Photo Credit: Maxwell Banton
Traveler Maxwell Banton: 'Italy Helped Me Become A More Genuine And Loving Man'
Maxwell Banton is a 28-year-old Philadelphia native based out of Los Angeles. After completing his business degree from the University of Southern California, he decided to pursue travel filmmaking full time. This led him to South America, where he has been for the past month and where he plans to stay for the next year, working on a series he hopes will inspire people to visit the continent.
Though he is currently in Peru, Maxwell has traveled all over the world. He got his first real taste of travel in 2011 when he began serving in the Marines. Over the next four to five years, he would have the opportunity to experience many new countries and meet many new people.
“I was first attached to a Navy vessel for an eight-month deployment, and we would port at different countries around the Mediterranean; some for work and some to get a chance to go out and explore. Up until then, I had never left the country before. Now here I was traveling the world and having these unreal experiences. It really thrilled me and opened my eyes to learning about new cultures and trying new cuisines.”
On that initial eight month deployment, Maxwell had the opportunity to visit a wide range of destinations that allowed him to witness a variety of realities. From training with the French legion to sleeping in the mountains. From visiting wealthy countries where everything is extreme luxury to nations struggling with poverty.
“I witnessed a man buy half of the store in a mall in Bahrain and just a month or two later was in Djibouti seeing how the locals lived there. It felt like Discovery Channel. It was insanely hot there, as in 134 degrees. I remember getting back on the ship and being happy just to have cold water.”
The trip was extremely meaningful for Maxwell for several reasons. First, it allowed him to see that there was so much more the world had to offer. Secondly, it helped him become more appreciative of his life and all the opportunities and modern conveniences he had in America. Finally, the trip is what ultimately ignited his love for travel and led to his decision to become a travel vlogger.
Maxwell would later find himself living in Rome, Italy, studying abroad as an undergrad student during what he considered one of the best times of his life. His experiences in the European country would help him grow in ways he never imagined, shaping him into the man he is today.
“During the first couple of weeks, I remember wanting to go back home because it was a very different way of living from what I was accustomed to. I had no car, no microwave, no dryer; I just missed things like that, that I was used to having. And I didn’t know the language, so at first it was incredibly frustrating.”
Maxwell stuck it out and as time went on, he adapted to his new environment. The Italian classes he was taking started to pay off. He soon made friends with locals who showed him a different side of Rome that he would not have otherwise been able to see without them. Although his time in Italy started out rough, it ended up being a truly invaluable experience. Despite being home to some of the world’s most amazing food and most breathtaking views, what truly made Italy unforgettable for MaxwelI was the people.
“I absolutely fell in love with Rome and the people. The Romans I came in contact with were all very hard-working individuals. You might see a guy sweeping the floor, but you could see just how much pride he took in his job, and that was how all Italians seemed to be. They were very prideful of their work, no matter what they did.”
In Italy, everything seemed so simple. In the evenings, people would hang out in the piazzas (public squares) drinking and chatting with friends. Maxwell observed that people didn’t seem to need much to have a good time.
“It reminded me that it doesn’t matter what you do, but who you do it with. All you really need is some good friends to have a good time.”
Another thing Maxwell noticed about Italians was that though they had a very loving, romantic, and passionate culture, they also seemed somewhat closed off and less open to meeting new people than in America. He asked a woman he had befriended why this was the case.
“She told me ‘In America, you guys are open but everything is superficial. Here in Italy, when you make a friend, you make a friend for life’ and that really stuck with me. It was true. Observing the people there, I was able to witness this first hand and it just kind of rubs off on you. Prior to my time in Italy, I had never seen people so loving and authentic. Witnessing it sparked something in me that made me realize you get more joy out of life living this way.”
“I had been living in Los Angeles for three years at the time, and I love LA, but the culture is rather superficial. When meeting a new person there, it’s like you’re just going through the motions. Sure, you ask questions, but it’s not like you’re fully engaged. The culture in Italy showed me what it’s like to be fully engaged with someone. Italy helped me become a more genuine and loving man. You get so much more depth out of people and your relationships with them when you’re truly genuine and engaged. I went back to LA with that mindset, and I was surprised just how much more open people became with me. I was even able to connect with current friends and family on a much deeper level than before.”
While he plans to remain in South America filming for the foreseeable future, Maxwell says he will ultimately always return to the United States. Though he undoubtedly loves traveling and learning from all of the countries that he visits, the more he travels, the more it makes him thankful to be able to call the U.S. home.
“Seeing the privileges we have in this country compared to some of the others I’ve visited makes me very grateful. I can’t see myself living anywhere else. Sure, I could do six months or a year somewhere else, but long term, I’m in the U.S!”
You can follow Maxwell’s journey via his YouTube channel or on Instagram at @maxtakesonworld.
Related: The Black Expat: ‘Italy Taught Me A Different Definition Of Success’