This post is brought to you by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Vina Barham.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, travel was a big part of my life. Growing up in the Philippines, we traveled often to nearby provinces but never far enough. I got my first whiff of intercontinental travel when we moved to the U.S. I was 16. It was exhilarating. Everything was new. Every bite of American food was delicious, even when it just was frozen waffles (I know, crazy huh?) It was like being born all over again. The sight, the smell, the taste, the touch of everything around me were worth noticing and fully experiencing.
Of course after several years, the novelty eventually wore off. Right before I graduated from college, I went to China for a summer mission trip and it rocked my world. I decided to move there after college for a few years. Having to figure out my identity and purpose in the midst of interacting with another culture profoundly changed me. When I finally moved back to the U.S. I took a job overseeing a short-term mission program for an international agency. My husband and I also traveled to Asia and Europe together our first two years of marriage. Then we became parents. And you know how THAT goes. The farthest we’ve travelled since then was to Chicago. And so we had to figure out ways how to cultivate our love for travel and all that it offers, without leaving home. For now.
The Awesomeness That Is Travel
Sometimes I feel like I was born to travel. I don’t mind airports and time changes. Feeling out of place is pretty normal for me. I can make do with minimal personal hygiene and I will try about almost anything as long as it doesn’t kill me. I can deal with getting lost in a city if I have a map and a language dictionary. As much as it is the thrill of being in a new place, travel has brought a lot of unexpected richness in my life.
- Travel has widened my sensory experience. Often when we go outside the confines of our everyday, we are given an opportunity to a new way of seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting. Jawaharial Nehru, first prime minister of India was quoted saying,“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Of course we don’t have to travel far and wide, as I am going to talk about more in the next section, but travel has a magical way of ushering us into a new adventure.
- Travel has stretched my ability to live simply. Going beyond the borders of what was comfortable for me forced me adapt to the unknown and the unpredictable. I learned that I didn’t need much in this life, and that richness is found in the essentials and not luxury. Cesare Pavese said once, “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” Exactly.
- Travel has broadened my understanding of the world. Traveling grounds me in the realities of the bigger world we live in. It broadens my heart and soul to what I welcome as good and it puts me in touch with pain and suffering that I am often shielded from. It helps me see my prejudices and bigotry that I don’t realize I have. It also gives me a more holistic perspective of the culture I grew up in (Philippines) and the culture I am immersed in now (U.S.). My context for living has changed. Samuel Johnson puts it well, “Traveling helps regulate our imaginations by reality, instead of thinking how things may be, we see them as they are.”
- Travel has deepened parts of me I wouldn’t have otherwise tapped into. There’s something about travel that unmasks and unravels our inner being. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that our life here on earth IS a journey and that we are travelling towards a destination, which I fondly call My True Home. Perhaps deep within we are all nomads and sojourners who have lost touch of what travel does to us because these days, we want nothing more than to stay put, be stable and lock in on the promise of security for ourselves and our families. But travel pulls away that veil and reminds us that THIS isn’t it. There are better things ahead. We don’t fully know or comprehend what is over there, but we hope. And I quote Martin Buber, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
While I do want to encourage everyone to consider making space for travel in their life, I understand why some will never venture out to another country. If that is you, please don’t take this as a form of judgement, or another reason to feel guilty over something you should add to your list of things to be and do. I’m merely here to share my passion for a lifestyle that is worth pursuing. And I want to underscore today that travel IS a lifestyle, not necessarily logging in some thousand miles on your passport. I believe that we can live mindfully, as sojourners and travellers, without having to leave home. And here are some ideas:
- Cook A Meal. Rudyard Kipling once said, “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” And it is so true. The aroma of what’s cooking in the kitchen is very distinct to each culture and much can be learned and appreciated from the uniqueness of their food. The spices and kinds of vegetation each country grows tells the story of the people. I recommend borrowing cookbooks from your local library that also provides a rich history of food, and those written by people who have lived in the country first hand. Give your family the gift of savoring another culture right from your kitchen.
- Shop World-Class. This is not a popular thing to say these days but I think shopping local is overrated. There are definitely things I would buy local, but I also am an advocate of being a thoughtful global consumer, especially if they are made by local artisans who put a distinct stamp of their culture on the products they create. Here are some places I recommend buying from: Ten Thousand Village, etc.
- Learn another language. If you are a mom of a small child, why not learn another language with them? You don’t have to master it. But perhaps learn some conversational sentences along with your child. Or learn a popular song sung in a different language. Speaking of music…
- Listen to music from another culture. Again, your local library is your friend. I often borrow children CD’s from Africa and South America and listen to them with my little one. We also listen to Filipino music and hope to try many others as well. Although we don’t understand the song, the different rhythms and beats give us a different experience from what we are used to.
- Go to museums or event. Often, your local museum will showcase art from another culture. Take advantage of these. Take your kiddos and take advantage of the opportunity to see a little bit differently. Artists are often the prophetic voice of a culture. They often highlight what you don’t read on newspapers and such.
- Watch international movies. Many movies made in the U.S. today are increasingly more global but also try to find some movies originating from outside the U.S. They may be dubbed in English or they may have sub-titles, which I think makes for a better sensory experience.
- Read stories. Sure, we can read bout missionary biogrpahies. But how about strories told by the “normal” people? Most of us are not going to be “missionaries” in the technical sense of the term, but “normal” everyday people who live out our lives in simple ways It may help us walk in someone else’s different yet familiar shoes.
- Read the international section of the newspaper. If you don’t already, head over to The Economist or Reuters or the International Section of the New York Times. Or better yet, scout online for local news originating from the country you are interested in learning more about.
- Open your home. I am very thankful that we live in a very ethnically diverse city. Our husband and I have hosted a student from Asia and plan on continuing opening our home in that way. We are actually in the process of figuring out whether we want to be foster parents to refugee children who are waiting to be resettle in Seattle.
What do you think? Are you a travel-enthusiast or is travel something you’ve never even considered, ever? Do these ideas resonate with you? Do you have more to add to the list? Share your story and thoughts!