VISIT JACKSON, MS: PART 1
Jackson, Mississippi. The first question most of my friends asked when I told them I was going to visit Jackson was WHY? Why Jackson, Why Mississippi? It couldn’t be as interesting or as fascinating as all the other places I had been to. I think there’s this notion for travelers that only certain places warrant a visit, that there has to be an amount of distance (Europe, Asia), an amount of allure (Miami, Hawaii); an amount of escapism (Alaska, Iceland); that absent those factors, that the places that are close to home, that places that don’t scream tourist destination somehow have nothing to offer.
Well, this year, I would love to dispel some travel myths. Some of these I have held myself- you will be surprised what you discover around the corner, what you could discover if you try, if you look, if you open your mind and if you abandon assumptions.
So, where do I begin. I’ll begin where all trips begin. My arrival. I got into Jackson remarkably late. I had completed as close to a full day of work before rushing over to the airport. It was super dark and the drive from airport to hotel at close to midnight didn’t provide any insight into what I was about to experience. The almost still brand new Westin was a welcome sight. We checked into a spacious, thoughtfully designed room on the top floor (10th) looking out into downtown Jackson. It was clear looking out our window that this was not NYC. No skyscrapers in sight, and what I could see was covered by a thick fog.
As I rolled over in the morning, and the fog cleared and the sun began to break, I could make out the green all around our hotel. I could see the city start to stir, cars driving down Congress Street, the energy of a city, a small city- distinctly different, and remarkably engaging to someone like myself who loves to people watch and imagine how similar and different their lives could be from mine.
I could not have chosen a more vibrant weekend to visit. I’d read about how vibrant Jackson was, how the city was going through a revitalization, restaurants opening, art scene growing, condos booming, young people moving in (watch this docuseries on Jackson for more). And on this particular Saturday, St. Patricks Saturday, that vibrancy was on full display. From the hotel room, specks of green started to fill the streets, people in their best St.Patrick’s day green.
Families, pets, friends, young and old, loud and subdued, dressed up and dressed down. Jackson was having a party and everyone was invited. I would be remiss not to mention the special history of Jackson Mississippi- the effects of slavery, racism, oppression, the poverty and all the many things Jackson probably still has to figure out. As a traveler, it is not my goal to ignore these truths (truth is every place has its unique problems, and there is always more beneath the surface), but sometimes I do look beyond them. Because so much about travel is to see goodness and beauty, to see the grandchildren of the segregated south having an integrated party. Maybe we make too many assumptions, maybe we always expect the worse of each other- and if you travel, if you really want to experience travel, you have to open your mind to doing the exact opposite.
So as I watched the parade, as I went behind the scenes while the crews prepared, crews of black and white and gay and straight- I smiled. Because that’s why I travel, to find truths, to experience other people’s realities, to really see.