Friday, September 2, 2016

to journey and return.

These are some reflections on the Grand Eastern European Trip I took. You can read about the beginning of the adventure here

It's been almost a month since I returned from Semi-Unwise Foodie Road Trip Across Eastern Europe. (Quite literally--a month ago, I was sitting in a hotel room bed in Helsinki, Finland, trying to get some access to the WiFi by sitting in the corner and then standing on my bed, trying to get a signal.)

I still look back and wonder how we managed to pull it off.

But really. I remember sitting in my flat in Oxford, figuring out logistics. We had no idea what we were getting into or how planes would be delayed, how we'd end up not able to find our hotel room in the maze of streets, or how Briana would get terribly ill in Estonia. The fact that everything actually worked on this trip is nothing short of a miracle.

The fact that we're alive is also a miracle.

There are travel companions . . . and then there are Eastern Europe travel companions. With our combination of language skills, Krav Maga skills, brains, humor, and ridiculous good looks, Briana and I made a stellar travel duo.

[I mean. Amiright?]

I've always loved to travel. I really do believe--like Mark Twain said--that travel is 
 the enemy to bigotry:

"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."

Leave it to Mark Twain to be blunt.

Along these lines, Briana and I also decided that travel is an antidote to apathy. Whenever you travel to a place, you care about it a lot more. You have a vested interest in a place, people, or culture, because in a way, it becomes a part of you. I will be a lot more aware of Hungary and Croatia now than I used to be. You don't necessarily have to travel to a country to love it, of course (I'm a big advocate of literature and history accomplishing the same goal of making you aware of a place), but it does help.

Of course, I know that there is more to a country than the touristy parts. A lot more. One of my fears is that I will just "taste" the world instead of feeling it. I want to embrace the world. And I hope (and think) that even though this trip was literally a whirlwind tour, I felt more than tasted. I tried to soak in the cities--the languages, the dress, the smells, the atmosphere--instead of just seeing what the world could offer me.

Of course, part of travel means the return. We have to learn to "journey and return." (See this song here--it is beautiful.) We explore, we seek, we experience, we find . . . and then we come home. We are never the same from what we see and experience. There are parts of ourselves we leave in distant lands. And there are things we gain--from walking along the Danube, from wide Latvian skies, to the maze of St. Petersburg streets.

But we return. Sometimes that landing is painful. Other times it is smooth. But we always return. And we hope that there will be people who we can share our moments with. And we hope that there will be other adventures. And the thing is? There usually will be.

But for the moment, I've returned. And I'm learning how to return with grace. All we can do is try, right?

Thank goodness I have the opportunity to journey and return. Not everyone is so lucky, I know. I just hope that I can use my experiences for good.

Song of the Day: All I Can See, by Brendan James

I want to walk through this doorway
I want to open my mind 
I want to pledge my allegiance to all I can find
I want a car that will crash through the barrier
To a road no one knows
I want to feel less control on the bend and I 
Want to land far from home. 

The revolution of the earth around the sun 
Is the perfect lesson of how it should be
So if I cannot learn to journey and return 
To never rest til I've seen all I can see. 

I want to learn a completely new language, 
One I don't understand. 
I want to help someone lost, someone helpless
With the strength of my hand 
I want to come to the base of a statue built
Before they counted the years
And there I'll fall with my face in my hands 
And cry and feel their hope in my tears. 

The revolution of the earth around the sun 
Is the perfect lesson of how it should be
So if I cannot learn to journey and return 
To never rest til I've seen all I can see. 

Train rides and pastures colliding
Colors and customs I've never seen 
I know I, yes I know I, 
I know I will stumble, but, 
Time is precious my friend. 

Those who journey can easily understand
The more they see, the more they'll learn, 
There more that they will be
So this I swear to you, and this I swear to me
I'll never rest till I've seen all I can see
No, I'll never rest till I've seen all I can see

I want to know where the strength of a person lies, 
In their past or their future
Is it in the way that they hurt 
Or they love themselves, or is it all an illusion? 
I want to crawl from this skin that I'm painted in 
Body, please let it give
I want to find the Creator of all good things, 
And ask what it means to live. 

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