It is less than a week before Douglas and I will begin our great adventure. Like the swallows, we will be long-distance migrants, flying a great distances have our soul needs met. For me, traveling seems to be in my blood. I need to experience life in different places, to feel truly connected to the rest of humanity.
My late aunt just could not understand my fascination with barreling across the sky in planes to go to places where I had no connection to the people. For her, traveling to Europe was not something that black people did, so, when I would tell her I was off to Spain or Switzerland, she would respond, “You always was the weird one,” or, “When did you get white?” I had to school her that black people lived in Europe, although I think that she did not believe me. I admit that my upbringing would not have given anyone a clue that I would catch the travel bug.
Being raised in abject poverty, the one time that I traveled away from my hometown was a school trip to the state capital, which was about 125 miles away. But, my love for reading all kinds of books taught me that the world was bigger than even my state, and that there was a lot of beauty that I had to travel to see. As a child, that became a dream: to visit all the places that I read about in my books.
I had plans to have traveled nearly around the world by the time I was 50, visiting every continent and seeing all the great museums in the world. But, I had to postpone that dream when I unexpectedly became a mother of four at age 21. For years, I saved a little bit here and a little bit there, hoping one day to use it to travel at my leisure, meaning staying as long as I wanted. None of those 8 countries in 13 days for me, but long, lazy days exploring every nook and cranny of one country before moving on to the next one.
What makes travel so important for me? Traveling helps us to see the connections between people, because we learn that people everywhere deal with the same issues: providing shelter, clothes, and food. I have been amazed at the similarities among us. If everyone could travel and experience th daily lives of people in other countries, we could reduce the prejudice and discrimination in the world, for everyone would see that there is one race, and that the human race.
Also, the pace of life differs according to where you go. Most other places do not have the frenetic pace of American life, so when I travel, I have to slow down my body and mind, which is a good thing. In Spain, when you go into a store near siesta time, they tell you to come back. In America, the retailer will keep selling as long as people are in the store. So, it is refreshing to go a place where money is not the sole focus of the decision-making process.
Another aspect is that travel to other places other than America nourishes my soul, mainly because as I touch and behold places and objects that are centuries old, like Roman ruins, I am reminded of the continuity of time. Standing in a church built in the 17th century, I find myself wondering about the lives of the women who worshiped there so many centuries ago and how they coped from day to day without the modern devices that I have. Somehow, I feel connected to them, as if I am completing their journey, and the women after me will complete mine. Somehow our souls will find connection and peace.
Travel reminds me of the reality of God. Observing the majesty of snow-covered mountains in the French Alps and looking out over oceans and rivers, I am reminded of Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and everyone in it belongs to Him.” It is as I look at the wonders in the many places in the world that I am convinced that truly “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1).
Lastly, as I visit the museums around the world, I marvel at the human spirit that seeks to create beauty to leave for the generations to come. One visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or the Prado Museum in Madrid will amaze one’s senses. I look at the dates of the art, and I wonder if the painter thought that over 200 years later, their creations would still be admired and still be bringing joy to the hearts and spirits of people? What joy it brings to my soul!
So, I am hyped to the max at the thought that this time next week, we will be walking the streets in Portugal, more likely already at the beach, creating an agenda of all of the places we will travel by rail and plane to see in two months. We will factor in our evangelism, so that we do not forget that we are also on God’s business. I am looking forward to the people I will meet, visit with, talk to, eat with, listen to music with, dance among, drink coffee with, and worship with over the next two and one-half months. I apologize in advance for butchering your language, as I ask for directions and food. Dr. Seuss wrote, “Oh, the places you will go!” Indeed! Just like the swallows, this weird chick knows when it is time to soar! Let’s go!