Monday, April 28, 2014

thoughts on traveling

photo credit: Betsy Barber
I tend to be a bit of a homebody; I like traveling while I'm doing it, but the idea of planning a trip rarely sounds attractive.

I think some of this is probably because I grew up traveling a lot. I was born in the States, but my earliest memories - my two or three toddler memories - are of Mexico, where my family lived while my parents trained to become missionaries. Then we moved to the sub-arctic of Canada, that snowy, scrubby landscape where all my young childhood memories live. And I have lots and lots and lots of memories of all the road trips between Canada and the States. Practically the whole western half of the States. A lot. With long stays in Oregon here and there.

So, that might be part of why I like staying home. I already have traveled. A lot.

I still like seeing new places, though, and I'm always ready to go to the mountains - any mountains. So I do still travel. And I want my kids - who aren't growing up as MK's - to know the world outside of their home city.

Still, travel doesn't feel like travel is a virtue, exactly, and I know some people see it that way.

And I can see why. Travel is horizon-broadening, pretty literally. I know that living in a different country - even one you think is as familiar as Canada or Mexico - can really change your view of the world. In a good way. Most MK's I know (as well as military brats and other former ex-pats), are both grounded and easy-going in a really particular kind of way. It's like we've lost enough and experienced enough that we know both what we really do care about, and what doesn't actually matter at all.

But travel has its limits. There's a virtue to staying in one place, too. Sometimes, when I hear people extolling the virtues of travel, and how experiencing all those cultures has made them better people, I think, Yes, but all of your experiences in these countries, with all these new cultures, are yours due to the virtue of people who stay in one place.

People who stay in one place. That's a group that makes up most of humanity, I think. Anywhere you travel, you're going to experience the culture of the people who actually live there. Who make their homes there. Whose grandparents have been buried there and whose children probably will be, too.

There's a virtue to travel. But what people would you meet when you travel if there wasn't anyone who stayed in one place?

I'm kind of glad I've had the chance to do both.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Abuk said...

Well put friend! I agree that travel is not a virtue - we can become more virtuous through travel if we work hard (as with any virtue) but the mere act of traveling does little toward this end (in my opinion). Another side to this coin is the traveler who stays (ie the ex-pat worker who doesn't just visit but tries to live) is able to glean value from the stayers (as you put) but also infuse value to them by bringing a bit of the virtue of travel to those that stay. I feel this way about so many in my passport country that have brought through friendship some of the greatest virtues of travel without me leaving my home. Love to you!

Bethany said...

I loved this post. I just finished commenting on a bunch of student thesis statements about The Odyssey, and I tried repeatedly to point them toward the tension between travel and home in the epic. I'm afraid I didn't succeed. And then I open your blog and see this! Here you said so well what so many have struggled to put into words. Thanks, Jessica!

becca said...

As someone who falls into the category "military brat" and moved at least every 7 years, if not every 18 months, and is starting year 8 in my current place of residence, I feel stir-crazy. I both envy and don't completely comprehend those whose whole lives have been rooted in one spot. Even harder to comprehend are entire families who have lived and died in one locale for generations. Partially I feel as though frequent relocation is exciting and, I agree with you, useful in teaching you what really matters and what doesn't matter at all. But, on the other hand, I also sometimes think that my lack of a "home" or "place I'm from" makes me anomos, which isn't good.

In the end, I think there are good things to be gained in both, but the older I get, the more I know that living near the people you love and the people who love you, living in one place for a long time and building a community, and sometimes seeing the world and bringing those lessons back to a single, rooted spot is probably the way we were intended to live. It forces us to be honest with each other when we see the rough spots and the day-to-day in a way we can avoid if we're far apart or unknown.

Jessica Snell said...

Amie, Bethany, and Becca - thank you all so much! You've given me even more to think about here. :)

Marcy said...

Makes me think of these two songs:

But especially the first one, "Anchorage."