travel: meaningful, and meaningless
when we were in the states in march, we had the fantastic opportunity to teach a class at brigham young university!
a reader of this blog was enrolled in a course at byu called "global adventure travel," and her professor had challenged the students to invite individuals they knew that had varied experience around the world to be guest speakers in the class. i was so excited when i got an email from sydney asking us if we would come share our experiences with her classmates.
ian and i had a great time preparing and delivering our message - it was a cool thing to reflect on and project to work on together.
we focused our message on six ways that travel helps us to become better human beings. we shared these six ideas through sharing six pictures/stories. because byu is a church university, we talked openly about spiritual aspects of lessons learned in travel, and how engaging in new adventure and diverse culture deepens our ability, in beautiful ways, to be true disciples of jesus christ.
we started our presentation by getting to know the students in the class a bit, and telling them some tidbits about us. then, ian, ever a lover of numbers and data, showed them this chart that he created:
can you guess what the x and y axises are? :)
we told the students that we love to travel because it's fun and because it's exciting. but, in our opinion, that's a pretty poor reason in and of itself to do a whole lot of something. we prioritize travel in our shared life because it helps us to become better human beings, and better disciples of christ. because it is not only fun and exciting, but because it is tremendously meaningful.
there's actually dozens and dozens of means that we feel travel deepens us in valuable ways, but we chose to elaborate on just six:
^^ photo from mount cook national park in new zealand ^^
^^ photo from kandy, sri lanka ^^
^^ photo from the pilgrim circuit around the jokhang temple, lhasa, tibet ^^
^^ photo from thorong la pass, annapurna circuit, himalayas of nepal ^^
^^ photo from our road trip through north dakota, south dakota, and nebraska - to fulfill a random dream of ian's ^^
^^ for this last principle, we didn't have a picture, and that was part of the point we wanted to get across (that travel trains us in the balance between documenting and absorbing the present without documenting). we shared a story from nepal. ^^
after we shared these (what we consider to be) worthy reasons to do what's possible to make travel a part of one's life, we shared some of our tips around travel budgeting and travel planning.
and then - after we'd quite passionately discussed at length all the wonderful, honorable virtues of travel - we shared our opinion that, actually, travel doesn't matter. it is, ultimately, trivial.
in the end, there are many, many ways to learn how to be a better human (and a better disciple of christ). we can deepen ourselves - our appreciation, connections, devotion, relationships, and perspectives - in our own backyards, through so many different opportunities that are all around us if we but seek them. and in the end, it really won't matter how many countries we've been to or how many exciting adventures abroad we've had.
ian and i have determined that we really don't want our life to be about travel. we want travel to be part of our life - in moderation - because it is like a turbo button on meaningful deepening (and yes, because it is fun and exciting - which isn't a bad thing!).
but we want our life to be about family, faith, charity, sacrifice, and finding and spreading joy from ordinary (rather than exotic) things. we want to be able to be truly deepened by the simple experiences - visiting someone who is sick or struggling, soothing newborn babies in the middle of the night, magnifying invitations to serve at church, putting in hard work to strengthen our marriage, being involved in causes that alleviate suffering in the world, stopping to commune with god in a fast-paced world, having family dance parties before bedtime.
the thrill of travel can be contagious, consuming, even addicting. it is so so meaningful, but it is also, in the grand scheme of things, meaningless. and so, we shared a bit of advice with those bright-eyed students at brigham young university that morning: seek and relish opportunities to travel as much as possible, but seek and relish the truly important stuff more.
thanks again, sydney, for inviting us to your class!