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Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged travel
The Walls We Build

I'm thinking about paying an annual fee to become a member of Delta's airport lounge system. This would get me access to a whole world of amenities at many of the airports I visit, traveling as much as I do. Truthfully, I marvel at what awaits inside. I read online about the snacks and the drinks and the WiFi and the newspapers and (in some cases) the showers and I can't wait until one day I get to walk inside and know I belong. And that's the ultimate allure, the belonging, isn't it? Surely, I could save money by buying a newspaper or snack in the main terminal with all the less-fortunate souls. So it's not the perks as much as the membership in something that seems exclusive that appeals so much to me.

So it is with any walls we see erected in our path. What's on the other side? we wonder to ourselves and our close friends. Is it worth joining? Would they really let me be a part of it? What will happen when I'm 'in'?

It feels like that when you're a freshman and considering rushing a fraternity or sorority. It feels like that when you visit a new church or interview for a job or start making new friends or move to a neighborhood or find a MeetUp group. Can I be a part of this?

And then we learn the rules. Every group has a wall, a barrier to entry and access, keeping it closed off to absolutely everyone. Otherwise, there would be no mystique or even benefit to joining. If everyone could walk into the airport lounge, it becomes no different than the rest of the terminal where free newspapers are only had by lurking at a gate whose flight is boarding and scrounging for one a passenger left behind on her way to the plane.

But, not all walls are necessary and many should be redefined. Some walls are offensive and archaic, based solely upon gender or race for no good reason. Others are silly, made of ritual and tradition that are no longer formative or important. And some exist merely because of geography or income and aren't as prestigious as they seem.

We need to rethink our walls.

Robert Frost's The Mending Wall is wise in its words:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down.

Walls are as only as good, in my opinion, as the people inside them. I don't care much for your fraternity or church or giving circle if it's full of bigoted, obtuse, ignorant fools who only like to think themselves important. In fact, if I get in your club by jumping through a series of hoops only to find I became worse in the process, then your walls were nothing but time-wasting nonsense.

Rather, the walls themselves should consist of the caliber of the character of the members. A neophyte should wonder Am I as good as those inside, those I admire? or Will membership improve who I am? One shouldn't ask himself Can I meet the requirements of membership? but rather Can I live up to the incredible standards of humanity that those inside seem to set on a daily basis?

Walls should make things better, not just exclusive. Are the walls of your organization (the requirements for members) making the people on the inside better?

If not, then I recall another famous wall quote, something to the effect of it needing to be torn down.

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Speaking Event: American Bus Association

This January, I'll be addressing the attendees at the American Bus Association Marketplace. This is a chance for people in and around the bus industry to get together for learning, networking, and dreaming. I'll have the chance to present three workshops over two days:

  • Why Gen Y? Reaching Out to Millennials in the Right Way
  • Get Smart, Get Strategic: Why You Need a Social Media Strategy Now
  • BRB, TTYL, LOL: Managing Millennials in the Workplace

I'm looking forward to meeting everyone at the event and to having deep discussions about how those in the bus world can leverage the power and possibility of technology and the next generation.

And if you're in Charlotte, drop me a line so we can grab coffee!

Why Are You Going?

In my line of work, I get asked a lot, "Where are you going?" It's an easy enough question to answer, filled with city names or airport codes. But I always remind myself - every time I'm asked that question - why I'm going. I go to speak or consult, but I also go to work and share ideas so I can help build a life with the two people I love the most.

We have to remember why we go, and not just where we're headed. Because a destination without a purpose is nothing but wandering. 

And while you can wander for a season, flitting about as freely a spirit as you wish, it's no way to spend your entire existence.

I love the "Where in the Hell is Matt?" video series. Here's the new one for 2012:

Mesmerizing, charming, humorous, and whimsical, these videos can excite something within us, and dare us to buy a plane ticket to anywhere but where we are now. Watch the video and be transported to Asia, Africa, the middle of the ocean - anywhere you dream of going, Matt has probably been there (and danced there).

But why? Just to make a viral video?

Watch the whole thing. The last location is probably Matt's why.

Our why doesn't only relate to travel. It can relate to our jobs, our hobbies, our commitments, and our time. If you find yourself working late, hating your career, or confused at what this all means, asking yourself why it is you do what you do helps you remember that you're not simply wandering. You have purpose. You have priorities. You have plans.

For me, all of those come back to a people. Life on a stage and in various airports brings me a step closer to being the kind of dad and husband I long to be. Talking to business professionals or college students is a very empty task unless I'm also able to communicate with my two biggest fans each day.


I just finished Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why. A great read, the book reminds us that the best companies and movements in the world try first to answer the question of why they do what they do. Then, they determine how they'll do it and what they'll do in order to bring their core purpose into existence.

We have to do the same. We have to hold tight to our why. It's our compass, pointing us to where the work is and then pulling us back home again when the job is done. Travel without the compass of "Why?" and you'll just be going in circles, spending decades moving but with no real progress.

So let me ask you: "Why are you going? Why do you do what you do? Why are you?"

If you can't answer this question (and I'd challenge you to not mention money in your answer), stop what you're doing. If you don't have a why, then the work you're doing right now could be meaningless. Don't waste another second on it.

We all need a passion, but more importantly, we need a purpose.

