Travel, for me, always brings the world into sharp perspective — what and who is important (and what is not), the meaning of life (seriously), and what is necessary. Having to think about and prepare for a long absence from Dustin, Jersey, family, and close (and new) friends, I was forced to think about questions like — why the heck am I leaving these people, this comfort, this life? And what should I bring to help me on my journey? What am I going to do if something happens to someone dear to me while I am so, so far away? And then, again, why am I leaving?
Travel is an experience of extremes — anticipation, excitement, sadness, happiness, patience, frustration, loneliness, community. Nothing about being out there on my own creates feelings like this. And I guess one of the reasons why I travel is because of that — I learn most about myself when I am pushing my internal envelope to see what I can handle. How hard is it to say goodbye to Jersey (um, I was a mess)? The folks? Dustin (talk about the lllloooonnnngggg goodbye)? And how about a 35 hour journey, complete with three yelling, laughing, un-parented 5 and 7 year olds, averting the 7lb max weigh-ins for carry-on (mine was probably 5 – 6x that), trying to understand the long wait in an airport where there were no announcements, little English, and no signage? And those are just a few highlights where I felt, shall we say, challenged.
On the other hand, I have been seated next a lovely Ethiopian girl, a nursing student at VCU (Virgina Commonwealth University), going home to see her family for the first time in five years… a very kind Zambian who works for the Central Bank and whose second child was born in Lusaka while I was sitting next to him on the flight (and even offered me his card should I have trouble making contacts within the Ministry of Health!)… Ethiopians (and perhaps Eritreans) assuring me through broken English and wide smiles that: “Lusaka, yes” (in other words, I was in the right place)… And, who would have guessed, but blissful sleep for most of the trip from San Francisco to DC, DC to Rome, and Rome to Addis. I never knew that I could sleep so well on a plane nor that it would be such a nifty place to start work on my mediation practice (thanks, Pema Chodron).
So, Lusaka, here I am. Freshly showered, fed, and unpacked, let’s see what challenges and heart-touching moments you have in store for me — I am sure there is more for me to learn.
And, FWIW, I also compiled a quote book (thanks for the idea a long time ago, Sierra). I wrote down important quotes, prayers, thoughts from others, etc that I will use for some daily reflection.
Today’s is from Cate — she sent it to Dustin and me prior to our travel to China:
Blessed are You, Lord our God,
For You have created a wide and wonderful world in which we can travel.
We ask Your blessings upon Dustin and Julianna as they are about to leave on a trip.
May You, Hold Guide of Travelers, be their ever-near companion,
spreading the road before them with beauty and adventure.
Free that road from harm and evil,
and send as their escorts Your holy spirits, Your angelic messengers, who accompanied the holy ones of days past.
On this journey, may they take with them as part of their traveling equipment
a heart wrapped in wonder with which to rejoice in all they shall meet.
Along with that clothing of wonder, may they have room in their luggage for a mystic map.
With the aid of this map, may they read the invisible meanings of the events of this journey
—of possible disappointments and delays, of possible breakdowns and rainy day troubles.
Always awake to Your sacred Presence and to Your divine compassionate love,
they shall see in all that happens, in the beautiful and the bad, the mystery of Your holy plan.
May the blessing of God be upon you throughout this trip; may it shield you from all harm and bring you home again in safety and in peace.