The Beyond Your Borders Travel Club
Growing up on a small island, also a British colony, left me with a healthy appetite for seeing the British world. The phrase, the sun never sets on the British Empire, sparked an intense curiosity to see the vast empire. I was curious about the country behind the Union Jack. I wanted to see Lords, the legionary cricket pitch where England played the West Indies in many famous Test matches. I wanted to experience the culture that educated me. I tried to understand better British history that spawned my three names, Baron Appleby Stewart. I held England in high esteem even if the English may not have reciprocated. I hoped to travel to England like truckloads of Jamaicans, who migrated there weekly.
However, my first trip to the island was to New York because my mother lived there and invited me to visit her and see the 1964 Worlds Fair. I knew so much less about America. My America was fish tale Cadillacs, movies without black people, Archie Comics, visiting sailors, stories about racism, and the music. The Impressions, the Temptations, the Drifters, the Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, and many others created the songs that always played in my head. However, I also had many questions about this big country to the north. What happened in America tade most of my favorite singers process their hair?" Men in Jamaica did not treat their hair, and I wondered what created the need for this aberration. However, the large fancy cars, houses with well-manicured lawns, and the lifestyles of Archie and Veronica helped me to fantasize that America was Beautiful. However, I was warmed by my Trinidadian neighbor who had traveled there to dance that I should not believe the hype because he had been there and did not find much beauty. I came to New York reluctantly. It was not London, the universities were not like Cambridge, and the English there was not spoken by the Queen.
However, my narrow view of the world was broadened by Althea, my high school math teacher, and inspiration; she pointed out that even though I would undoubtedly enjoy the history and the pageantry of England, there were many beautiful gems to discover in America and around the world. She said I should catch one of the spectacular plays on Broadway in New York, get a chance to enjoy the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, get to see Michelangelo's David in Florence, or visit the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome. These images became goals as I migrated to New York in 1966, and even though I could not fulfill Althea's vision for me for thirteen years, the passion for travel burned brightly within me.
At last, during the late 1970s, a favorable set of circumstances allowed me to realize my dreams. In 1978 I started working for IBM, which gave me enough money to travel. The other significant influence was my mentor, Cipe Burton, whose house I lived in for over ten years; she told me to live in her home and go and see the world. I did. I traveled for a month every year for the next seven years. My first trip was to London, of course, then to Paris. I wrote postcards to Althea to tell her I loved the Mona Lisa. The following year, I visited Rome, Florence, and Venice. The Sistine Chapel and art in Florence blew me away. After every trip, I would learn about somewhere else I wanted to see. I heard about Mykonos and Santorini, so the following year, I went to the Greek islands and Athens and Frankfurt, and Amsterdam the next year. I would meet people on these trips who would invite me to see them. So, I went to Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest. I remember crossing the border into Hungary, and the border police looked at my Jamaican passport with shock, maybe because not many Jamaicans had passed that way before.
My traveling had three distinct phases. First, I traveled alone or with a friend during the summers. Next, my trips were primarily work-related. I traveled almost every week as an executive instructor for IBM. I travel around the United States and then abroad. I traveled to Trinidad, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bali, and New Zealand. During the third phase, I created the Beyond Your Borders Travel Club to offer young people, who might not typically travel, a chance to see the world. My trips with the club retraced many of the trips I had taken before. I brought these young people to England, France, Spain, Italy, Monaco, Greece, and Turkey. During all these trips, I traveled about a million and a half miles on Delta Airlines alone. I will share stories about these trips in the coming weeks.