes on a permanent basis. Someone very close to me recently informed me that he has suffered from significant hearing loss and could possibly be deaf in as few as two years. Suddenly, I am researching answers for him and asking people who are in similar situations for advice; and once again — in a feeble attempt to relate to something as serious as hearing loss — I thought about what if it happened to me. How would it impact my passion for travel? How could I hear the music which I have enjoyed without any second thought as to how valuable is the sense of hearing? What about hearing the voices of family and friends? My thoughts then wandered towards the loss of sight and other senses. My mind just tends to meander that way.
There are times where life throws something unexpected at me and I have no choice but to deal with it; but I have to remind myself — or be reminded — that I am extremely fortunate that I am not required to take a single form of medication. I have no allergies; I rarely get headaches; and — as you can probably tell from some of the trip reports I have posted here at The Gate — I can go through some rather strenuous situations while traveling and usually emerge unscathed in terms of health. I cannot begin to say how thankful I am — and I would not trade my good health for anything else in the world.
You can wander around BoardingArea — heck, go read weblogs and news articles outside of BoardingArea — and see all sorts of complaints and gripes about some of the most minute aspects of travel, miles and points. I am especially guilty of that myself — and I offer no apologies for that. It is ironically wonderful that those are usually our biggest concerns at certain points in our lives — enhanced when other people can relate. That is why we are all here at BoardingArea, right?
I am asking you for a small favor: please take a moment of your time — now, later, tomorrow, whenever — to think about the aspects of your life which you deem fortunate for yourself. Is it the family and friends who are close to you? Is it your chosen occupation which you cannot believe someone is paying you to do? Is it what you have already experienced in your life which has significantly enriched you? Is it excellent health? Is it travel?
Everyone can use some sort of improvement in his or her life. If you can, please take a moment to assist someone whose life can improve because of your input — even if it is the result of a discussion of five minutes or a simple act. I know I could always use constructive suggestions for improvement — and I invite you to post them in the Comments section below of any article at any time. I learn from you. I appreciate when you read what I write — and I thank you for that. Please also feel free to ask and suggest to me what I can do for you as well.
I was personally amazed how a simple smile and being polite seemed to brighten the day of so many people with whom I interacted while I was in southeastern Africa recently — and I felt good in return. Altruistic? Not completely, admittedly — but I am fine with that.
In the meantime, I will start planning my next trip which is due to start in a couple of months — the details of which I intend to share with you when it happens. I still have trip reports to post from Hungary, Ireland, Spain, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Kenya, Oman, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, the United States, and other countries to share with you and hopefully better inform you should you decide to travel to those countries yourself. At times it overwhelms me when I think about all I need to do — but that should be my worst problem, right?
Your thoughts are always welcomed.
Safe travels to you — and again: thank you.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.