As you may have figured out, I live in the metropolitan Atlanta, GA area. This morning I was reviewing my Atlanta Business Chronicle morning news email when I came across an article about how my home suburb could tie into our existing rail (subway) system. I know that public transit in Atlanta is only tangentially a travel issue, but my position on the issue reflects how travel has changed my perceptive of public transit.
I used to firmly believe that transit systems should not receive government subsidies and should be financially self-sufficient. I still hold to the notion these systems should be necessary and earn some portion of their operating budgets, i.e., we don't need subways to nowhere. However, I now see that these systems are an integral part of a metropolitan area's transportation infrastructure and these systems can exist within the framework of limited government. Even if you personally don't want to ride a bus or train to work everyday - and I still fall within this category - there is a benefit to having other options at times. Because many people will take public transit daily, transit option can help a city's traffic congestion. That's the political angle. The travel angle is how I have come to view these transportation systems as a result of having traveled to many cities and used them during my visits.
Living in Atlanta, driving in a car to get to virtually anywhere, either in the urban core or in the suburbs, is pretty much engrained in me. However, having visited New York City, Boston, Chicago and Washington, DC and enjoyed not needing to rent a car to get around began to change my perspective on public transportation. My visit last year to London and Paris really was a tipping point. As in New York City, I could go virtually anywhere on the London Tube or the Paris Metro. I simply did not need a car and I was able to avoid that expense and hassle.
I think this realization is an example of one of the most powerful aspects of traveling. It exposes you to new ways of thinking and different experiences and these can be instrumental in changing your view on a variety of issues and aspects of your daily life once you return home. That is not to say my core beliefs and values have been changed, but I can sense a broader perspective after some my travels than before. And that is the possibly the greatest tangible benefit to travel. It's not just about luxury plane cabins and seeing famous. It is about expanding and challenging your views and providing the opportunity to grow personally.