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And Away We Go!
Recently, my husband, Grant, and one of our daughters paid a long overdue, Covid-delayed trip to New Zealand where my husband was born and raised. On their last day there, they visited the beautiful place where Grant spent his formative years. Imagine a unique house built by my father-in-law, set in stunning scenery with a beach at the front and a river with swimming holes behind–as close to idyllic as a childhood can be! It was a revelation to my daughter who commented, ‘Now I understand Dad!’
It was only through this first-hand encounter with the environment that nurtured and molded her Dad that our daughter felt that she could truly understand him. And travel does that. Travel allows us to see people and seeing leads to understanding.
Not long after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the opening of Eastern Europe I went to Bulgaria. Though I had watched what was happening from afar, it was only by seeing for myself that I began to understand the truth of the situation–the bread queues and the switching off of water supplies during the nighttime hours.
As Christians we worship a God Who sees. Hagar, who was herself on a journey, is the first person to name God and she names Him, ‘You are the God who sees me’ (Genesis 16:13). We too should be those who see, for through seeing we understand.
And though travel offers precious opportunities to see others, traveling doesn’t always have to involve distance. My grandmother only flew once in her life, never went abroad, and in her young years the furthest she travelled was a once-a-year day trip to the coast. And yet, she was a lady who saw others in a way that made her slow to judge and swift to show kindness.
So, while I leap at the chance to travel (I can’t wait to go to France next week!), traveling is more than a stamp in my passport. It could be as simple as an excursion across town, checking in on a neighbor, or a visit to the other side of an argument, all of which offer the opportunity to see, understand and value others.
In this vacation month we’re thinking about travel. And, drawing on her own extensive experiences, Dorothy Greco explores the opportunities, enrichment and occasional challenges that leaving home offers to us.
Wishing you Bon Voyage, Sages!
Our contributor from the UK, Rachel Campbell, on behalf of the Sage Forum team
Where are you going this summer? We’d love to hear about your travels, whether it is around the world or across the street.
Travel wakes us up
by Sage Forum contributor Dorothy Greco
I’ve always loved to travel.
During childhood, my family crisscrossed the country multiple times (sometimes in a clumsy camper). One summer when I was as single and in my early twenties, I volunteered as a camp photographer in Alaska and then biked down the west coast. My work as a photojournalist has taken me to numerous countries and all but two American states. (Bonus points if you can guess which ones.)
If you have spent any time exploring in the past decade, I’m guessing you would agree that traveling has changed a great deal—not only because of Covid. Costs are skyrocketing (remember when we could take two suitcases and choose our seats without paying extra?), lines are longer, people are crankier (and increasingly engaging in horrifying behavior) and the weather is far less dependable.
So why not just stay home? Because traveling has the capacity to make us better people.
Even though we have unprecedented access to information from all over the world, virtual cannot compare to IRL. Visiting an unfamiliar place engages all our senses. I have vivid memories of walking along the streets of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as the sun was rising and the street vendors were cutting up mangoes and frying plantains. I remember making oatmeal on my camp stove as the wind sang through the Redwoods and years later, the gentle rocking of the boat as my guide and I moored for the night on the Amazon. Traveling wakes us up.
Additionally, what’s unfamiliar has the capacity to nudge us out of our comfort zone, which—assuming we’re willing—causes us to lean in, learn, and adapt. Being exposed to how someone else goes through their day can challenge our views and make the world a much bigger place.
While shooting an assignment in Europe that focused on Muslim immigrants, a gracious Bengali family invited me into their apartment during Ramadan and gave me total access to their lives for twenty-four hours. Their kindness and trust challenged me and caused me to repent of a few ignorant judgments I carried about Islam.
This type of immersion is my preferred method of travel. (And yes, I realize it’s not for everyone.) Walking and meeting locals helps me to gain an appreciation for and a deeper understanding of the area. It’s also quite vulnerable. When we enter a space as an equal (versus an entitled tourist), we’re choosing to trust. Not long after the Romanian Revolution, I stayed with a pastor’s family outside Bucharest. I had no idea where I would sleep (and sleeping is not something I do well) or what I would eat. The husband and wife insisted that I take their bed and unbeknownst to me, made quite a few sacrifices to keep me fed. Like the Bengali family and so many others I’ve met while on the road, those who have less materially tend to be more hospitable and more willing to share.
Looking back at all the people I’ve met and places I’ve been over the course of my life, I notice a throughline. When I’m humble, curious, and respectful, I become more empathetic. During the two years I spent documenting runaway teenagers in Hollywood, I couldn’t help but be moved by their pain and hardship. As I listened to their stories of abuse and neglect and began to comprehend some of why they chose to live on the street, my heart broke. Our shared longing to be known and loved helped me to see that we had more similarities than differences.
