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You have to go there to come back: Montavius Jones' journey with a purpose

5 March 3:06pm

Sean Chris • Milwaukee

As we’ve grown to annoyingly expect, at the end of each year, Facebook’s news feed is consumed with post-after-post of friends, family members, and old acquaintances sharing their New Year’s resolutions. The amount of triple-filtered selfies with the caption “New Year, New Me” can make even the most supportive Facebook friend roll their eyes.

But my friend Montavius is different. The entire time I’ve known him, I’ve always said he’d be the type of person who will either choose to stay in Milwaukee his entire life, or spend his active years traveling abroad with the goal of bringing his unique experiences back home to a city he loves.

And this year, he had a different kind of news to share. One that would shake up the monotonous news typically announced at the first of the year.

“After almost a year of thought, prayer, and some tears, I decided to quit my job in the city. I know it doesn’t sound like much. People quit their jobs all the time. But my situation is a little different…”

Montavius, former Economic Development Specialist for the City of Milwaukee, had decided to leave his “cushy office job” to take a 6-month working vacation across Central America, South America, and Europe. He had no jobs lined up, no place to stay, and no contracts, but confidently plans to figure it all out as he goes.

“I love Milwaukee, and always will, but I’ve been called to do more for my city than what I have done so far.”

This isn’t something he decided overnight. Every time I’ve connected with him over the past year, he’s expressed that he wanted to do something different. He never bashed his job, but just felt he wasn’t in the right position to make the impact he felt he was destined to.

What we all know to be true is this: Sometimes you need to leave in order to appreciate a place. And when you leave, you always come back with a refreshing sense of purpose, unwavering excitement, and a changed perspective.

When someone close to you travels for a week or two, they return a changed person to some extent. And it goes beyond the physical things like a fresh hairstyle, rocking different fashion choices or a new set of frames. They return noticeably more mature, more open-minded, and have a unique perspective that impacts everything they touch and talk about. They return as better versions of themselves.

Montavius strongly believes Milwaukee can be so much more. He feels now, is the opportunity and time for him to venture out, in order to bring back the valuable experience and perspective that will benefit Milwaukee and push the city forward. And he aims to learn more about himself in the process. He’ll be immersing himself in what he calls “cities for the people” studying what makes these places thrive and what’s important to the people that live there. His goal is to uncover how each city uniquely relies on public transportation, walkable neighborhoods, public spaces, high-density housing, and entertainment.

“This trip is about what brings people, of all walks of life, together and enriches our lives and connections to one another. We are designed to live among and serve one another. Immersing myself in the best of that will help me fulfill my life’s purpose: To help make Milwaukee a world-class city for all.”

Montavius is committed and determined to make a positive impact in Milwaukee, by sacrificing a comfortable life and reliable source of income, to pursue a purpose that’s bigger than himself. He’s placed his bet on the potential reward being greater, than the risks. And there’s nothing more audacious, and Milwaukeean, than that.


Montavius will be documenting his travels and experiences on his website, herethisiswhy.com, on Twitter @mkemontavius, and Instagram @montavius.jones. And if you’d like to contribute to his journey, he has also set up a GoFundMe.

About the author

Sean Chris is a photographer and filmmaker based in Milwaukee. He currently creates content for brands like Bevel and CopyWrite Magazine and is a brand strategist at Milwaukee ad agency BVK.

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