I remember more than one night lying in bed late, in the dark, except for a dull street-lamp filtering through cracks in my venetian blinds, feeling restless. Getting up and going for long walks: padding round and round the nearby pond at my apartment with the spraying fountain in the middle. This was about a year and a half ago.
Twas thinking, “I’m tired of here. Maybe I should take a trip. A big trip. Maybe I could make more of a difference somewhere else. Maybe there’s a hungry kid out there on the other side of the globe whom I could give a lunch to. A kid that, if I stayed here, wouldn’t get lunch. Or maybe I would be changed through having my horizons stretched in a wild cross-cultural experience. Maybe I would see reality clearer. Maybe I would see something interesting, at least. Maybe I would see God! Maybe it would be good for me, or perhaps something good would come from it, anyhow.”
In any extent, I had too many greenbacks burning holes in my pocket to get excited about continuing working a job I was ambivalent towards at best, and downright weary of at worst.
One night I mustered resolve, packed my car with a sleeping bag and several cans of beans and hit the road, but got sleepy in Western Kansas and pulled over in a field to rest. Next morning I drove back to work and reality. So much for that.
But then I really did it! quit my job, and after warming up with a western America road trip and six weeks in the Haiti and DR, launched on a six month “vision trip” to some of the furthest flung reaches of the globe. Now I’m back.
Was I profoundly changed? Doubt it, but maybe. Did I reduce my denarii in the bank? Considerably. Do I regret what I did? No. At least not yet.
If nothing else, after poking around mother earth… she now feels cramped to me, far too small. Airplanes have diminished her girth to survivor status.
Since getting back I’ve had a funny feeling hit me several times, especially at night before I fall asleep: a feeling of my brain being crowded with too many memories. Like an action reel in fast forward: strange people, exotic locales, and bizarre events all race across my mind-screen… causing an overwhelming feeling like I can’t process everything, like the recollections have no context in which to make sense, no appropriate neuron rack on which to hang their tails.
In short: the proverbial lawnmower deck of my brain is clogged with the wet grass of incohesive experiences, to borrow the colloquialism.
So I’ve traveled. Got to do fun things, serious things, educational things, religious things, and a few dangerous things (not too dangerous).
A few highlights:
Scuba dived in the Red Sea, snorkeled in the Caribbean, surfed in the Indian ocean, and swam off Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. Took a horse full gallop in the Sinai, a boat full throttle down the Omo, and scary mutatos full speed through Africa.
Pilgrimaged in the footsteps of Jesus in the Galilee, studied the Bible at the Wailing Western Wall in Jerusalem, and frequented Messianic congregations in Israel. Climbed Saharan sand dunes in simmering heat, punched cattle in the Negev, and drank boiling tea with Bedouins in the dessert.
Came face to face with grinding poverty in Port-au Prince, Addis Ababa, and the Kibera slums. Rode a camel round the Giza Pyramids, a ferry through Venicean canals, and a Land Cruiser through outback bush. Visited remote tribes in both the jungles of Papua and the savannahs of Ethiopia. Went to the source of the Nile in the African highlands, and its mighty exit in Alexandria.
Saw raw Islam in the soaring minarets of Cairo, raw Orthodoxy in the rock-hewn churches of Lalibella, raw Judaism in the yiddish davening of Hasidim, and raw Christianity in the exuberant praise of Haitians.
Lived two months within a snipers range of the Gaza strip, visited the border region of Syria, crossed the Sinai, and traversed bandit-ridden northern Kenya. Frequented the epicenter of world tension: the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, and spent time at the birthing place of the Egyptian revolution: the infamous Tahrir Square. Got a haircut in Tahrir square too (thought I’d throw that in). Arrived in Sentani, Indonesia during a time of political unrest.
Experienced the exhaustion of overnight bus rides, the stress of hitchhiking after midnight (alone), the frustration of being unable to communicate, and the isolated feelings of rolling into foreign shanty towns.
Numerous individuals and families provided me with overwhelming hospitality and I was the recipient of multiple gifts and special kindnesses. Had my heart touched through friendships made on four continents. Was inspired by sacrificial examples of living and giving I saw in a number of missionaries. Got to rub shoulders with some special folks.
In the WWII history department, got to see General MacArthur’s Pacific base in Indonesia, tour the USS Arizona Monument in Pearl Harbor, and was deeply moved by the holocaust museum of Yad Vashem.
Did volunteer work in five countries. Put in enough community service hours to no doubt earn the corresponding Boy Scout merit badge.
Speaking of which, what about that lunch for the hungry kid on the other side of the globe I’d thought about giving before I left? Well, here and there I was able to give some kids lunch, and even a few adults. It wasn’t much, but something… Some I talked with, others prayed with, some were preached to, others just got food, and a few received a Bible besides. So a soul or two out in this wide world went less hungry, at least for a day, because I left home, and perhaps a few got spiritual food as well.
In travelling over 40,000 miles, the globe was circumnavigated on everything from the back of a bicycle to the back of a transport truck.
I purchased 18 one-way airline tickets which totaled 30 legs of flights. Total cost for said tickets (including the trip to Haiti/DR last summer) was $3,250. That doesn’t seem too bad… got a few good deals from credit card promotions and always hunted for bottom basement carriers when bought any ticket outright. Hence the extravagant number of layovers and flying inconvenient hours sleeping in airports.
So how much did the whole trip cost? I don’t know, didn’t keep track.
But I did touch ground in 12 countries, which is a nice number, but with all that somehow escaped falling in love with any cute foreigner girl, of whom I met several.
Trendy stats aside, what have I learned?
That, my friend, will have to wait for another post. Mainly because I’m not yet sure what I’ve learned.
But first, time to head off for quality time staffing at Turkey Hill Ranch Bible camp in Missouri! Sleepless nights, here I come…
(note my Blogging may wane as internet at camp is more sketchy than in remote southeast Asia)