So I recently just got back from 6 weeks on the road.
It started with a friend’s musical tour on the American west coast, from LA to Seattle and back, and ended with my own travels from Scotland to Ireland and finally, back to LA. During those six weeks, I slept in about 17 cities and visited around 25. I met a lot of really wonderful people, incredibly kind hosts, and ridiculously talented musicians. It was fun, exciting, at times overwhelming, mostly thrilling, and all around insightful.
There’s obviously much to be learned when traveling, both about yourself and those in other places. I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled a good bit for my twenty two years of life, from my semester in Italy, my summers in Iran and other adventures around different countries. This trip though was the first where I was on the constant move for such a long period of time. It was unlike any other trip I’ve done, and I think it’s been one of the most rewarding.
This time, I focused on the people: not the sights, not the food, not the monuments or the guidebooks. The tour up the West Coast was so tightly scheduled, most of my time was spent watching Drew Tabor perform, keeping her company on our long drives, taking pictures of her on pretty places, and meeting musicians whenever we could. During my 3 weeks in the UK and Ireland, my schedule was made based on 1) where I had friends who could house me and 2)where I was able to book a shoot with a musician. In the end, even the Cliffs of Moher seemed underwhelming compared to the real, genuine and impassioned conversations I had with the people I was meeting along the way and what I was learning from them.
Sure, I probably could’ve kept traveling for a few more weeks. Why not keep meeting more people? But the thing I realized on my flight from Edinburgh to Dublin was this: as valuable as traveling is, as valuable as seeing places is, people are more important. I wish I could’ve spent more time with everyone I met, gotten to know them more, built stronger connections.
There’s no other way I can travel now. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re in Paris, sure go see the Tower. But what should you also do? Go have a real conversation with one of the street artists. Ask him what his life is like. Ask him what his favorite song is, why he started painting, and maybe what’s the favorite thing he’s ever painted. That’s where my favorite part of travel lies, and that’s where I think you’ll gain something more meaningful than a picture of a tower, mountain or any cityscape.