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Seeing It With Your Own Eyes

As I get older, I feel the need to travel more. It is part of the three “G” phases of later years in life: Go-Go, Go-Slow, and No-Go. Apparently, I’m still in the first phase.

The main reason for travel has nothing to do with getting away from my daily life, but to be inspired. Today, more than ever, I feel like we need to consciously add inspiration to our daily lives, to make sure we keep building on being better at what we do.

In an era where the Internet, Google, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Discovery Channel, Lonely Planet, Netflix, and other special travel programs can bring the world to your Smart TV, laptop or mobile device, nothing beats getting out there – an airport or a train station in a different country. You are able to get a new perspective on how people live their lives and exist.

South, East and West coast living

Bike SharingBesides the many facets that travel in North America offers, the differences between South, East and West coast living, immersing in a different part of the continent makes for a rich experience. Personally, I always try to do this as much as possible on foot, on a bicycle, or via public transit. It makes for a perfect way to get close to the locals and absorb and witness their own culture. In addition, the Uber and Lyft drivers you happen to meet in a new city are great at providing insights you would otherwise never learn from watching documentaries or narrated pieces.


Immersing yourself in the culture

In other parts of the world, where language barriers may exist, immersing yourself in the culture is always a great way to learn and get a feel of the local vibe. Lately, my fascination has been with Southern Europe, specifically Italy, Spain and Portugal. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that many moons ago, I had some terrific times in Spain, memories that were shared with friends at a time that was special. Like walking into a quiet bar in Fuengirola near Málaga and hearing for the first time Neil Young belting out a CSNY Déjà Vu ballad – on real vinyl and played on a great sound system, taking it all in with a Cuba Libre and cigarette in hand.

Bicycling near the Golden Gate BridgeMy recent focus on Europe started with a trip to the World Expo in Milan a few years back, that was focused on how to feed the world as it needs more and more food resources – ideas were shared by 155 countries that exhibited. After Milan came visits to Florence, Lisbon and Barcelona, and of course Amsterdam. In between, New York City, Boston, LA, San Francisco and Portland.

Each one of these experiences has added inspiration immensely to my personal inventory. Bicycling over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran, walking through little Italy in Boston, and using the Nike bike share in Portland, coupled with visiting Lisbon’s amazing Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and gardens, Cultural Centre of Belém and Museu Coleção Berardo, and nightly people watching at the tapas bar near the hotel in Barcelona – each experience delivered in spades.


My takeaway from all of this is that watching, reading, or listening to other travel enthusiasts, no matter how good the picture and sound quality, cannot solely replace these experiences. It has to be a personal experience – preferably shared with a loved one. It feeds the soul in more ways than one can express.

– Martin van Zon