Aside from my formal education and experiences growing up in New York City, nothing has shaped my development more than being able to see, feel and experience people and places that were outside my normal boundaries of New York City.
NYC may be the greatest city in the world, but the residents there often live in a bubble that they are uniquely unaware of. If all you know is life in the city, you get a very skewered perspective of what much of America is like, let alone the world.
Most of the families I knew growing up never traveled out of the city, excepting an occasional trip over the George Washington Bridge. A few families made trips down south to visit. For years my trips out of the city consisted of being shipped up to the Catskill mountain region for summer camps. My issues and stories related to summer camp are for a separate article if not a whole other book, but in short, the experiences outside of the city provided my first initial glance into how different life was outside my bubble.
When my mother remarried when I was around 9 or 10, her new husband’s family had a house on Martha’s Vineyard. I had never heard of the “Vineyard” but the pride and dictation in which they mentioned this fact made me take notice that I should minimally be impressed.
Up to this point they were the first people that I knew personally that owned a single-family home. In fact they owned two, with their primary residence being a dwelling in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx. I laugh now looking back, but their house in the Bronx seemed huge at the time, even though the two-story residence probably didn’t total more than 2000 sq feet including its basement. We were still living in a one bedroom at that time so I felt like I was experiencing wealth and the African American dream for the first time.
The house in the Vineyard was not much bigger than our apartment. But the experience was worlds apart. It was like transporting the Evans family from “Good Times” into George and Weezy Jefferson’s income bracket. It was only for a week but I felt like we had moved up, and I had never been to the upper east side, but surely it could not have been any better than this.
Traveling to Martha’s Vineyard for the next three years changes my life. I looked forward to the experience… the traveling despite the seeming inconvenience of it all. Four of us were stuffed into our hatchback AMC Hornet with luggage and usually a weeks worth of groceries for a 4.5-5 hour trip to Woods Hole, Cape Cod, to then take a ferry over and into the island of Martha’s Vineyard. I am unsure whether our car was able to exceed 60 mph, but at $500.00 it was driven cautiously cause any needed repairs would have surely exceeded the cars value. We always had to leave with plenty of time, because the penalty of missing your ferry’s reservation, could mean waiting there all day till the next on standby.
However, once we were on the ferry it all seemed worth it. My brother and I had never been on a boat previously, so that experience in itself was worthwhile. Once we reached land, it was clear that we were a world away from our block. The quaint picturesque town of Oak Bluffs was unlike anything I had ever seen, excepting in Black and White movies. The Technicolor reality was an overloading of the senses that left such an indelible mark, I can still picture the scene that occurred decades ago, as if it were yesterday.
That is what traveling has come to represent for me. It is a part of my journey that creates lasting memories, a heightening of the senses and an escape. My mother allowed my brother and I to explore the island unsupervised. We were free and felt safe for the first times in our lives. Even at such a young age, the experience inspired hope that I could live or travel to somewhere beautiful, where people were nice and friendly.
It was on Martha’s Vineyard that I fell in love with the ocean. The cold Atlantic, with its rocks and seaweed looked majestic even within its murkiness. I had been to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, but the chaos of the overcrowded loud scene with group fighting and a beach and its waters filled with debris, was far removed from the tranquility of the Vineyard’s beaches.
My first experience at traveling showed me the possibilities. I have been hooked ever since. Traveling will not only add to, but change your life. It can be an escape from the mundane or the everyday rigors as well as an opportunity to meet new people, experience new foods and see new places.
So much of life is about “Moments” and “Perspective”. Travel is the opportunity to enhance those moments in your life while giving you added perspective to how blessed your circumstances may truly be, in relation to so many others in this world. It isn’t always easy time-wise or financially, but make travel a priority while you are relatively young enough to fully enjoy it.
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