My childhood memories are filled with trips to Zimbabwe. I can clearly remember checking a book out on Scandinavia at the age of 7 or 8. I can remember having my photo taken with a Beef Eater and the tower of London at 9 years old. Less than 10 years later I found myself pushing a slip of paper towards the ticket master praying that the German written on it actually would take me to my destination.
Travel is in my blood. I go without new clothes, cars or fancy meals out to save for my next trip. Since I was 18 I challenged myself to try and see one new country a year for the rest of my life. I hope to eventually have visited as many countries as the years of my birth. I’m two short for now. In November, I turn 32 and this last week I visited my thirtieth country, Portugal.
This year my husband and I have added another four countries to the list. We walked through Troy in Turkey, stood in the middle of Times Square, and navigated our way through the tiny one way streets of Portugal and Spain.
I know I am privileged to have travelled as much as I have. Travel has taught me so much about myself, and others, but there are few lessons in particular that have stayed with me. No matter whether I’m on the road or at home, these are things that often get me through when I feel like giving up.
I’m stronger and braver than I think.
My first solo trip overseas I was 18 and going to au pair in Germany. I didn’t speak more than 20 words of German and I was landing in Zurich. My host family told me it would be easy to catch a train and ferry across Lake Constance to their hometown. What they didn't realize was I’d spent almost my whole life in South Africa and I had never used public transport, let alone switched trains and ferries in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. But I did it. Even now when I think, ‘Can I do that?’ I think back to the young woman finding her way from Switzerland to Germany and remind myself that I’m stronger and braver than I think.
Life is happening right now.
Mr. Kahn sat down on the paved rocks beneath century old trees and pulled his legs underneath him. He pointed a crooked finger towards the Taj Mahal and asked my husband and I if were ready to leave.
We looked at each other and said, “Yes.”
Mr. Kahn looked at me with the eyes of someone who has lived seventy or eighty years and told us, “You stay. You sit. You look. One more hour. You will never come back to this place. Don’t rush. Take it in.”
We looked at each other again, then back at the white monument in front of us, and sat and took it in.
An hour later Mr. Kahn returned for us and we walked away looking over our shoulder and wondering if we could stay for just a little longer.
Now, whenever I think about rushing something, I think of the wise words of Mr. Kahn and I slow down, take it in and enjoy the moment.
It felt like around every corner in Vietnam there was a bargain to be had, a bargain that needed to bartered for. Each night our band of travellers would collect for dinner and share our spoils for the day. We would all try and see who paid what for each item and who was ripped off. Bob, a man who had been travelling in Vietnam and China for years, broke into our conversation one night. He asked us if it really mattered what whether someone paid more or less for something. What really mattered was that we felt content with the price we paid. He went on to say that everything has a value, but it is the value you and I put on it at the time. So when I am bartering for something if I think it is worth $5 at the time, then that is its value to me and I should be content with what I paid for it. This has kept me second guessing myself in boardrooms, when my husband and I purchased a house, and it’s kept me sane when I’m travelling and wondering if I’ve got a big sign on my head saying, “Tourist.”
God is really big
Maybe this one goes without saying but the more I see of the world and realize what a big place it is, the more I comprehend how big God is. Not only is God greater than me in stature, but he has a bigger imagination than I can comprehend. In the Philippines he amazed me with a sunset over a tropically shaded ocean. In Tanzania, I saw giraffes of a different shade to the ones I see in South Africa. In Turkey, I saw fire come out the side of a rocky hill. God’s creativity amazes me and reminds me that there is more to my life than the parts that I can see, that there is more happening in the world than the things that affect me, and that God is concerned and in love with all of it.
Each time I travel I discover something new about the place, the people who live there, and myself. I’d love to hear the things that travelling, whether across the street or across the world, has taught you.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.