Meet Houston White. Houston is a tour guide and taxi driver in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We became acquainted a few weeks ago when Marc and I were visiting the area for a dear friend’s wedding. A group of us dined at the renowned Scotchies, a veritable steel roofed hut which serves up authentic Jamaican cuisine. While enjoying our Red Stripes, jerk chicken and fish, rice and peas and “festivals,” Houston took a seat at our table and introduced himself. Unprompted, with his warm smile, expressive eyes and friendly nature, he began to tell us about his beautiful Jamaica.
“I could take you to anywhere you want to go in MoBay. Dunn’s River Falls, Doctor’s Cave Beach and other places.” Essentially, he was giving us a sales pitch for his fine tours; his parting line was what really hooked me. He said, “Of course, I could tell you all about it, but until you see it for yourself, your imagination can only run wild. You must experience life to actually understand it.”
Ah! I just love that concept: You must experience life to actually understand it.
This seems a popular concept lately. As we were traveling to Jamaica, my husband pointed out a Wall Street Journal article by author, Bruce Kirkby, entitled, “Why Family Vacations Are Worth the Headaches.” In the piece, the adventurer and writer states, “We are not rich, but we spend what money we have on travel, investing in experiences.” YES!
In my own home, this is a philosophy to which we subscribe. In fact, our 11-year old son, Ian, is currently half way around the world exploring Australia as a Student Ambassador with People to People International. When people ask me, “How could you put your son on a plane and send him so far away for such a long time?” I look them in the eye and respond, “How could I not?” If he has the inclination and opportunity to learn about the world and its people, don’t I have an obligation as a parent to empower him to do so?
To become true citizens of the world, to foster peace and understanding, to gather people together in a global community sort of way, we must get out there and experience life. That means experiencing different cultures and foods and religions and geographies and architectures and especially PEOPLE.
No need to trek across deserts, climb mountains or swim across vast seas. We can start right where we are in our own communities. That means reaching out to people. Engaging in activities with them so that, together, we can seek to understand life by actually experiencing it.
So, while one’s imagination is a wonderful, remarkable thing, consider assuaging your curiosity by actually getting out there and experiencing what the world – and its people – have to offer!