Travel and the Millennial
My generation is thirsty for authenticity. But we are greedy for escapism.
I got Nick’s call early in the morning. My stomach already tightened in the dreary anticipation of yet another rejection. “Amanda! If you come to Denver at 5PM today, you show up hungry and then write a piece for my travel startup called Seekr, I’ll help you out”.
It felt like a scam. But I was hungry for content strategy opportunities. And as a grad student, I was just plain hungry. Pulling up to the 1585 Kingston Street Church I was immediately convinced that Nick had given me the wrong directions. It was hot outside and chain length fences outlined small auburn yards of boxed houses. Boom boxes played from lined cars and the heat from the afternoon sun seemed to slow everything in its path. Tentatively poking my head into the church’s empty lobby the feeling of comfort washed over me as I heard Nick’s deep voice and eager laughter. It was in this small familiarity that I became one of Seekr’s first end users. It was a moment that sucked me entirely into the experience, and although I was minutes away from the familiar, I was thousands of miles away from the expected.
In the spectrum of faith that is practiced, ecclesiastical buildings share an intrinsic quality. They are community centers with hundreds of spare chairs, tables and the lingering musk of yesterday’s events. They bring people together. It is poetic that travel offers this same capability. Nick had created a magnet of community in the simple organization of a Saturday afternoon Kenyan potluck in a church basement.
The author, Ted Conover talks about the fundamental humanity in eating a meal with a stranger and how intimate that transaction can be for two people who may not even share the same language. This idea resonated deeply when Jemimah took my hand to teach me about the food she had labored over the night before. I felt wide-eyed when she shared her story of immigrating to the United States from Kenya. There was something in the indisputable warmth of this woman that made me feel protective of her. In some intangible way, I fiercely wanted good things to happen to Jemimah in the city I grew up in.
There is a battle for millennial identity. As this generation’s character populates headlines in media conversation, there is a swinging pendulum of opinion as to what Gen Y actually stands for. The one consistency in these raging opinion articles is the regular observation of millennial travel and love of experience.
Seekr’s founding principle is that of connection. The startup taps into the behavior that inadvertently brings people closer together while asking them to leave the familiar, if even for a few moments. Seekr creates relationships in the knowledge of a shared interest, an undisclosed local gathering spot and the universal behavior of what it means to be human.
Before I left the potluck, Jemimah and her friends took my hands and told me I was a true Kenyan. There was an authenticity in the way they taught me to dance according to their local customs. There was also a reality in the excitement they shared, and it made me hungry to reciprocate. Travel isn’t always about the miles traversed, but the connections we make in the unexpected. For me, it translated into an inexplicable pride in the people I met that day and an intoxicating sense of belonging.