Pros and cons of travel

Pros and cons of travel

Rant: Air Travel

Imagine you’re taking a road trip. You’re ready to go and the car is revved up–but you can’t get in yet because the driver isn’t in place. He checks out some things, and eventually decides it’s OK for you to come sit down. Once you do get into the car, you sit in the driveway for 30 more minutes until you finally start to back out. You get to the stop sign down the street, you sit there for another 10 minutes, reason unknown. Meanwhile you’re hungry, but you have no access to snacks, and someone is telling you to put all your entertainment away. Finally, you take off and you’re on your way. Welcome to air travel.

If we applied the basic concepts of air travel to car travel, it would seem absolutely ridiculous. But somehow, we find it normal to be squished into seats barely larger than our bottom halves, rub elbows with complete strangers, and pay hundreds of dollars to not be fed on a five-hour cross-country flight where we’re also told when we’re allowed to use the bathroom.

And let’s not even start on the security process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety laws, but you have to laugh about how the new normal is stripping off basically all our outer layers in front of crowds of people to then be patted down and judged for your non-matching socks (yes, TSA will call you out on that).

Do I complain about air travel? Yes. Does that change the fact that I still fly regularly? No. But my sorrows are eased by the occasional upgrade I get for being an American Airlines Gold Member. And by upgrade, I mean a premium seat with half an inch more legroom than less-frequent fliers behind me. Living the high life, indeed.

Rave: Travel Benefits

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but what’s the one thing you buy that makes you richer? Travel. I can’t say enough about how true this is. I’m lucky to have a family that instilled in me the importance of travel from a young age. My dad lived in Italy for three years while attending college in Rome, and traveled extensively while he was there. (He was in seminary to be a Catholic priest, but as you might have guessed, he ditched that path, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.) He’s been to 26 countries and 46 states, and I’m following in his footsteps, with my count at 21 countries and 38 states.

I learned early on travel’s most important lesson: things don’t always go as planned. At age 13, I headed off to Germany on my first trip without my parents and my first-ever solo flight. We got stuck in terrible traffic due to a thunderstorm on the way to the Atlanta airport. Needless to say, I missed the flight, and the next one to Frankfurt wasn’t until the next night. My parents didn’t want us to have to wait that long, so they rebooked me and my younger sister (who also was coming on the trip) on the next flight out–to Munich. Due to the time change, the family friends picking us up already were asleep and unware of the change to a completely different city. My sister cried the whole first hour of the flight, and supposedly my mom cried the whole way home. Personally, I wasn’t worried–I knew everything would work out, and it did; our family friends were there in Munich to pick us up the next morning.

What I learned from that, and what I would later carry through life, is that you have to roll with the punches. The more you travel, the more situations like this you’ll face–but it makes you a stronger (and a way more chill) person. And the funny thing is, some of the best experiences can come from times like those: like when I missed my ferry to Greece, but instead got to meet my Italian relatives and visit the tiny Italian village where my grandma grew up.

Travel also helps to expand your worldview and make you a more open-minded person. It’s so easy to get stuck in our comfort zone, but travel gives you a better understanding of how others live and where their beliefs and customs come from. I’ve seen how people live in all different types of situations, from the slums of India to jungle villages in Panama to the posh mansions of London, and I’ve learned something about our world from every place I’ve visited. Travel makes you more tolerant, it humbles you, and it makes you more inclined to want to change the world. And those three takeaways alone are enough to make you richer than any billionaire.

This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s August 2018 issue. Subscribe today!