In 2000, I saw him for the first time. He didn’t look like much of a travel guru. He was a bit dorky. However, he inspired me.
Back then, I didn’t get a lot of TV channels so I watched a lot of shows on PBS. While I was watching some educational television, I was learning some things about myself too. Now this guy shows up on my TV screen and I realized I had to do something different with my life.
His name was Rick Steves and now I wanted to go to Europe.
A few years would pass before my feet walked the ancient streets of Rome, climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or hiked through the Swiss Alps. However, Rick Steves helped make that dream a reality.
How people inspire us to travel
Prior to 2004, I would never consider myself a traveler. Now I am telling people how my travel bucket list can change their lives.
However, this passion for travel started with people.
There are times in life when you meet someone with a passion for something and realize that you want to be just like them. OK so maybe I didn’t want to be just like Rick Steves but I can’t deny how much his travel experiences had an effect on me.
For many people, travel TV host Anthony Bourdain is a travel god who is everything a traveler should be. Honestly, he doesn’t do it for me (for many reasons). Even his biggest fans have to get a little tired of his weekly fights with Paula Dean.
However, everyone who travels finds inspiration from someone.
For those fortunate enough to have traveled a lot when they were young, maybe their parents were the ones to infect them with the travel bug. Shared travel experiences with people on a high school trip or a backpacking trip after college may have opened your eyes to a world beyond your back door.
Maybe a compassionate soul compelled you to see that person who is hurting, hungry, or hopeless in life. Maybe it was Africa, Central America, or Asia that called out to you because of a child you met, tears that were shed, or a heart that was touched.
Most people can look back on their trips and point to a person or travel experience that changed their lives. Maybe you don’t even know the name of that person but their face, words, and touch are etched upon your soul.
What if the person who inspired you to travel really wasn’t your inspiration after all? What if they were only a part of your travel story?
Many people look back at a person or an experience as the defining moment or spark of inspiration that changed their lives.
They are wrong. Life didn’t change at the moment. It just started.
There are experiences in your life that led you to that encounter. And your life wasn’t changed by that moment (not yet anyways). For that person that inspired you only revealed something that was hidden but already existed – your passion and who you really are.
In your life, that person who inspired you was an essential part in your journey. However, a book, a conversation when you were a kid, a family vacation, a college experience, and hundreds of other moments in your life have also played a part in your story.
However, this moment or that travel experience didn’t change your life.
Once in a lifetime experiences and encounters only matter if they lead you to a lifetime of purpose and action.
That moment is the culmination of events that have led you to this opportunity to discover who you are and what you love. What you choose to do in that moment and beyond may serve as an inspiration to others for many years to come.
This is only the beginning.
Think about that person that inspired you. In their lives, they probably had a moment like this too. That led them to a decision, which led to more choices, and then helped them continue on a path.
Maybe those inspirations inspired someone to take a step, make more decisions, and then go in a completely different direction. That moment was inspirational. Yet it was only one moment in a journey down a path with ups, downs, and changes in direction along the way.
People that inspire you can’t change your life. They only inspire you to make decisions so you can continue your own journey.
My travel experiences, inspirations, and personal travel journey
Many years ago when I watched Rick Steves traveling through Europe, I was inspired to see somewhere different. However, that journey didn’t begin with Rick Steves. It began in Estonia.
On that trip, I discovered a passion for culture and traveling I never knew existed. Family trips had planted seeds. Travel experiences in college helped them to grow. And in Estonia, they blossomed.
Like plants, if passion isn’t nurtured and watered, it will die. In my life, the passion didn’t die but it did slowly wither.
Eight years had passed since I had taken my last trip to Estonia. Rick Steves provided that inspiration once again. In 2004, I went to Europe for a month.
I’ve been traveling every year since then.
Like my life before, the passion to travel inspired by Rick Steves could have died. However, I acted upon that passion and went to Europe. Then I went again.
I met more people, made life changes, and traveled to places I had never considered visiting. As a result, my views of the world have changed. My politics have changed. My beliefs in the things that matter and make a difference in the world have changed.
I have changed.
And now I believe that travel can change the world.
Inspiration can only serve as the catalyst for action. Inspiration by itself will never change anyone’s life.
I look at my journey over the last eight years. And honestly, I never imagined myself on this particular journey. I’ve seen lots of failures in my life but I’ve always been one who avoided taking risks.
Shortly after seeing Rick Steves on TV, I moved across the country from South Carolina to California and started a new life. I had a number of ups, downs, and failures. Big failures. In 2004, I went to Europe.
That trip led to a few other trips to Europe. I traveled to Hawaii, explored California, and made stops on the west coast. I traveled to Canada and discovered places close to home.
In 2009, I made the decision to start writing about travel. I stumbled along focusing on my small little piece of California for a start up news site that paid based on how many views I got. I wrote more, developed my own voice, and started meeting people.
I took more trips, started two new blogs (including this one), and went to travel conferences. New opportunities, ideas, and relationships began to form. I decided to put my two biggest passions together – sports and travel – to go along with budget travel and some adventure travel.
Last year, I launched the College Football Travel Tour with a desire to use college football as a way to introduce people to travel, culture, and sports in my own unique style. New doors are opening and I will be going to more games, campuses, and towns this year.
Twelve years ago when I first saw Rick Steves on TV, did I ever imagine I would be writing about travel, doing a sports travel series, hanging out with Rick Steves, and or be a part of Rick Steves radio show? (I was invited to be on the show to talk about my experiences in Estonia – 38:59 mark)
However, I am here because of choices that I made.
I acted upon inspiration and my travel experiences have led to transformation – who I am, what I believe, and how I view the world. My transformation gave me passion to try something new and even start a new vocation – travel writer and blogger.
Many hours of traveling, writing, and researching have led to perspiration – blood, sweat, and tears (OK just sweat and tears) as I have worked hard to get better at writing. And all this hard work is paying off and given me confirmation that I am doing what I love.
I may not be the best travel writer or anyone’s favorite. I may not be the most popular or most successful travel blogger. However, I was inspired and made some choices to use this passion and who I am to be the best me that I can be.
Travel inspires people to live a meaningful life
For me, travel writing has led me a purpose driven life. One of those people that inspired me was Rick Steves. However, that was only the beginning of the journey.
In each of our lives, we get one chance to live. May the people and experiences that inspire you be the catalyst to live a life that matters.
You don’t have to choose the same path as me. Just make sure you find your own journey.
Don’t let these moments of inspiration be the highlight of your life. Let them be the moment where you begin to live.
Be thankful for the people that have inspired you. Whether its travel, teaching, toddlers, or time travel, be inspired to live and make choices so that you may one day be someone’s inspiration too.
What person in your life has inspired you? After meeting them, what decisions did you make that started you on your journey?