I love to travel. I love to explore new places, meet new people and experience different cultures. I love journeying to other countries and learning about their traditions and values. Each place in this world is fantastically unique, filled with beautiful people who each have a story to tell.
I can’t pinpoint where or when I developed my love of travel. I suspect it goes back to my childhood when my family constantly moved around and had to adapt to new surroundings.
The move that impacted me the most was when my dad was transferred to the island of St. Kitts in the Eastern Caribbean. For us, that involved more than simply adapting to new surroundings. We had to adapt to a new culture, a new climate and a completely new way of life.
While there were lots of incredible experiences living in St. Kitts, there were also many experiences that gave me nightmares for years after moving back to Canada. My eyes were too young and innocent to witness the violence and poverty that surrounded me. My mind and soul were too naive to comprehend the intolerance and cruelty I faced regularly.
However, my young self didn’t know that nearly two decades later, these haunting experiences would influence my travel choices in a positive way.
While I have taken some fun and amazing vacations on cruise ships, and to beautiful cities like Boston and Chicago, my travel desires have changed as I have gotten older. Now, they tend to be shaped around more purposeful journeys.
I want to see new places and experience different cultures, but not from a beach-side resort where I am being served a beverage in a coconut shell while sunbathing in a lounge chair. That would be amazing for about two days and then I would be quite bored.
The travel experiences I currently desire are not about me being comfortable and waited on. I don’t simply want to see a new culture, but I want to experience it. I don’t want to just meet new people, I want to know them. At the end of the day, I don’t want to only wash beach sand off my body, but also dirt, sweat, and even some tears.
I want to travel with purpose.
For me, right now that means short term mission and volunteer trips. I want to serve others, learn their stories and share their journeys. I want to travel in teams where we work together and have fun together. I want to learn about how others live, what values they hold dear, and how they came to be who they are. I want to hear their struggles, where they get strength and what makes them happy.
Two weeks ago I returned from a 12 day mission trip to the Czech Republic. Many people wonder why this country is a destination for mission work. They hear Prague and imagine a wealthy tourist area.
It is true that the Czech Republic is not physically poor, but when it comes to spiritual poverty, they are among the poorest. It is regularly described as an atheist country, and this is due to a complicated and difficult history when the people of the country were not allowed to speak about religion, let alone pursue it.
The team that I travelled with was not there to provide food, clothing or any material goods. We were there to bring the love of God, and what an honour it was to be a part of that. During our time there, we saw God at work, opening minds and softening hearts toward him. There were some proclaimed atheists who showed up at church on our final Sunday. God’s presence was everywhere and it was exhilarating.
I had the privilege of working with 10 incredible teens, all of whom dug deep into my heart. Two weeks have passed and I miss them terribly. When the time came to return home, I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to stay and continue journey with the beautiful youth I had gotten to know.
Thank goodness for technology and Facebook so I can stay in touch with them.
The wonderful teens I worked with
This world is full of beautiful people who have struggled, fought for themselves and their families, and survived unbelievable experiences. I have learned so much from those I have met on my travels. They have taught me about faith, strength, endurance, hope, redemption, joy, and most importantly, love. They have shown me what truly matters in this world – love and compassion for one another.
The experiences I have had on mission trips have opened my eyes to my own blind spots. They’ve put my flaws and weaknesses on full display. And they’ve taught me acceptance; acceptance of others and acceptance of myself.
The first mission trip I went on changed me. Each one after that awoke another part of my soul and reminded me of why we are here – to care for one another.
We live in a broken world. The only way we can begin to repair it is together. And to work together, we need to learn about and accept the uniqueness of each culture, country, and person. That doesn’t mean we always have to agree, but it does mean we have to have respect.
For me, that means continuing to travel with purpose, and continuing to learn.
I don’t simply want to see the world – I want to change it for the better. Yes, that is a massive goal, but years ago I laid myself before the Lord and said “Use me”. His response was to provide opportunities for mission and volunteer trips.
I am lucky enough to have the support and ability to continue to take part in these travels. I know it is not something everyone can do, but God has given me a lifestyle that allows it. I am single and child-free so I can jump at the opportunities that come my way.
I hope I can continue to do mission trips throughout my life. I am grateful for those who have supported me in these trips, both financially and spiritually.
I don’t know if I am actually changing the world for the better. I don’t know if I am making any difference at all. But I am trying.
That’s all any of us can do.
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