… And we’re back. The blog has been on a hiatus for a month or so, partly because of my graduation and all the festivities surrounding it, and then because we took a trip to
Back then, I spent 6 months visiting 20 countries and traveling became a way of life. I got accustomed to needing only what I could carry on my back and to exploring new places and people almost daily. This time we spent just 8 days, and confined ourselves to the Emerald Isle and one night in
We walked (or biked) several miles each day, sometimes with our 30-lb packs in tow. We put our lives on the line and into the hands of the Bus Eireann drivers – who appear to have somewhere to be and nothing to lose on the way. We sat in pubs and talked politics and football with the locals. We sang passionately along with the ‘rare auld songs’ as though we’d been hearing them our whole lives. We allowed ourselves to be surrounded by the warm welcome of the Irish people, who showed us enormous kindness at nearly every turn. It was one of those trips that demands of your time, energy and love; and from which you come home totally exhausted and fully renewed at the same time.
It’s funny how trips like that – whether they’re to another country or just a few miles from home – help us to discover who we are. By engaging with experiences and culture that are not our own, we learn something about who we are – maybe something that changes even at the moment we’re learning it.
In our performance-oriented culture, we often define ourselves by what we have and what we do. People we meet ask us about ourselves, and we tell them first where we work. We pride ourselves on having the nicest home, the most exciting job, the most volunteer commitments, sophisticated tastes, interesting parties. All these active, deliberate things have a place in who we are and how we express ourselves to the world. They are things that make up our identities, our self-concept.
But another, often-overlooked part of ourselves is not in what we choose to do, but in how we respond to the world around us. Travel is a great example of both active and passive interaction with the world. It all starts with active choices: choosing to travel, selecting a destination, buying a guidebook, picking activities, and putting yourself out there for the experience. After that, it’s all about responding.
The long room in the library at
The awe I feel entering the hall with its polished wooden walls and the incredible arched ceilings. The first breath as the unmistakable scent of old books fills me with memories and possibilities – my summer at
Walking down the hall, my reaction to this place is visceral, unique, and difficult to describe. And even though I can never fully share it with others, it’s part of what makes me who I am, as fundamental in that moment as anything else about me.
Of course, you don’t have to travel to
Often, I think, we get so busy focusing on our life’s active choices – going to work, scheduling our social lives, keeping up with an endless to-do list – that we stop paying attention to our little reactions to the world around us. We lose touch with what (largely) makes us who we are.
For me, traveling is a great opportunity to reconnect with that reactive part of myself, the part that connects directly with the world, taking it in without judgment and allowing the reaction to flow wordlessly through me. Getting out of my routine allows me to sit back and just enjoy being a part of the world, appreciating the artful expressions and emotions of those around me (and those who lived long before me).
I am not a singer, but when everyone in the pub is belting out “Wild Rover,” I can add my voice joyfully, without thought of what others will think. I am not a theologian (or even a Christian), but the echoes of children singing within the old stone walls of St. Patrick’s can still fill me with spiritual reverence and comforting grace. I am not a historian, but I can place my hand on a carving created thousands of years ago and feel connected to my infinitesimal place in human history.
Back on my home soil and into my own routine again, I feel challenged to keep awareness of these responses and reactions with me, to allow them to impact me fully. It is our gift as human beings to be able to participate each day in our own creation. We are made, not by chisel and stone, blood and bone, but by moments and experiences.
What will I do with what the Sculptor gives me today?