This year has been filled with travel. In October of 2008, we took 16 friends to Paris for a Christian trip with the theme: God Through the Eyes of the Artist (and the Artist in the Eye of God). Because the Mainses’ extended family only gathers together every other year for Christmas, my husband David and I took a trip for the Christmas week to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
In March, we flew to Kenya with a stopover in London so my son-in-law, a video producer, could visit this city he had never seen. The rest of the time in Africa, we worked together filming a microcredit startup, the Global Bag Project, our ministry is launching in which sustainable income is provided for bag-makers from selling reusable shopping bags.
Throw in a trip to Phoenix where our eldest son and three of our grandchildren live, a cruise up the St. Lawrence Seaway with a couple of grandkids ending in a week’s stay on Cape Cod and an American history tour in Boston, and our annual tour to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, ON, and we’ve just sliced the tip off the iceberg as far as our travel plans are concerned.
Because I truly believe a person cannot be educated unless he/she travels; because in a globalizing world, we need to understand that there are different ideas, different ways of knowing and processing those ideas, and that travel that creates dialogue, that challenges our preconceptions is not just a pleasure but utterly necessary for world peace, I am amazed to discover that only 20% of Americans have passports (well, 22% now because of the recent Canadian and Mexican border document requirements).
Granted, the States are beautiful, our country is large and there is plenty to see here (I would have moved to Cape Cod in an instant had it been feasible), but it is the world pressing in on us that we need to work to understand.
Early on, when our adult offspring were kids growing up under our roof, their father and I decided that if there was a choice between purchasing things and buying experiences (with our meager ministry salaries), we would choose experiences.
So off they went to Peru with their aunt and uncle, who were taking a church youth group to South America. They camped through Spain, took summer college courses in Europe, taught English as a second language in China, and roamed the continents with their parents, whose curiosity for travel has never abated, even though we are aging and really don’t know how long we are going to be able to keep up with all this transiting around the world. Now we travel with the grandchildren: France with one, Scotland with another. I want them to see and not be afraid of the unusual, the unexpected, the exotic or the remarkable. I want their memories to be filled with places and journeys and bumps in the road and detours and all the stories travelers tell to one another—“When we were in Alaca, Spain…”
I have rarely been in a place I didn’t think was beautiful, or the people fascinating, the architecture amazing or the history absorbing. My life, my thinking, my wealth of being have all been enriched by journeys, friends who joined us on Christian trips, conversations with folk who were of other faiths, seeing Israel without importing my Christianity into it; meeting with refugees on five continents and writing about their courage and their despair; being hosted by ambassadors, one Queen and King, relief and development workers, and U.S. Embassy staff. Right now, my nations-visited total is 66. I am at the point of live where I think, So many countries, so little time.
I have discovered that every journey can be a sacred pilgrimage. Phil Cousineau writes in The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, “Common to all pilgrims was the sense of awakened wonder. The long and wearing way carried them through strange lands filled with stranger people, which allowed them to experience
the wider world—probably for the first and only time in their lives. The pilgrim’s constant sense of surprise and astonishment at the ever-changing scenery, weather, and habits of others were as influential as the perils they had to overcome.”
So, I ask you the question I frequently ask of my own adult children: “Is your passport up to date?”
keywords: Christian vacation
Other projects involving Karen right now are: Working with teams of Christian women to design Retreats of Silence, in both 24-hours and three-days formats, through the aegis of Hungry Souls. Developing hospitality initiatives that train Christian men and women how to use their own homes in caring outreaches through the Open Heart, Open Home ministries. Launching the Global Bag Project, a worldwide effort that markets sustainable cloth shopping bags to provide sustainable incomes for bag-makers in developing nations. Researching the impact of listening groups while overseeing some 240 small groups over the last three years. Experimenting with teleconference mentoring for Wannabe (Better) Writers. Designing the Tales of the Kingdom Web site.