Louisiana is always the life of the party. Our neighbor to the north is also always an easy getaway for us Texans when we’re seeking just a little more color in our days. At just a few hours of distance from Houston, for me, it is a travel destination of choice for long weekends or even same day road trips. It’s the perfect place to travel with friends or just your significant other.
Whether it’s the charm of the hill country, Dallas during the Texas State Fair, or Austin during SXSW, there’s never a shortage of things to do and discover when you’re in the Lone Star State. And that’s not even including the dozens of small towns you’ll visit along the way when you’re driving from one major city to another. In Texas, we drive. That’s just our way of life.
It took me three years to make it to Denver to visit my brother and the first thought to cross my mind after boarding my return flight back to Houston was, “why did it take me so long?” Besides having an incredible time just reconnecting with my kid brother – he’s two years my junior and the youngest man in the family – the city of Denver did kind of charm me and my son Edgar into wanting to visit again soon. This was our first solo trip as father and son, and it was definitely a memorable one.
Unless you’ve been to Bentonville, it’s hard to put into perspective the experience of visiting Arkansas’s fastest-growing metro area. Located in the foothills of the Ozarks and bustling with business and entrepreneurship, this once sleepy little town with a population of no more than 30, today still feels like a modern-day version of the movie Pleasantville, with its white picket fences and pristine neighborhoods surrounding the heart of Bentonville’s community – its historical Downtown Square. In the 1880s the square served as a watering place for livestock. In 1901 Bentonville shipped one-half million bushels of apples from it bounty of apple trees, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau at that time accounted for the largest number of bearing apple trees of any county in the United States. Eventually the city of Bentonville expanded around its Downtown Square and today more than 45,000 call this community in Northwest Arkansas home.
There’s history in Orange Beach. We could tell as soon as we drove into this surprisingly unexpected corner of the Gulf Coast. Its location is right at the point where Alabama and Florida connect. If you’re not careful you could end up crossing state lines without even noticing. We did and for a moment it felt like we were driving right back into Florida after having bid farewell to the Sunshine State just a few minutes earlier. If you have ever driven the entire length of the Sunshine State, you will appreciate why the thought of being back in Florida after having just exited the state would be more than a little nerve-wrecking. Luckily for us, we were in fact in Alabama.
It’s been my home for the past 18 years. Houston, for me, is the place where I feel most comfortable. It is the city that took in a family of immigrants and opened doors for us, far beyond our wildest imaginations. It is the city where I met my wife, started a family, and eventually a business. For all intents and purposes, I guess you could say, it is my compass in the universe. The place I naturally gravitate towards no matter how far away I venture. To understand Houston, however, takes serious dedication. The burgeoning metropolis nestled amid bustling highways, byways and tollways, as well as incorporated and unincorporated annexes from the Gulf Coast to the hill country, is home to some six million residents from all over the world. The city was recently recognized as the most diverse in the United States and is well on its way to surpass Chicago as the third-largest in the country by population.
Austin is weird, and they are proud of it. Our neighbor to the north is home to the massive annual event that is SXSW, and each year, it is the place to be for anyone who is even remotely interested in technology and the wonderous possibilities of the future. I was there this year as an #HOUSxSw Ambassador on behalf of Station Houston and Houston Exponential representing Houston’s strong community of creators and innovators. If you’ve never been to Austin and are not familiar with the phrase “Keep Austin Weird,” the month of March during SXSW might be the perfect time to get familiar with this quirky part of Texas, which also happens to be the state capital. There is never a shortage of things to do in Austin, but during the massive annual event known as South by Southwest (SXSW) you can multiply your options by a couple dozen points of interest.
Los caminos de la vida no son como yo pensaba. Como los imaginaba. No son como yo creía. The journey of life is not how I thought it would be. It’s not how I imagined it. It’s not what I thought it would be. This song came on the radio at one point while we were driving along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago before the end of 2017, and it put everything into perspective. The last time I really listened to the lyrics of Los Caminos de la Vida by La Tropa Vallenata I was headed to the cemetery in the funeral procession for my father. I remember thinking then, that life is too short to not do the things we want to do. I wanted to bring my father to the Grand Canyon. He left before I ever could. His passing was one of those things in life that hit me like a ton of bricks. I never imagined his time with us would be cut short, or so soon. And yet it was.