I love to travel. It is one of the things in my life that provides me with real perspective and, hopefully, empathy for others. This last month I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Vancouver for a family wedding and a couple of weeks in Puerto Vallarta simply living in a downtown rental condo. Both were glorious and, although they are not exactly globe trotting, they both taught me something valuable. Let’s start with my quick jaunt to Vancouver.
Vancouver is an interesting place. To me, it’s the perfect location and vibe. Close enough to be on the ski slopes in 30 minutes but with plenty of beautiful sandy beaches, right in the downtown core. It has great food, great music and the people are incredibly relaxed for city dwellers. I once heard a great line contrasting it to Toronto, another great Canadian city. A friend observed that in Toronto everyone is looking at how they can make another buck. In Vancouver they are looking at how they can get the afternoon off to spend on the beach. It’s about enjoying the moment. That is what Vancouver taught me. Despite the ridiculously high prices for housing, Vancouverites truly LOVE their city. They are outside constantly and they are ALWAYS active. The town is a buzz with runners, bikers and Frisbee players. I look at the city I live in and love – Edmonton. We could learn a few things about finding joy in movement and the outdoors from our neighbors to the west.
My southern trek was an eye opener too. I love Puerto Vallarta. My wife and I consider it almost like a second home having been their quite a few times. At first, a few years ago, being stressed out teachers, we chose to stay in an All-Inclusive resort. Venturing into the city and out of the hotel ridden suburbs, we quickly caught on to the fact that we were missing something. We were missing the Mexican people, living a Mexican lifestyle. Being at an All-Inclusive was not travel. It was resting. Please do not think that I am putting down the resort life – I am not. It just isn’t as easy to meet the people that live in the country relaxing in a pool with other tourists.
The people of Puerto Vallarta are refreshingly happy. It was summer there and so the place was full of tourists but not American and Canadian travellers, tourists from Mexico. It is their summer and they were coming from all over to enjoy their beautiful beaches. From these people I am reminded of the importance of family. Everywhere on the beaches were families. Little ones played on the beach with their parents while grandparents, uncles and aunts sat under umbrellas watching the waves roll in. Teens stayed close to these extended relatives while Mariachi bands serenaded them for a few pesos. The expansive beach front boardwalks were full of families buying snacks and celebrating their lives together. Being there made me happy. Happy to see such joy in family life. I wished my kids and extended family were with us at that time. I wanted so desperately to share these moments. Mexico reminded me that family is the key to feeling connected to this world.
These are simply the two places I traveled this summer and these quick reflections are simply scratching the surface of what we can learn when we get out of our own comfort zone. As we see the world getting more connected and people reacting out of fear of the unknown, building walls and threatening strict immigration laws, I think travel reminds us all that we are all God’s children and we are far more similar than different. Here in Canada, we are blessed. Travelling helps us see the blessings that other countries have while at the same time highlighting the luxury that we are afforded here. Travel builds global understanding and empathy. As great American author Mark Twain so brilliantly observed, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness .” I encourage you to see the world, even if it is the small towns just down the road. Get out there and enjoy the smorgasbord of the human experience.
Keep on learning.