My IgoUgo passport information details how frequent travel became my escape to/for sanity from working full-time and "on call" in the inner-city. Whatever the reasons, for those of us who've caught the Travel Bug and got it bad, it's not about trying to be part of the "jet set" - even for a ghetto boy transplant like myself who's given the term "Harlem Globetrotter" a whole new meaning! But I'll be the first one to admit - it's all but uppity and obnoxious to say you spent the day on a tropical beach in the middle of winter...no matter which circles of people you might associate with.
Over time, I've gotten less cocked eyebrows and loaded questions from my staff and students when disclosing I'd be gone...AGAIN for a few days. They've simply learned that travel is my thing; my passion and motivation as well as my greatest means of surviving the often day in - day out tense and hostile environment they accept as normal. Unfortunately though, travel has too long been associated as something ONLY for the rich and famous despite the obvious changes. For someone like myself living and working with the poor, and not really any better off financially, it's potentially caused a Grand Canyon-sized perception gap I've worked to educatively close.
The key word has been "BUDGET" plain and simple and I'm not just talking about what/how I spend money once I arrive somewhere. Financially budgeting of my meager income is the bottom line to ensure my priorities and love for travel are going to be met as often as possible. And it's been quite interesting to see how others have watched, questioned and began to learn how they, too can fulfill their desires of life whether travel or something different.
While most of my people wouldn't think twice about booking a highly inflated, last-minute ticket to go see family in the islands, they never would consider spending $137.50 to spend a day in Nassau just for the heck of it; one of life's rewards which we've all certainly earned.
Of course, they would and do regularly spend more for gold chains, new pairs of Timberland boots/sneakers, or other necessary ghetto gear known as "props"...not to mention lottery tickets and other addictive sources that drain cashflow. And for those youngsters illegally "working" on the street corners making more in a single weekend than I will in two or three weeks, don't you know I've a full arsenal of ammunition based on turning the tables when it comes to my travels vs. their excesses and extremes of poor investments.
Living in the inner-city is a trap only a small percentage will ever fully escape - something evident whether I'm returning from the day or a two week trip half-way around the world only to annoyingly find everyone exactly in the same spots I left them. It never ceases to amaze me how I'll round-up a group of these born-and-bred New Yorkers to take them out and about in the city...to places they've only seen and heard of despite just being a short subway ride away! And I'll never forget one 11-year old's astonishment standing on the corner and looking up for his first close-up glimpse of the Empire State building...something he'd only seen everyday of his life looking out the bedroom window of his upper-floor Projects apartment 78 blocks away. These children, teens, and even some adults can still find unexplored adventure and excitement right here that seems as far away as the stuff I've always got to get on a plane and go seeking. But when it comes to such lessons in life, I've got to believe they've been blessed with a well-practiced role model; a budget traveler at that!
Once they figured out I always came back from my many trips and wasn't trying to give them the slip in abandonment, their apprehensiveness turned to eagerness based on learning more about where I'd been, what I'd done and what things I might've brought as behavior incentive rewards. Some have even "dared" to venture out beyond the city with me for summer camp, day trips and weekend camping trips up and down the East Coast.
You'd likely be amazed as I how these adults and youngsters daily face in the 'hood assorted forms of crime and violence, cat-sized rats, humongous cockroaches and such to think nothing of it. But the "we bad" homeboy facades quickly melt into the innocent, scared people they really are with every spider, shadow and thing that goes bump in the night in other new, strange environments...like most of you would be terrified visiting where they/we come from!
With NYC's lacking public schools, I've also became the stand-in geography/history teacher through my travel stories and photos...something desperately needed since students can stand on the banks of the Hudson River and see the cliffs of New Jersey but couldn't find their neighboring state on a map - if they even knew it was Jersey to begin with! 'Home Field Advantage' is a curriculum I've developed teaching "boring" U.S. geography using what they already know about professional and college sports with the insignias and mascots that fill their clothing. Otherwise, don't talk sports unless you can find the city and state on a map and know if it's the capital or not!
I can't imagine life without traveling, but the double bonus is not only being able to see the world but also bringing it back to teach and inspire. There's a whole lot more out there than what we often settle for...regardless of WHERE we come from. So why would I write to tell you this? Consider - are you really any different than people from the inner-city when it comes to acknowledging and fulfilling your greatest desires of life? And for this audience, that would likely involve a long-list of "yet to see" or "ready to return" travel destinations. Whether extremely excessive or seldom; budget or first-class, it's only up to you. I'm a firm believer that regardless of backgrounds and circumstances, if there's something we want out of life but don't have it - we simply didn't want it bad enough! Now, about that winter day on a tropical beach...