Greetings from Europe!
Ken and I are on the road. It’s tiring, wonderful, upsetting, and surprising and much more!
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Mr. Twain got it right. Travel, like nothing else, shifts my pre-conceived ideas, unexamined beliefs, and deeply ingrained sense of the rightness of how I see the world. This hurts. And it is also very healthy!
The shift starts with the lead up to “being there” —
- packing (what do I really need?)
- making arrangements for the house/mail/garden
- getting to (and from) the airport at either end
- the cacophony of languages at the airport/boarding gate
These are all part of the warm-up. And then there’s jet lag! Boom! I am broken open. I feel vulnerable. Raw. A beginner. Uncomfortable.
I can choose:
- to be defensive & find fault with anything that isn’t like home, or
- to roll with what comes, savor the unfamiliar, and delight in how much I do not know.
The second choice is the space where travel works it’s magic. (Is it all magic? No. But I shall not speak of the Airbnb debacle except to say I was surprised by my capacity for patience and self-compassion when careful plans turned very sour. And we got our money back!) Part of what is magic is intangible. But part of it can be identified.
As I learn about the world, I learn about myself.
- Change is hard! — even when I choose it.
- One carry-on case is quite enough!
- Good company transforms times of stress.
- You will find friends along the way.
- Simple things make the experience good: eat, sleep, walk!
- I have renewed empathy for non-English speakers in the US.
About that last point. Ken speaks German, so we move with relative ease. But you should have seen me at a cafe in Leipzig. On my own I asked the waiter, “Toiletten?” and he spoke only German and gestured for about ten second. Based on what I understood I walked out of the cafe, down the alley to the right, pushed open a huge door into another cafe on the left, went down stairs, through two more doors, and found it! When I returned to the table I was jubilant! I crowed to Ken, “I found the bathroom in German!!”
It’s the little things. But what if I’d needed to rent an apartment, find a job, or contact family by myself?
Here’s the thing: I need frequent reminders. Complacency slips over me when I stay in the familiarity of home and routine. I need repeated doses of the fatal experience of travel to keep hubris in check and compassion fresh. This may mean riding the bus, visiting a nursing home, or driving to the next state.
Over to You
What small things have you learned from travel — this summer’s campout or your last trip around country? Pictures make wonderful writing prompts. They give us fresh access to personal insight.
What is Photo Voice? Photo Voice is a way to amplify and reflect on life.
And it’s simple:
- Look at your pictures. Those you have from past travel adventures OR those you take today or this week on your trip to the market.
- Make it super easy — I use my phone. And keep it simple. Just point and shoot!
- Choose one photo.
- Print it out and paste it in a notebook. Or put it in a fresh google document. Or create a digital album.
- Write 3-4 sentences (or more!) about it: the story it makes you think of (or think up), or why you love it, what it means to you, the metaphor it holds.
- Share it. Use Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook (share with all your friends or just one), or keep it in your notebook to share with your future self.
Photo Voice is a creative way to tap into your inner life. When approached with intention, taking pictures is an avenue to finding meaning in your experiences.
If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.” ~ Brené Brown [emphasis mine]
Have you tried Photo Voice? Let me know!
Now I’m walking to the German version of Home Depot to find a thank-you gift for our host. Watch for a report from the road!