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How I Travel

I'm hitting the road today, heading to Texas for a few days to keynote the National School Foundation Association annual conference. Next week I head to Alabama for a day. Between now and the end of the year, I'm headed to Las Vegas, Florida four times, and probably Texas again. In other words, I get around. While others are much more warrior-like than me when it comes to being on the road, here's a snapshot of how I travel in order to save money, take what I need, and save time:

One rolling suitcase and a small bag

No one likes checking bags. You'll usually pay extra fees and you only add time to your journey as you wait for bags to pop up on the carousel. If you travel often, invest in a good rolling suitcase - something lightweight yet sturdy, with a large exterior pocket and expandable zipper when you need the extra storage.

A good, small bag is also a necessity for your laptop or smaller items that you'll need when in your destination city. It'll also fit under the seat in front of you on a plane for easy access. When walking through the terminal, it can sit on your rolling bag for an easier walk to/from your aircraft. Bottom line: your luggage should make travel easier, not more difficult.


I got a SCOTTEVEST last year for my birthday and no single item has made travel easier. The vest has multiple hidden pockets for your iPhone, wallet, keys, headphones, travel documents, or quite literally anything else you want on your person. The best part is that when you go through security, you just slip off the vest and you're done. No need to empty your pants pockets and then pull your phone out and then your change and then remember where you put it all.


I think they're delicious (some people don't), so I usually pack 3 or 4 PowerBars for each trip. When in a bind (delayed flight, no good places to eat, restaurants are closed), they can serve as a meal replacement or a hearty snack. Find out which energy bar you like and take a few. It beats paying $3.00 at the airport for a Snickers, and it'll keep you happy during a layover (McDonald's won't, trust me) or after a long day at a conference.

One pair of shoes, one outfit per day

Some people can't fathom fitting everything for a trip into a single rolling suitcase. These people pack too much. I understand that some days, you don't know what to wear until you get up and look in your closet, but that shouldn't be the case on the road. Just pack one outfit per day. Then, when you wake up, you'll know what to wear because you won't have any choice but to wear what you packed. Limited choice can be a good thing sometimes.

Also pack only one pair of shoes that can go with every outfit. People who go somewhere for three days and bring 12 pairs of shoes aren't allowed to travel with me. I wear a comfortable pair of shoes for transit and walking around; I take another for the event, most often my brown, sturdy Kenneth Coles that go with jeans, khakis, and corduroys.

A good rule of thumb: count how many days you'll be gone and pack that many shirts. There's no need to bring extra. "But what if I spill something?" you ask. You have two options: 1) Get better at not spilling; 2) Look for the nearest one-hour dry-cleaners.


As I've said before, Tripit is the best app when it comes to keeping track of travel plans. Go get the free version. Now.


If you subscribe to magazines, save them for when you travel. I've got a stack of four I'm taking with me today. They're the perfect thing to read when taxiing or below 10,000 ft. And they also come in handy when stuck in an airport and can be a welcome diversion from staring at a glowing screen. What else am I going to look at? Skymall?

Rewards cards

If you are not earning rewards with every purchase or reservation while away, you are wasting money. Did Ryan Bingham teach you nothing? Even if you only fly once a year, start earning frequent flyer miles. Get hotel and rental car points. Those things can be redeemed, people. And even if you travel rarely now, things can change in an instant and you'll be up the air more often before you know it.

What about you?

What do you travel with (other than a dozen pair of shoes)? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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Weekly Roundup - 11.11.11

If you like the number 11, you're probably taking the day off work. Where I've been speaking:

  • I had a great time speaking to teenagers at First Baptist Nashville on Sunday evening. The topic? "What Story Are You Telling?" I told some funny stories and hopefully connected enough to encourage them to consider their values and how those values are evidenced by others in their everyday actions.
  • I also spoke with the Green Team at VF Imagewear on Wednesday. We had a great chat about the current state of the green movement and what it needs to capture more hearts and minds.

Where I'm headed:

  • As you read this, I'm on the west coast, getting some work done in San Francisco.
  • Next month, I'm very excited to go to Raleigh, North Carolina to speak at TEDxRaleigh. The title of my talk there is "The Revolution of Less." I can't wait.

Sorry for no "Best Links" this week. I'm behind on my reading. But, as a friendly reminder, here's how I use Google reader to stay on top of what's most important.

What was the best part of your week?

What is Your Moon?

My room was on the top floor of the Dallas hotel. I pulled back the curtain to take in the view of red lights leaving town, many cars headed towards their respective homes. Hopefully, people would soon get out of those cars after they were done racing one another to the exit signs and open a door to a home filled with people they loved. I was 600 miles away from my home. It was getting late, about the time my wife was probably bathing and dressing my daughter for bed. I was thankful not to be in the traffic I saw many floors below, but yearned to be upstairs in my own home helping someone put on their PJs.

Then I looked up, above the concrete and standstill and saw it. Illuminating the city nearly all by itself and in clear view was the moon. Nearly full, it shone down on me and all that traffic, and when I saw it, without thinking, to just me standing there, I pointed at it with a half crooked finger and said out loud, "Moon," just like my daughter does.

Since she first learned the word, she enjoys pointing out moons - full or crescent - in books and outside when she can see it, usually early in the morning or if she's lucky, later in the afternoon. She is proud of herself for finding it and I encourage this, often repeating after her that she's right. That is indeed the moon.

And on this night, alone in a room, I saw that same moon that she probably saw before bath time. I pointed it out and imagined that she did the same to her mom a few hours ago. While staring up at that moon, I suddenly felt at home, connected to the people I love the most.

We all need something like this, be it a celestial orb, a photograph, a tattoo, a note, or a keepsake. We need something to see when we're lonely or downtrodden or aggravated. We need something to hold that can simultaneously hold us, letting us know that someone whose heart we keep isn't as far away as the distance would make us think. We need an anchor for life's chaotic ebb and flow.

We need a moon.

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