The heat was stifling as we sat in a sweat lodge pouring our hearts out to God. The air around me was so warm I could scarcely breathe. All around me people were forgetting themselves and their discomfort and calling out to the One who created us.
It was Tuba City, Arizona in 2004, and it was one of the most illuminating experiences of my life.
Travel. We do it every day. By car, by train, by airplane or bus – we are constantly moving from one place to another. And yet we spend the whole time on our headphones and iPads, missing the moment. We forget that to see the world – any corner of it – is a gift.
“…The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.” -1 Corinthians 10:26
I have come to appreciate travel the last four years or so. My favorite place may be Miami. The inner city in Florida is poor and dangerous. Kids run around barefoot, calling to one another. The air smells of sweat and smog, and every day is a fight.
One day, “I love you” was written on a crumpled piece of paper, stuck to my palm, and passed to me by a small child with wide eyes from our vacation bible school group. This child has so little, and yet what she did have to give, she gave freely. Love.
This is one of the many circumstances that caused me to realize: I cannot witness such things and walk away unscathed.
Travel changes us. Maybe not the travel itself, but the people we meet along the way, and the cultures we encounter. If we never venture outside our own world, we will forever assume that everyone else is just as lucky. And this is a huge misconception.
New cultures inspire us to change ourselves.
In Miami, people are generally loud and to the point; they kiss you on the cheek by way of greeting and drink café con leche. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pick up some habits from my time there, including a deep love of coffee.
In Texas, everyone is warm and friendly, with no secrets. The hospitality is unmatched by anything I’ve yet seen. I would hope to emulate some of that in my own life.
“The spirit of travel,” as I like to call it, is the curiosity about other cultures.
It is the desire to rebuild our lives based on what we find out about the world. If we stick with just what we already know this won’t happen.
God allowed me to see other ways of life, and I am different because of it. We need to hear other people’s stories, and invest in them. So, take the time to listen to a wise old woman, or laugh with a young child. You will not come back the same.
So what will your next adventure be?
Pray about it, think about it. It can be as elaborate as a trip to Africa or as simple as taking a train to the next town. Or perhaps visit a new congregation in town. Seeing the way someone else worships may give you fresh insights into your own spiritual growth.
“I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you forever and ever.” -Psalm 45:17.
Just give yourself a chance to experience something entirely new to you. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll return rejuvenated, ready for the next challenge life has in store. You will view life with more compassion and understanding, and you can reach out to those around you who are hurting.
That, friends, is why I say travel. Remember, it is the spirit of travel, more than the miles, that matter. Get out there and be changed! Bon voyage!