Can a mere trip overseas really change your life?
In truth, I think they almost always do: sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small.
Every time I put a used wine bottle filled with water on my table rather than a pitcher, a part of me stands in homage to France and their use of food to draw families close together. Each time I meditate, a portion of my mind walks on tip toe through temples in Cambodia, a culture so deeply aware that we are all spiritual beings. And from time to time, Hebrew songs I learned as a 18-year-old in Israel still wind their way through my mind.
My most recent month in Spain, France and Portugal felt more like many months, and it changed me deeply, in small and big ways I’m going to be processing for many years to come. There is a remarkable serendipity that happens on only some trips (if it happened every time, it wouldn’t feel remarkable). You meet people with whom you feel an inexplicable and significant connection. Unexpected coincidences occur, and things seem to happen as if by design.
It shouldn’t be surprising that a trip can change a person. The archetype of the journey is one of the oldest archetypal stories, and has been told for centuries of time. In this pattern, reflected in books from The Odyssey onwards, a protagonist journeys for a purpose, and is changed by the experience. In turn, the events that unfold reveal significant truths.
Of course some trips are just trips, but travel can be a way to learn in the world’s open enrollment university, where history, sociology, language food and culture converge in an intoxicating elixir. It can be a space to be humbled, where you remember how bewildering language was the first time you heard sounds and tried to string them together at the age of two. Travel can be immensely humbling, because you don’t know the rules and you’re not in charge and you probably don’t know where you’re going. This level of vulnerability is good for the soul.
Travel can be a way to wage peace, a literal and metaphorical crossing of borders, to learn something of the people on the other side, to find they are both different and strikingly the same as yourself—mortals with families, work, hopes, and challenges.
Travel can be a preventative measure for war and conflict, as it is not easy to cause the suffering of others with the same blank hatred if you have walked their streets and been guests at their tables.
Travel can be an act of praise. For what artist or writer does not want their work closely examined, considered and engaged? This world, if it has a creator (as I believe it does), was made vast and rich and full, when it easily could have been otherwise. Walking gently across its surface in search of answers feels to me at times like another form of prayer.
So pray, wage peace, cross borders, learn, create, and be changed with me. Who knows what you may find?