Aging and long-term health issues have made extended traveling considerably more difficult for me in the last five years. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is increasingly weak! But even as I write this, I’m packing my suitcase for a cross-country trip. That’s because traveling opens my eyes and my heart to the beauty, majesty, and wonder to all of God’s creation—and that’s definitely worth the cost.
NOTE: If you’re traveling this summer and are looking for a meaningful read, Dorothy's second book, Marriage in the Middle: Embracing Midlife Surprises, Challenges, and Joys is currently on sale through the publisher for a deep discount. Use this link and the code MOVING to buy the book at 60% off.
More worthy reads about some of the gifts travel offers us
Sage Media Picks for July
[BOOK] Two Lights of Hope by Taryn Hutchison. Hutchison’s excellent writing brings readers into the waning days of the brutal authoritarian reign of Nicolae Ceaușescu in this page-turner, the second book of a planned fiction trilogy. I haven’t yet read the first book in the series, and was not at all confused by the plot of Two Lights of Hope, which contains vivid descriptions of the privations of life in late 1980's Romania and characters who struggle to make sense of the past while navigating relatable teen relationship challenges of their present. (MV)
[BOOK] I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys. This novel is narrated by Christian, a Romanian teenager, about his love, Liliana, and the corruption, informing, and evil-infected communist countries. It's set in the 1980’s, right before the wall fell and communist countries became free. Romania was one of the last, if not the last, to restore her freedom. (JA)
[VIDEO–Disney+, Hulu] Welcome to Wrexham is the story of how Ryan Reynolds’ and Rob McElhenney’s investment in an historic but failing soccer club transformed and gave hope to the club, its fans, and indeed the whole town (now city) of Wrexham. Spoiler: it’s in the eagerly awaited second series that we’ll see the fruit of their investment. (RC)
[BOOK] Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life by Kathleen Norris. Acedia means absence of care and, in its most dangerous form, derives from a lack of spiritual self-knowledge. Related to depression, acedia is marked by indifference, helplessness, hopelessness, disgust, lassitude, despair, and self-defeating thoughts. These “bad thoughts” first came to Norris in adolescence and continue even now. To defeat them, she pours herself into writing, marriage, and the company of monks—the non-negotiables of stability, community, and prayer plus other tools including medication and therapy. (CD)
[BOOK] Walking Through Fire: A Memoir of Loss and Redemption by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. Introduction by Ann Voskamp. Vaneetha has the three D’s: divorce, disability, and death in the form of polio, her infant son’s death, and divorce from her first husband. And yet, through the fires she walks, asking, “Where are you, God? What’s this about?” Through each trial, Vaneetha’s faith grows because she gives her suffering to God, and God uses it for good. (CD)
[VIDEO: Amazon Prime] Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets. This four-part documentary is not for everyone, especially if you are still processing raw wounds from being involved at an earlier time in your life in a high-control faith community. Shiny Happy People places the Duggars, now-dethroned reality TV stars, in the context of the organization that shaped them, Bill Gothard’s cult-like Institute of Basic Life Principles/Advanced Training Institute of America. This organization’s influence was as pervasive as yeast in rising dough among conservative Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles from the 1970’s through 2000’s. It’s not an easy watch, but offers meaningful backstory about the trajectory of today’s Evangelicalism. (MV)
[BOOK] Earth’s the Right Place for Love by Elizabeth Berg. This nice novel, a prequel to The Story of Arthur Truluv, about Arthur Moses as a teenager, his brother, Frank, and his love for Nola. Arthur has loved Nola since he first saw her, they become friends, but Nola is always dating someone else. Arthur doesn’t want to get in the way of Nola’s happiness, so he sacrifices his own. Arthur has a good relationship with his older brother Frank, who advises him on interactions with Nola. The story is about empathy, grief, and love on many levels. (JA)
What are you reading, watching, or listening to this month?
Next in our video conversation series: Vocation, Work, and Reimagining Retirement with Judy Allen
Retirement from a full-time paid career can be a shock to body and soul. Judy Allen offers some hopeful, grounded thoughts about work (which is far more than a career!) and shifting into a new chapter of life. See Judy’s half-hour conversation with Michelle Van Loon, or browse our other Sage Forum video offerings at our You Tube channel.
On The Horizon
It’s not too early to think about programming for your small group or women’s ministry at church. The Sage Forum team includes a line-up of remarkable communicators who each have a commitment to meaningful life-long discipleship. Click here then scroll down the page to “Our Team” to learn more about our contributors. You can reach out to any of them by clicking here.
Coming soon from The Sage Forum
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Next month’s Sage Forum newsletter will take a look at nature, conservation, climate change, and stewardship. Got any thoughts, questions, or resources to share on this topic? Email us here.
“If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!” (Psalm 139:8-10 MSG)