I made my first European trip when I was two years old, just as my two older brothers had done before me (although I believe I was in the womb on one of our family trips). Every year, we would travel for a month, usually during the school semester, so my parents would give a note to the principal excusing us. We would receive homework, but never did it. I think somehow we knew that travel would be the best education we could get! By the time I was 11, I had crossed the Atlantic Ocean 18 times. Of course having a Dutch mother (actually born in Indonesia, but that’s another story) and an American father who worked for the airlines during the heyday of air travel (1960’s-70’s), I was destined to have been bitten by the travel bug. The fact that my family was musical sealed the deal on becoming a traveling musician.
My very first musical trip was in 1981 at the age of 19 when I’d just graduated GIT. My goal was to play in Europe and find a recording contract. By age 22, with several more trips under my belt, I eventually booked my trio (David Becker Tribune) a European tour. This would be a great eye opener to road life as a musician. From that first European leg, we toured another 3 months throughout the USA and hit close to 50 cities. A recording contract with MCA soon followed and the rest, as they say, is history.
Being a traveling musician for more than 30 years now, I have reached some interesting perspectives about life in general. The actual musical part of my travels is only about 2-3 hours a day if that, however the rest is still a very important performance. It’s a performance that you only get one shot at! Many have complained about the difficulties of road life and travel in general, but even after more than 50 years, I still enjoy the process. In fact, I enjoy it more now than ever.
I like living out of a suitcase and sleeping in hotels. I guess I have always been somewhat nomadic, but I think this trait exists somewhere in all of our DNA. What is home really? I find the one night here or a week there is also a kind of home in itself and these situations offer the same pleasures and challenges of being in one place. The bottom line is we are all confronted by the constant interaction with other people and this is always a challenge no matter where you are or how you live.
In 2011, I reached the Million Miler frequent flyer status and like most business travelers, I spend a great deal of time in airports and on planes. I find it extremely interesting chatting with CEO’s, computer programmers, consultants, airline pilots, flight attendants or just people going on an overdue vacation. This brief interaction, which in some cases may only last a few minutes to a few hours depending on the circumstances, gives me the same resonance that performing a concert, teaching a master class or a recording session does. Even when the travel gods are against me, I still make it a point to remind myself how fortunate I am to be able to do this and I NEVER take it for granted! In fact, it has taught me a very valuable life lesson: the “grass is always greener” mentality exists everywhere and with everyone. Everywhere is paradise and everywhere is hell. What determines your destination is our attitude toward what is happening in that moment and how we choose to perceive it. A good rule of thumb I’ve learned is to always tell yourself no matter what happens, “It’s the best it can be right now.” Fighting the difficulties only makes things worse. Letting go of the fight does not mean giving up or giving in, it simply means you agree to be where you are and accept things as they are. As soon as you do this, things begin to ease up and it does actually get better. The road has also taught me be resilient, aware, grateful and most of all patient. I confess the last of the four is not always easy for me, but I do try to make the effort even if it is sometimes after the fact. Being impatient always makes the situation more unbearable, so again I follow my own words of wisdom. It’s just like practicing your instrument. Some days it flows easier than others.
When the final notes are played or the last flight is boarded, all I can take with me as carry on luggage are those moments of clear awareness.
I’m referring to a beautiful sunset, a nice conversation, a fine meal, a cafe latte, a group of Guanacos in the Andes, a bus ride in Hungary sitting next to an alcoholic, an overcrowded NYC subway ride in July, an impolite hotel clerk, a sarcastic waiter or waitress, an incompetent customer service rep, an annoying guy sitting next to me in seat 3B, a 6-hour flight delay, waiting for a hotel shuttle at 4am at Boston airport in the snow, a broken down tour bus in Argentina, etc. I think you get the idea of where I’m going with this.
Travel has taught me about life. It has taught me to see all places from the inside and from the outside. It has also taught me to keep my senses open and be ready to learn something new and most of all to be tolerant of whatever or whoever comes my way. As I continue my lifelong tour, I will remind myself of the things that are most important and I will simply enjoy each moment, because that’s all there is.