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 kandy, sri lanka ^^
^^ 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!


  1. x axis- age, y axis- number of countries.

    great perspective and lesson.

    1. oh, if i'm right, do i get a prize? perhaps a free trip to london? ;)

    2. haha, you're right. if you COME to london, i'll give you a free lil walking tour ;)

  2. Great post Chrarity and also being mindful that not all have the opportunity to travel. While I am extremely blessed like you I feel that you while travel is fun, exciting, and all the reasons you stated about you can have all these same experiences in ones backyard. It sure is fun though when you get to tick off another place though like you just did with Russia. I am pining to go to Rio and Slovenia along with Istanbul. Dying to go to the place where you guys went in Turkey with the hot air balloons, but my husband doesn't feel like it is really safe right now. Have a great weekend!

    1. rio is also on my short short list! and you will looooove cappadocia!

  3. This is such a great post. I love how you are realistic about the expectations of traveling. It is so easy in our photo driven culture of today to turn quickly to comparisons. "Oh so-and-so got to go there! I want to go there" Sometimes it's great; I've been introduced to so many lovely places through your blog, but that doesn't mean that I have the replicate the experience as you had it, and to be honest, there are some places that were super to see in photographs but I just don't have the desire to visit there myself. When we feel our own sense of worth diminish because we haven't been to such-and-such place, we are really placing ourselves in an unhealthy situation. There is nothing wrong with staying put and "staycationing" something I've learned to appreciate only in the last few months. It's all about finding joy wherever you are, something you seem great at, wherever you are :)

  4. I love this!!!! This was definitely the main take-away i got from your lesson and something i have been thinking about a lot. While traveling can be fun and addictive and adventurous it is sadly not ideal and logical to be able to travel everywhere all the time. We can really find the same joy and thrill while being at home, and focusing on the things that really matter. I am so glad that this was fun for you guys to prepare and to do!! :)

  5. i'm dying at ian's line on the graph. haha, lucky guy got an increase with marrying you ;). <3

  6. Good list. I find that the best travel experiences are when I'm more invested. If I know specifically where I'm going, I know some history and have an interest in the people and place, even the language, I learn a lot more and it is much deeper and rewarding experience. I love Ian's graph. Hyrum would totally do the same thing : )

  7. May I give my honest opinion without being called I hater, but maybe open a discussion?

    I don't think this is a great post. In fact I think the line "travelling is meaningless" is anticlimatic. I can agree with all the other five points and I, too, love travelling. But the sixth point is SO obvious.

    1. of course you may, kerstin!

      a couple questions for you:
      -do you think that just because something is obvious, it shouldn't be talked about/explored?
      -do you think that something has to be climactic to be true? or to be worth discussing?

      thanks for sharing your perspective!

    2. First I need to correct myself (I had read the post and then came back after some time to comment): I can agree with all six points/reasons to travel. What I didn't like was your ending (travel is meaningless).

      The answer to your questions is: No, I don't think that. I'm not criticising your post/speech with regards to content. What "bothered" me was the composition. I imagined sitting in class and I'd be interested in the six reasons and in your tips. And if you continued, I'd just expect some different ending, some aha moment (is this English? Google says so...), something that would astound me or struck a chord - like Jess M said. So yes, to be a good post/speech the ENDING had to be climactic and not so obvious.

      Ha, so obviously, it did struck a chord, just another one.
      I'm not saying, it was a bad post, I've just liked others better.

    3. fair enough! wether it was climactic or not, the point we made at the end of our presentation was something we felt strongly we needed to say. i think it did strike a chord with some (as evidenced by other comments on this post), but if it didn't with others, that's okay. we still think it's true, and needed to be said :)

      thanks again for sharing your perspective, kerstin!

    4. I agree that it's true. Sometimes I wish my favourite bloggers would post something that would enrage me, so I could have a real discussion with them, instead of just agreeing or acting like an editor... :-)

  8. I really enjoyed this - Thank you Charity :)
    I'm definitely trying to be more mindful of creating experiences in our lives and travelling domestically as much as possible and saving money for the bigger trips in the near future. Your last paragraph really struck a cord with me and I completely agree. Thank you again :)


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