Take Your Big Trip To Experience and Encounter, with Love
On your big trip, you may be volunteering in Costa Rica, riding elephants in Thailand, dancing in Argentina, eating the best pizza in Italy, or joining a safari in Kenya. It may be tasting all the beers Belgium, riding the waves in Australia, or trekking in Patagonia. Do one, do some, or do them all.
All these activities can be the meaning to your life because they get you out into the world and show you of what you are made. Most importantly, they provide meaning because they allow you to witness truth, beauty, and goodness. A big trip can provide a garden of novel opportunities because they fulfill your unique desires and passions; teach you lessons that you would otherwise not learn at home; and provide answers to your deepest questions.The beautiful thing in traveling to encounter is that you really never know what’s going to happen.
My friend Jesse went to Istanbul and while visiting the Blue Mosque went in and joined the mosque’s Imam for tea. She recounts that learning aboutIslam from this religious leader was one of the best moments of her trip and added to her religious tolerance and empathy. My friend Robin purposefully strayed from her tour group in Venice and was invited to a rooftop birthday party where communication was mostly hand gestures, but she found the beauty of serendipity and new Italian friends.
You can also find it knowing why you want to travel and doing so with love.
What is it about these dream places and activities that speaks to you? If you’re asking about the meaning of your life, then I’m guessing you’re a little bit stuck. Travel with the quest to become unstuck, travel as a way to find experiences and people who reveal to you your purpose. If you’re an artist, go visit art and artists who inspire you. If you’re a writer, visit places and people (living or dead) who you want to write about. If you’re an engineer, visit the world’s great canals and bridges to marvel at how they work. If you want to be a better person, find opportunities to make a positive difference.
Ask the question, seek the answers, and illumination follows.
To get started, from the first day of your trip to the last, make this request (note: this is also called a prayer):
“Please show me some aspect of the purpose of my life today, in this place, with all these people.”
Go with that request, but also take great care. Unless you’re going to be sitting in your hotel room the whole trip, the place, the culture, and its people are not there to serve you and your mission.
One of my pet peeves in talking about trips is the use of the word “do” a country as in “We’re going to do Thailand,” or “I’ve always wanted to do Mexico City.” This word “do” is saying that the country is there just for you to use for your own fulfillment. It’s saying that a city or a beach is just a canvas for you to paint on; on and the residents better provide the right paint and make sure you’re comfortable while doing so, otherwise, the whole place just sucks and dammit they should be glad you are there spending your money.
A place is not there for you to “do stuff.” (If you have any doubt, ask residents of any city that’s a populous tourist destination). To “do” a country just for the sake of the experience is a very selfish way to travel because in the simple words it positions the place as serving you. Selfish travel is not conducive to finding your meaning because very little will be revealed to you other than what you already know.To find your meaning by experience and encounter, you have to travel with love. It a give and give scenario.
Traveling with love means traveling to a place that you desire — that’s unique to you — and then finding what makes it unique so that it reveals itself to you. Just like you, a place is unique and only exists as this one place in the world. If you are drawn to it and go with love, then your path will be revealed at an intersection of the place’s uniqueness and your uniqueness.
To travel with love, follow these simple guidelines:
-Arrive as a guest and as a gracious witnessBe polite and open to other ways of doing things
-Do not impose your own views upon the culture and its people
-Get to know a place first and seek to understand instead of passing judgment or having expectations
-Be socially and environmentally responsible in how you travel to treat the culture and place with respect
-Learn a few simple phrases of the language; walk around or take public transport, and always ask before taking pictures of people
By traveling with love, the place will reveal more experiences and more encounters than you could have ever desired because you are looking outside yourself and your desires. The place will respond with answers to your request for meaning and mission.