Meaningful lessons – Part 1

Today I celebrate the second anniversary of the launch of The Meaningful Traveler. Today also marks a shade over five years since I stood on a bus crossing the tarmac at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport and decided to write a different kind of travel book.

I look back on my journal from that day in Rome and I see that the original intent of the book hasn’t changed a great deal in the last five years but my experiential understanding of it has. The original idea was to scribe a reverent guide to travel, a way to think about one’s trip from a spiritual perspective. It was to be a lay person’s theology of travel, a way of understanding why travel literally and figuratively moves us so much and how God fits into all that.

After working on the book for a few years and talking with numerous people about it, either in interviews for their experiences with travel or to run ideas by them, I decided to test some of the book concepts through a blog. I’m a marketer, after all, and you never launch anything without testing…

So the blog launched on August 7, 2010 with the intent of laying out various ideas about meaningful travel and seeing which ones people responded to most. I expected others to understand travel better as a result. And yet, I’ve probably learned the most myself, often in unexpected ways.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned over the last two years as a result of writing this blog (and the book):

  • Travel is far more personal than even I suspected. I get far more comments via email than I do in the comments section on the blog. Part of the reason is that despite the proliferation of trip sites, Facebook updates on vacations and personal travel tales, many of you feel more comfortable sharing your own experiences in a more 0ne-to-one manner.
  • Meaningful travel is as much or more about the interior journey as it is the exterior one. How you think about your trip, I’ve come to realize, is as important as the trip itself. Understanding comes with reflection. As we’ll see in Part 2, the key is when and how you think about your trip. Spending too much time trying to figure out the meaning of a trip while you’re on it can get in the way of the experience itself.
  • Since starting the book and blog, my big trips have been worse. Yep. Worse. They are still enjoyable, but despite my own advice, I have somehow elevated the importance of bigger trips, especially international ones. Writing about meaningful travel makes me realize all the potential in a trip. But you can’t force that. Each trip has its own purpose and rhythm. Trying to make a trip into THE trip becomes counterproductive. I should – I do – know better. But another lesson is this: what we know and what we do aren’t always the same…
  • The good news is that smaller trips, even day trips not far from home, have become much richer. I’m able to relax in these and discover things I’ve never noticed before. Presence is easier on these short trips. As a result, God shows up more in the small moments. He’s in the big ones as well, but I don’t always see that. “Cease striving…” (Ps. 46:10) has more implications for travel and for life than I ever realized before.

I’ll share a few additional learnings next time, but for now, let me simply say thanks for reading. And if you feel comfortable, share what you’ve learned about travel over the last two years, either from this blog or your own experience. That’s how we learn…

If you found this interesting, why don’t you share it with others?