I love traveling. I always have. For as long as I can remember, the mere thought of packing my bags and visiting someplace new has always sparked inside of me a feeling of wonder and excitement that nothing else can. Whenever I see a plane in the sky, new luggage in a department store, or a hotel sign in the distance, my mind invariably wanders to thoughts of where my next adventure should be. I daily check my reward credit cards to check my points balances to see how many Delta Sky Miles I’ve earned and how many Marriott points I’ve accrued that I can use on my next big adventure. From time to time, I even pick up a Delta gift card just for the excitement of knowing that my next trip is in the works. (Still being an accountant at heart, I faithfully code this purchase to account #2050-02 – Prepaid Travel in my personal ledger).
My last trip was to Seattle. It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit. I was sure from the onset that I would love the trip, but I didn’t realize how much. We left Atlanta early on a crisp Thanksgiving morning. Even after countless trips, the hustle and bustle of the airport always excites me. The strong smell of jet fuel on the cool, damp jet way is one of my favorite smells and invigorates me for the adventure that lies ahead. It reminds me that in a few short hours I’ll be somewhere new and have experiences that will be etched into my memory forever.
The flight to Seattle wasn’t an easy one. The rough air prompted even the most seasoned travelers to clutch their arm rests, close their eyes, and nervously glance around the cabin, looking for signs of alarm on the faces of the flight crew. As we descended below the clouds in a heavy rain, Seattle slowly came into view in all of her dreary, damp glory. After a few hard bounces on the runway, the pilots applied the brakes with vigor and we were there. A blue speck from the overwhelming red South Georgia was now in the majority. The adventure had begun.
I rarely visit somewhere and feel instantly at home. But, Seattle is different. From stepping off of the ORCA light rail at the hotel, I felt as though I wasn’t as much visiting somewhere new, but rather returning home and rediscovering a place from where I had long been absent. The diversity of a West Coast city is always a pleasure to experience. I always enjoy seeing locals going about their daily lives. Two dads were happily pushing a stroller down the street, holding an umbrella over their daughter to protect her from the rain. A woman in a burka was sitting at a bus stop, patiently waiting for her ride so she could go home to be with her family. People were jogging, glancing down at their Fit Bits to check their progress. This is life in Seattle and it is absolutely enchanting. As we walked from the Public Market up Pike Street, rainbow flags adorned the storefronts. Colorful holiday lights adorned the streets. Love Trumps Hate and Black Lives Matter signs were too numerous to count. Again, I felt at home.
Seattle is an introvert’s dream. The climate almost forces one into quiet solitude to meditate on the dark, dreary beauty that encompasses the city. Every morning, I awoke early, long before sunrise and slipped away to a coffee shop. There, like any good Episcopalian, I would read the daily office, sip coffee, and watch as the darkness of the morning slowly gave way to the dim light of morning. Back at the hotel, it was time to explore the city. We were fortunate enough to have a hotel with an unobstructed view of the Puget Sound. Ferries tirelessly carried cars and passengers back and forth from Bainbridge Island. Cargo ships were being loaded and unloaded. The beautiful peaks of the Olympic Mountains loomed in the distance as they had for millions of years, reminding all that this beautiful city was on the edge of one of the most stunning natural wonders in the world. Again, I was at home.
Why do we travel and what can we learn from it? Travel is essential to life. Experiencing new places is essential to expanding our understanding of the world in which we live. In this time of great fear and uncertainty, interacting with those not like us and realizing that fear and mistrust of others is foolish and ignorant is something we should all strive to do. Travel forces us out of ourselves and out of the bubbles in which we live and makes us realize that our way of doing things isn’t the only way. It makes us realize that the notions we have about people, places, and things that are different from us may be wrong. It helps us see the world in the light of the wonderful diversity that encompasses it. Seattle, I will be back.