As Covid appears to possibly be retreating, I have recently returned from two trips (one by air to Singapore for our son’s wedding and one by car for a retreat and visiting friends and family along the way). These trips have prompted me to muse about the experience of traveling and what it continues to teach me about life, meaning, and God.

Packing Light: By nature, I enjoy the challenge of packing light. This is especially applicable when traveling by air since I usually try to take no more than a carry-on suitcase and backpack. (To see my updated Traveling Light blog post of a decade ago, click here. I added 20 sub-tips to my original Top 10 travel tips.)
Of course, there is also the negative climate impact of long road or air trips to weigh. Hmmm.

The positive side
of travel is the joy of being with far away friends in person and having conversations longer and more intimate than a Zoom call can endure.
The negative side is that I’m not good at directions and I also lose the comfort of familiar routines. Having a husband who I call “Mr. Map” since he has an excellent sense of direction solves the first problem.
BUT…I struggle with – Where did I put my phone, my glasses, my whatever? What time is it here? The flow of each day is different so it’s easy to lose the rhythm of on Sundays we usually go to Church, On Mondays I send my Marriage Moments, Parenting Pointers, and Eco-Tips out. Where is the grocery store? Should we drive, take the metro, bus, or Uber? Where will we eat today? It can feel confusing and stressful.

Dependency: When traveling I am reminded of how I am dependent on the generosity of others. Often we stay with family or friends and they provide food, housing, and companionship. Even when we spring for an Air B&B or Retreat Center, I realize that the money to pay for these comes from the government (in the form of Social Security payments) from past jobs (in the form of pensions), or from savings (partly from an inheritance). The virtue called for is Gratitude.

Sharing: Yesterday’s Gospel (John 6:1-15) retold how Jesus fed the 5000+ with 5 loaves and 2 fish. What do I have to share? For many of us our time and knowledge are our most valuable assets. Teachers, caregivers, people who repair stuff share their time and knowledge. I can donate money for food, clothing, shelter, and education, but direct service feels more satisfying. Sometimes the hardest thing for me is to take the time to listen to those in need or to those who have different opinions from me – and then ACT to make a difference.

Relating: People met Jesus as they traveled. They walked together and talked just like I have been meeting old and new friends. The folks on the way to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus as they walked and talked. Sometimes it takes awhile for me to recognize Jesus in the people surrounding me. We have to look beneath the surface to recognize Jesus.

Prayer: While sitting on my bedroom “prayer perch” I see the glorious dogwood tree coming into bloom outside my window. Wow! Freely if offers its beauty at no cost to me. Yet I know that the beauty of nature and daily needs of humans are at imminent risk by global warming and violence.
Recognizing the beauty of creation feels like a prayerful but passive stance, while working to preserve creation takes my time, effort, and stretching into actions of political and systemic change. I try to remember that these actions are also a form of prayer.

QUESTION: What has travel taught you?