My wife says that I’m a grumpy traveler. And she’s right. I certainly don’t possess the Aries like spirit of an explorer who can seemingly charge into unknown destinations with a vigorous, known path ahead.
I have a slightly more hesitant and homey nature. Most aspects of travel, from planning to the spontaneity of wandering off the beaten path, are a challenge to wrap my head around. And (probably an understatement) I’m not the best with directions, which is how I earned my reputation as a grumpy traveler. For me, it has always been far easier to sit at home and dream of other cultures than to plan a trip and board a plane.
Thankfully, I have a forgiving wife, who is a great navigator and who, as chance would have it, I happened to meet abroad.
My wife and I met while studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. It is not surprising that we met in a bar, but we were behind it, serving pints of Best together. After knowing each other for about a year and officially dating for only four months, my wife and I decided to get married. As most of the advice I ever received would have it: “when you know, you just know.”
After graduating from University, my wife and I moved to London and then the Cambridge area for a brief period of time. We had a blast together
Recounting the many joys, lessons, and charms would take many words. But it is worth listing some of those here:
May Dip (St. Andrews): My wife and I’s second date was May Dip, a St. Andrews tradition held on May 1st of each year. A substantial amount of St. Andrews students jump into the Sea, some wearing less clothes than others, to earn some good fortune for exams.
Aikman’s Pub (St. Andrews): If you are in St. Andrews, you have to check out Aikman’s Bar and The Cellar Bar. Aikman’s is more than a pub serving delicious, expertly curated European beers and Whiskies. It is a community of the best people you can find anywhere. Where ever you are traveling from, you can find a welcoming community and a delicious pint at Aikman’s.
Cambridge is Remarkably Innovative: Cambridge is a remarkably innovative place. It doesn’t take long for one to notice how quickly the city designs and deploys new technologies. The guided busway is a great example. Within a mere decade, Cambridgeshire, England built an efficient and innovative guided busway system, which I had the opportunity to ride on almost every day that I lived there.
What could you miss out on? I received far more than I gave back while living and working in the U.K. Most importantly, I can’t imagine the direction of my life if I hadn’t taken that leap. I would have never met my beautiful wife nor discovered a beautiful culture. As a bonus, I learned how to properly tap a keg without it exploding all over.
Become a Global Citizen. Discovering the histories of other cultures is humbling. We all come from truly amazing, proud, and rich cultures. Fitting these cultures into the global socio-economy is an incredibly dynamic and complex process. Living in the UK provided me with a perspective I would have never otherwise gained. As a global community, we are all in this together.
For those of us who grew up in a digitally connected world, it is easy to think of ourselves as a global citizen. Through video games, social media, and world news, we learn a lot, on a daily basis, about the cultures of other countries. We feel the joys and pains of other cultures in times of celebration and tragedy.
As there are many unique characteristics that make each culture independently beautiful, there is also a global, digital culture emerging. Experiencing world cultures first hand, somehow made me feel more connected to that digital, global cultural network. Travel helps us tap into that global citizenship.
Still A Grumpy Traveler
After traveling abroad, I moved back home to the States. But I have taken with me a sense that I am connected with parts of the world beyond the community I grew up in. This means something, especially in a digitally connected world where we often hear news and information from foreign locations as if it happened in our own backyard.
I’m still a grumpy traveler though I’m working on it. Most importantly, I’m making time in my schedule for travel, and more importantly planning out trips well in advance. I’m particularly interested in experiencing how cities are deploying innovation for their community. As of writing this, my wife and I will have the opportunity to travel to several cities in the U.S. and we are in the process of scheduling a trip back to Europe.
Traveling can sometimes be stressful, time consuming, and expensive, but from my experience, the rewards of living, working, or just passing through a different culture far outweigh not going there in the first place.
Bill Scholz is an entrepreneur now living and working in Erie, PA. He is a cofounder of Radius CoWork and deeply engaged in the emerging entrepreneurial and cultural scene of Erie, PA through his work with the Innovation Collaborative.