Disorientation as Life Practice

I have heard it said that when writing a book or blog one should “write what you know.” I am not sure I really know anything well enough to write about in an extended format. What I really know is myself (most days) and what I yearn for, what I am seeking, what I am confused about, and what I have, in some small way, done. 

So that is what this blog is about. I have traveled a little and I yearn to travel more. I have had some amazing experiences and hope I have a few others before I die. What I know about travel is that it is about more than a vacation. It is about more than a few weeks off. It is about more than a momentary adventure. It is about a whole host of things. Rick Steves, my travel hero, has a lecture (and wrote a book) he called “Travel as a Political Act.” Not to be too grandiose, but I think travel is even bigger than that title suggests. That’s why I call this blog Travel as a Spiritual Act. Travel has the potential to affect everything about our existence, to the very core of ourselves, to the depth of our spirit.

While I don’t have a wealth of experience, I have enough to begin to open the door to what travel can mean in the lives of the everyday woman or man who is willing to give some priority to leaving the comforts of home for a time. As an early adolescent, I rode across the country with my grandparents to what was then the mysterious southwest of the United States, leaving my parents behind for many months. In my college years, I spent time with a study group in pre-revolutionary Iran. In my early adulthood I spent a year teaching English to secondary students in Egypt. As my wife and I emerged from child rearing years, we began to prioritize travel outside of the United States. We spent time in European cities on our own, we toured with travel groups. Fairly recently I coordinated a trip to the “Holy Land,” to Palestine and Israel. Last year Lena and I walked the Camino de Santiago, this year I spent a week cycling with a group through the Connemara of West Ireland, and just a few months ago I was part of a pilgrimage to the deep south of this country to visit Civil Rights memorial sites and talk with participants in that foundational movement. In between there have been trips to large cities, to national parks, to mountains and beaches, and to the homes of friends throughout the United States.

All of it has been a process of learning and growth. What I like best and fear the most is the disorientation that travel can bring. Getting my bearings when I have just gotten off an airplane and need to find my way to a hotel in a new city. Trying to communicate in a small Spanish hamlet when I only have a few phrases of the language to utilize. Wondering what will happen if my bicycle breaks down along the Wild Atlantic Way. Taking seriously all the danger warnings I have heard yet staying open to all the people I meet. Disorientation is what changes us. Disorientation is what helps us grow. Disorientation is what allows the spirit to break into our mundane lives.

So, for better or worse, this is a story of disorientation. I hope it is is also a story of growth. I think it is a spiritual story.

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