In college, some of my friends studied abroad for a semester. They had a home base somewhere around the world where they took classes, and they also took advantage of cheap flights and rail tickets to see surrounding countries.
I assumed I would study abroad, too. I kept looking for opportunities, but nothing felt quite right.
As I kept my eyes peeled, adjacent opportunities popped up in my line of sight instead. I definitely had the travel bug. I jumped at any opportunity to go see a new place, particularly outside of America. At least as many trips didn’t work out as those that did.
From 2009 to 2019 I travelled to 11 different countries: Russia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ireland, China, India, Germany, Poland, London, Canada, and Italy. (I had immense financial and emotional support for these endeavors. It’s not lost on me what a privilege my decade of travel has been.)
As I traveled….
I practiced honoring peoples’ stories. I practiced sitting around the table and sharing food, stories and laughter. I practiced listening without judgment. I practiced receiving and offering hospitality. I practiced sharing my story and being vulnerable with people. I practiced respecting peoples’ boundaries. I practiced working out differences with people I shared life with on the road. I practiced trusting God with my physical safety and my anxiety. I practiced discernment and prayer.
Travel took me outside of myself and my comfortable surroundings and let me observe how I, and others, live in different spaces.
It expanded my understanding and love for the world.
God used these experiences to show me glimpses of the intricacies of creation and the immense love God has for each of us.
A New Season
I thought I would want to travel forever. I thought my wanderlust had no bounds and I would constantly be hungry for new experiences around the world.
After this summer in Italy, though, I found myself longing to be home.
It takes me a long time to settle back in after a trip. It takes me a long time to prepare for a trip. This long runway on both ends and being on the move with my eyes toward the horizon takes something away from the community I want to build where I live.
In the last decade I responded to a genuine longing to see the world and I had the opportunities and resources (time, money, and physical ability, to name a few) to fulfill that longing. But what I’ve realized recently is I am not defined by this longing. I do not have to spend my life traveling.
Now, I want to honor and respond to a new longing: to stay put.
But as I stay put, I recognize how my years of travel formed me and are helping me love God and my neighbors better. Traveling helped me better understand myself and how God created me.
I don’t know if I needed to travel to gain this perspective. I have plenty of friends who have never left the country who have imbibed these qualities from other experiences.
So, I’m wondering, what are some experiences in your life that allowed you to travel somewhere new within yourself, in community, or with God? It could be physical travel like I’ve shared here, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be within relationships. It could be education. It could be well…anything, really.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but if that’s not your thing I hope you take some time to yourself to reflect on your journey. You could ask God to help you notice the spaces you travelled through that formed you into who you are today.
Until next time,
May you notice the light around you and share it with others.