The air is unusually cold for Austin in March, even for nighttime, as the woman-fronted Nashville hard-rock outfit known as Bully takes the stage at one of South by Southwest’s premier stages: Mohawk Outdoor.
But the crowd is warm—in part because so many bodies are crammed into the space between the bar and the stage but also from excitement. They’ve come literally from around the world, making a pilgrimage to this city of art and weirdos for moments like the ones they are about to experience.
All around the space, pilgrims are enraptured: lifting their hands, swaying, some even doing the zulu jump. They haven’t gathered for a sermon, but to experience something transfigurative. They need this.
“Being in crowds, large or small, and feeling the music together; singing along to your favorite tunes to me is one of the great unifying experiences of our lives,” says 27-year-old Devon Bailey, who moved to Austin because of its music scene. “Few things can bring strangers together.”
Festivals like SXSW combine a unique experience with a unique place. One way or another, no one leaves a gathering like this unchanged.
“A concert is an invitation to just pause and share something powerful with others,” Bailey says. “You’re transported with others to a place of solidarity.”
But it’s more than being at a concert; it’s about being in a new place, with new people, sharing new things.
That inherent transformative power is something travel evangelists rave about. Professional photographer Kevin Russ, who travels extensively in his work, says, “Traveling is the best way I’ve found to get me out of my comfort zone. New and unique experiences with people and nature will teach you things about yourself and you will be growing as a person. Then that growth will shape how you view everything else and live your daily life.”
But what if travel is better than just good for us? What if travel helps us grow spiritually?