The Purpose of Travel Redefined

by Kenneth Rayman on August 4, 2019
When I created the “voice of the flag” I was looking for a way to counter someone saying something ignorant about freedom. Little did I know when I took that first photo of the Norwegian flag above the Stortinget, just because it popped against the sunlight and clear blue sky, that it would become core to my travel philosophy. The “Flag’s voice” was a way for me to identify myself and travel’s meaning when someone asked, not knowing who else I could point to in my field. I feel that once you choose to pursue your interest or idea, you immediately feel “separate” because everyone around, if not involved, shifts to concern for safety or the tertiary “good luck” as they walk away. For that split second, the fear creeps in and chips at your resolve. Even if it doesn’t leave a mark, you feel yourself become momentarily defensive, ready to fight for your idea. J.J. Virgin said from stage, at Best Year Ever Blueprint, something which gave me more resolve in my mission, that “niche doesn’t make people harder to find but easier, yet everyone thinks the opposite is true.” My niche of Responsible Travel still has to fight the noise of digital nomadism, whose “highlight reel” show them gallivanting around the globe while your jealousy boils from the desk of your 9-5 (while true digital nomads actually do work in the background), or the appeal of save until you retire, or go prematurely in debt, and you can see this neat “thing” you see on tv. It was months after J.J. said this that I found the true niche of the travel market I fit in to because it is, in fact, niche in terms of search volume but, overall, generates billions annually in the travel market.

Starting out a person often wants to make money right away to prove that they can make it on their own. The people they approach to work for/collaborate with immediately see through it as a fast grab at cash, or a siphon of resources to get the next opportunity, i.e. little incoming value for them in return. I, myself, fall into the “hopping puppy” category. My interest in anything I’ve ever pursued has always been seen as “you need to slow your roll” or “I appreciate your interest, we’ll see, but please pay your dues and pay attention to what’s in front of you” as my interest builds and builds to the point where I lose complete interest in what is in front of me. The way I “work,” I go all in (to my detriment) to prove that my visible passion isn’t a fluke, or so I’m seen as a better asset with creativity of which my current station, in the traditional setting, doesn’t allow.

Fielding questions about my travel, I’m always met with “how do you afford it?” The simple answer is “I’m working on it with every piece I write,” now adding that I'm writing my book along with the website. “Affording it” comments also come with an air of implied skepticism where the age demographic comes into play, presenting as I’m somehow “not wanting responsibility of adulthood,” to which I say, “I’m not going because it’s there. I’m going because of what it can teach me to teach others. This is what I’m doing for my career; I’m a writer.”

When I was met with the “Aren’t you glad you’re free to do and say what you want here?” from a gentleman at a speech, I was amazed at the naiveté but then reminded myself of the generation gap between the WW2 Veteran and myself. Freedom to him was learned differently than for me. Though never taking it for granted, I knew that freedom existed elsewhere in the world and through personal growth knew that freedom, also, is relative. I took the opportunity to define my mission with that veteran’s question and to make sure it’d transcend belief systems, which came back to the visual of the flag in the wind. What did it mean to me to take that picture? What was the flag to me? What made that one picture so special? I found my answer in the “flag’s voice.”

After finding my true niche, I attended a launch event for a non-profit named Call To Creatives, whose story touched on international travel itself. I went curious to see if it was another avenue to pursue as a message platform for purpose driven creatives like myself, but primarily to network officially with my community. I knew enough not to pitch outright but to find the fit within our missions and goals. I found a creative soul in Sarah King, passionate about a social cause which travel had unlocked a new passion for while also showcasing what mattered in the wider world, as well as her own. Travel, while "still seeing the world,” she says, had been defined by the impact she made. I had found my first local kindred spirit in the travel space that wasn’t trying to sell me Bitcoin, thousand-dollar retreats, or “private” courses.

Every article I write on travel is to illustrate what’s often overlooked through convenience, neglect, or indifference, so that it can easily be grasped by the reader. When that gentleman at that retirement community showed confusion at my lack of “reverence” for the concept of freedom, he gave me the opportunity to illustrate the concept through the visual metaphor I’ve always held as the "story" of my country. Travel didn’t show me that I lived with ample opportunity, free from persecution, and in abundance. It showed me that freedom, while there are absolute horrors in the world, can be relative where it exists; while abundance exists where you find it within your own story.

I see that our opinion on the world, not exclusive to any one country, is shaped by easily understood narratives that give an overview of another’s stature in comparison. Our education into another’s story is therefore left to be either self-directed or later in life, in college or in retirement, when opinions are immovable objects. Perhaps Generation Y were born at a time in history which allows for this to change, when narratives can be defined clearer through a motive not engaged in era defining challenges like World War 2 or Cold War posturing, but one of curiosity and humanism.

As Sarah said, in a recent podcast interview, “I believe what we’re made to do is to work to meet the needs of others, but then also to combine that with some sort of creativity, or creative expression” which for her was adoption/orphanages and photography. For Sarah, the two would meet traveling to volunteer in a Tanzanian orphanage ran by Forever Angels, which encouraged volunteers to utilize their skills in the work with the infants. Her photography as a volunteer opened the door for her to make the two permanently linked when they asked her to return to do more work officially.

Following Sarah's lead with that statement, I view my artistic creativity as a vehicle to help others see a new side of the same coin to help organizations and individuals, who can then act. When I say “Where The Heart Calls You” stands to change a narrative, I mean a heart, which knows no language other than it’s simple beat, knows no flag to which it “belongs,” nor recognizes any border that can contain it, can teach for whom it beats how to know, understand, and love the heart his mind has been taught to be weary of, distrust, or misunderstand.

Sarah's instagram:

Listen to Sarah's podcast interview here: