I took my first vacation over 30 years ago to the Bahamas. And I wouldn’t have taken it had my sister not told me to. “You work all the time,” Karen said to me. “You really need to rest.” And she was right. Establishing myself as a leading human resources executive meant long nights and weekends that bled right into Monday mornings. While I loved my work, I need to create more balance and a vacation would jumpstart that self-care practice.
While my personal travels were a result of needing to time away from work, it was actual the opportunity to travel for work that deeply expanded my worldview. In the late 90s, my career took me all over the world. Among my favorite places were India, Australia, Argentina and Europe. In order to understand the world and not be arrogant, I really believe you have to travel abroad. And more than that, I think it’s essential to have some orientation and preparation to assist with respecting the norms and customs of the country. Too often, Americans travel internationally and find themselves in trouble because they assume behaviors they exhibit here, without a care, are allowed everywhere. It takes global travel to understand that the U.S.’s status has diminished in the world, and what we do here doesn’t always set the temperature for what happens everywhere else.
Travel will change you and it’s provided my two greatest life lessons. First, through travel, I learned that I don’t know what I don’t know. On a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, having to change into traditional clothing before we deplaned reminded me of this. Experiencing the caste system firsthand in India made me fully aware of the crippling effects of race and class in ways much more devastating than what I’ve ever faced. These all lead me to my second great life lesson: there’s so much about humanity to be understood and admired. Our creativity, resilience and joys are on full display. It deepens your awareness of your place in this world and pushes you to see yourself as a significant part of a larger story.
Having always loved the blue water and finding it healing, I have traveled to every island in the Caribbean and eventually purchased a vacation home in Aruba. I go there every year. Traveling as a single woman is much more acceptable today than it has been in recent years. Still, many young women are hesitant to consume such experiences because they fear what that may say about their lives. I tell them to abandon that notion quickly! My advice for young single women interested in traveling is to find a Black travel group and use that as a means to explore the world. I also strongly advise women to jump on every opportunity to travel with their jobs. It not only will set you apart as a stronger employee and candidate for promotion, it will give you the chance to expand your horizon. Work related trips taught me how to travel on my own and gave me the inspiration I needed to explore the world outside of my career.
When I was younger, the goal was to shorten the travel time between the East and West coasts. And now, you can get to LA in five hours. Even now, you can leave New York and be in Paris in 7 and a half hours. The world is so much more accessible to us now than it ever has been. And, though COVID has impacted current travel and will change how we move through the world going forward, people–especially women–can’t let that deter us from safely seeing the world. These experiences become part of our currency that aid in making our lives as rich as possible.