There’s a quote by Anita Desai that goes a little like this, “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” How true those words ring in my own heart.
I do not take it for granted that life has given me opportunities to travel. To me, it has been life’s greatest gift. To be able to see God’s hands and feet in so many different countries has shifted my perspective on my own life and culture.
Growing up, my parents taught my brother and I the value of experiences over things. When we graduated from college, my dad gifted us each with a trip to a different country (me to hike Machu Picchu in Peru and Josh to trek through the jungles of Thailand). It is an experience that I will hold with me forever.
We are so very blessed and privileged here in the States, and I am really proud to call myself an American. And, while we have access to clean water and food (and Starbucks), there are some things to be said about other cultures that don’t have “all the things” that teaches you about the value of family, of love, of community over the chase of personal success and dreams.
In her book, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” It is worth the money spent on a plane ticket because like other investments in life, you are investing into your future, a future that becomes prosperous by getting the chance to experience another culture through the locals eyes, to see the beauty of foreign places and taste the foods that are cooked from a giving heart.
When I was in college, I took an Intercultural Communication class that highlighted the importance of making the known unknown and the unknown known. That is what travelling does, if you open yourself up to it.
Last week, while visiting Marrakech, Morocco, I was definitely not in my comfortable element. Walking the narrow and dusty streets, packed with market vendors and smells that made me hold my breath as I walked by, I reminded myself of that important phrase from my professor in college. To understand one another, we must make the unfamiliar known.
It was during our visit to a local village in Marrakech that I let that phrase ring true, that I found a piece of my heart being left with the people in the Atlas Mountains. Our trek guide led us past homes and tents that the local people picnicked from, and introduced us to children who gave us high fives and showed us the herbs that they had picked from their gardens.
Eat. They invited us into their home and fed us a true Moroccan dish, their smiles lighting up when we remarked how wonderful the food tasted.
Pray. As I walked through the Atlas Mountains, God reminded me of the time I trekked through the Andes Mountains in Peru in which He had whispered to me, “If I can move mountains, how much more can I do in your life?” Being in a Muslim country and though very different from my own beliefs, I was moved by their dedication to prayer (prayer calls happen about 6 times a day, the earliest starting at 4:30 in the morning and the latest being around 10PM).
Love. Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.” To be content with wherever we are, with whatever we have is the true source of joy. As we walked through the streets of the local Berber village in Morocco, I watched as this community was filled with no strangers, how they all greeted, laughed, and loved on one another. During our hike, our trek guide stopped us, told me to take his hand, and said, “With God and good luck, you will find good husband.” And, then, he put a flower in my hair. It was sincere and lovely, and we all smiled and laughed. I pressed the flower and kept it in my journal to remind me of the gift of happiness shared among strangers in a foreign land.
So, I’m back home now. And, a piece of my heart has been left all over the world with people I will most likely never meet again. Though I have everything I could ever need, and live a privileged life, I find how necessary it is, in this particular season, to meet and learn from others whose life’s experiences are quite different from my own.
The advice given to me by both my pastors and my parents was to travel as much as I can before I get married. Not to say I won’t travel once I am married, but once a family is brought into the equation, it will become less easy to do so. So, if you are still single, travel. And, if you are married and have a family, know that there is such a blessing in learning about love and community right where you are. To all of us, I say, travel to a different city, spend time in a different home than your own, be adventurous and try different foods, meet and have conversations with people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and before long you will come to realize that “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”