Big Thinkers: Travis Estell


Travis Estell: what success looks like in 2014

Travis Estelle is twenty-six years-old, a regular contributor to the award-winning blog, UrbanCincy, and a policy wonk who eats, sleeps and breathes transportation and development issues, reading and commenting-on every internet source that crosses his virtual path.   On his Linked-In profile Travis describes his profession as (take a deep breath and be brave) a Web Content Management System consultant specializing in technical design, architecture, and development within the Adobe AEM (CQ5) platform, CRX/JCR (Java Content Repository), Apache Sling and Felix. Expertise in Java/JSP, HTML5, CSS, JQuery, and ExtJS with a focus on valid, semantic, accessible code, and finding the best solutions for business requirements by implementing the right mix of client-side and server-side technologies.

I, on the other hand, am 59 years-old and a medieval history major.

Millennial-Travis sat down to talk with Boomer-Me at the Coffee Emporium a few weeks ago and the mixture of worldviews was such a conversational adventure that neither of us remembered to eat lunch. Here’s a sampling of observations as to where our city’s future is headed if Travis Estell is at all representative.

1.  I did not have much imagination transitioning to adulthood.  My father was a financial consultant.  I was a financial consultant.  My parents lived in Mt. Lookout.  I lived in Mt. Lookout.  But Travis’ life looks nothing like his parents’ in Goshen on 2 acres of mowed lawn, an hour from the city where they have to drive everywhere and his father worked as a machinist for Ford for his entire career.  Suburbia – devoid of culture, art, history, and diversity – held no appeal and when Travis bought his first condo it was in Over-the-Rhine.

2.  I never had a resume because I didn’t need one and always worked at the same job in the same office everyday. Travis is a consultant with a company headquartered in San Francisco, his engagements “ranging in length from weeks to multiple months.”  Job security doesn’t come from a company but from his particular skill-set, one in demand throughout the world.   The most important thing for him is where he lives, and it has to be the city that can offer him the best amenities in terms of bike lanes, excellent mass-transit, cool apartments and condos, imaginative restaurants, great bars and lots of music.

3.  When I wanted to learn about a prospective client quickly I always asked, “What kind of car do you drive?”  It told me a lot about how they spent their money and everybody liked talking about their cars.  But when I asked Travis 1. if he owned a car (not a given these days) and 2. what kind he bought, he seemed a little sheepish, explaining he played the drums as though he needed a justification.  He never did get around to spilling the beans as to what he purchased.

4.  I always assumed that all streetcar proponents were liberals.  I guess I assumed that because I am politically liberal.  But after talking to Travis for 2 hours, I have absolutely no idea how to label him.  I expected him to be outraged at Kasich’s cuts to Local Government Fund distributions, but he calmly informed me they weren’t coming back.  “Local governments are going to have to figure out how to pay for things on their own,” he said as though it was obvious. Economic uncertainty has been a fact of life during  the formative years of this generation.  They don’t take anything for granted, just dig into the facts with a self confidence that they can eventually figure out the problems.

5.  My husband and I eat most of our meals at home, so I’d always assumed the gorgeous young people I saw waiting in lines for tables on Vine St. were fiscally irresponsible and running up expensive credit card debt.  “Not so,” said Travis.  He explained that his generation prefers experiences to possessions, opting for smaller living spaces and less stuff,  “Which is necessary for the survival of the species,” he added. Climate change is a serious, personal responsibility for people in their twenties.

6.  Travis doesn’t wait for authorities to tell him what to think – Travis turns himself into an authority and then generously shares what he learns through every free electronic medium available.  In addition to his role as Technologist for UrbanCincy, Travis is the organizing force behind their entertaining, informative podcasts.  He also has a blog in his own name, a Facebook page, Instagram, and exchanges observations regularly on Twitter.  City Hall worries about the committed, engaged citizens who live in the urban core because they are very, very well-informed and know how to use social media to build strong, persuasive networks.

Millennials represent a huge shift in expectations from the Boomer preferences we’ve come to take for granted as the right way to live a life and change is always unsettling.  Cars versus bikes.  Urban versus suburban.  But sitting across the table from Travis, it’s impossible not to come away with a great sense of confidence for our future.  This new generation has high expectations for what kind of city we can be and our responsibility to the bigger world beyond city limits.  Let’s do whatever it takes to keep Travis and his friends right here where they belong, making a difference in the heart of Cincinnati.

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