Travel is one of the greatest loves of my life. There is no other manner to transport yourself — to a different space, to a new reality, to an alternative culture — to what often seems like an entirely different time and explore what is possible on this big, beautiful globe!
Learning In Travel
One of my good friends, @suvitravelsandimports on Instagram, says it best: “Surrounding ourselves with the uncomfortable is our greatest opportunity for growth.” Do you ever practice this? Do you ever make yourself uncomfortable and let yourself sit with it? Bask in it? Let it flood over you and observe yourself?
Living in Europe for three years in my early 20s gave me ample opportunity to practice this awkwardness. Whether arguing with an Italian parking lot agent, bartering with a shrewd young Chinese woman in a Shanghai market, or being silent most evenings as I sat in discourse with newfound friends in Germany, there is nothing like challenging your boundaries to learn how little you really do know. It humbles you. It makes you aware of the ways of the world and how different others are from you.
When we travel alone, we grow the most. We leave every form of the comfortable and venture out solely to brave the great unknown. No matter how old or young, if you haven’t taken a solo trip, I highly recommend it. After having three children and breaking up with my first boyfriend, I will never forget thinking to myself while I was traveling to Toronto: What do I want to do today? I, me, myself? It was an exhilarating feeling to embrace the singularity of an entire adventure driven by the consciousness of me and me alone!
Travel is as Close as Next Door
Though seemingly very grand, you don’t have to travel great distances to experience adventures and test boundaries. The act of consciously crossing lines of race, of gender, and of culture in our friendships is a tremendously rewarding journey for those who are willing to be uncomfortable. For example, have you been to a predominantly Black dance venue or visited a Jewish celebration? Have you had traditional Diwali food with Indian friends? Or had ethnic food like grilled hamburgers with some white people who talk with Southern accents?
I’ve been honored in my lifetime to find rich and varied friendships. And I have absolutely and unabashedly sought after them. Relationships like these will reward you threefold. The more you allow yourself to sit with people who present something entirely different from you, the more you can seek to find understanding and wisdom in the experience, the more you will grow without having to pick up and head to a far off and exotic destination.
Remember, You Are A Destination
I can’t impress strongly enough upon you how important it is to be uniquely yourself as you journey through this life. You are a critical part of the social fabric and experience of the world. Please don’t stop improving on you!
Another set of influencers in my life, @endless_echo_blueridge, are two fabulously gay men living in Blue Ridge, Georgia. They are unapologetically themselves and wear furs, pedicures and wigs, whether in a small town or a bustling city. Don’t let their adornments fool you; their enthusiasm for philanthropy and community is great. They have made themselves a destination by doubling down on who they authentically are. We should be so bold in using the gifts, talents and perspectives we have been given.
By gazing in all our queerness with dignity, character and grace directly into the world’s intrigued stare, we teach and admonish our friends and neighbors into an experience that is entirely foreign to them. But as we do, we each slowly communicate a beautiful culture and diversity that will absolutely make the world better. We enable others down their own paths of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and love.
For in the end, we are not here to say that one way of life, one destination, one venue is preferred, but rather that travel can be a great equalizer. I wish you a summer and a lifetime full of travel. Don’t be a lazy passenger! Prepare yourself, take notes, reflect, and allow the muse of travel to win over your heart and mind. Let it change you from the inside out.
Helmut is the Founder and Co-Host of The Gayly Dose, an Atlanta based podcast with an all-gay cast. Unique in its mission and format, weekly episodes are known for their real conversations about things that matter to the community and their listeners. Purposefully candid and brutally honest, the cast speaks on a range of topics including monogamy, body issues, coming out, dating apps and growing up gay in the church. Listen at thegaylydose.com.