Kurtis and I dream a lot about places in the world that we want to one day see and experience. One thing that we have come to understand is that it is very easy to travel and see, yet not necessarily experience anything of real value or lasting worth. We meet people on our travels who are traveling for very different reasons – for leisure and relaxation, to check off a certain bucket list item, etc. The theme comes up often that, for ourselves, we ultimately want our travels to be meaningful. What is meaningful changes, I think – sometimes “meaningful” means spending hours in museums learning a whole lot about the history of a country so that you can more fully understand the place where the country is now; sometimes “meaningful” means staying with a semi-retired local in his house and swapping music from our countries; sometimes “meaningful” means visiting an elderly man whom you just met on the street and drinking hot chocolate at his house; sometimes “meaningful” means sitting in church services in cultures and languages that you do not understand. You get what I mean. Overall, “meaningful” always includes gaining a fuller understanding of the world than I had before I left our apartment.
The diversity of God’s creation never ceases to astound me; the cultures that come from the history and civilizations that are manifest throughout the world are unfathomable, beautiful, and 100% worth being experienced. Within me I feel that I have this raging urge to understand the world – not just through reading, looking at picture books, or talking to others who have traveled, but to really understand through first hand experience. It starts with being a keen observer, then an active listener, and then it builds into the articulation of insightful questions that probe into the real, under-the-surface gems of human experience.
We have a plaque in our living room that has a quote engraved on it by St. Augustine. It says, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” On par with my love for traveling is my love of good books! None of this beach-resort sitting, tour bus riding, preface reading, bookshop gazing for me! – I want to dive in, become engulfed, sort through the common themes and issues, wrestle with conflicting information, stay up all night if I need to, and come out the other end able to have genuine perspective on something to which I was previous ignorant. I want to know and experience the full scope of God’s creation that only comes through getting into the nit and grit of history, politics, religion, and culture. This usually comes with a price, though – it rarely is the comfortable or straight-forward choice; however, it is always worth it.