Last time I noted the second anniversary of this blog. Two years seems like a ridiculously short time to celebrate, and yet I’ve learned a great deal in that time.
In addition to the points noted before, here’s one of the biggest realizations for me over the last 24 months:
This blog has both helped and hurt my travels. Helped in that it forces me to think about the deeper aspects of travel and how God uses it to change us. Hurt in that I sometimes think more about how I’ll describe an experience on a trip for others rather than just having the experience myself.
I recall a lunch meeting with John Medina, author of the bestseller, Brain Rules. Since John is a neuroscientist, I wanted to pick his brain (pun intended, unfortunately) about how we think while we travel. We discussed issues of how we process sensory information in a foreign place, how déjà vu works and how our memories often distort what we remember about a trip.
At least I think that’s what we talked about…
I then told him about an odd experience last year while driving through Lima, Peru. As we rode from downtown back to the airport, I was conscious of trying to mentally record all the signs and sights that whizzed past us. I knew that within a single curious billboard lay the stuff of a great story, the raw materials of an interesting blog post.
And yet, there was more than I could take in or process. The very act of being aware of what I might write about diminished the experience itself.
On hearing this anecdote, John confirmed what I already suspected: Despite all our claims at multitasking, the brain can only focus on one primary issue at a time. In my case, the lesson was clear: you can’t simultaneously filter an experience for your audience and be fully present to it yourself.
So I have to catch myself now when I’m on a trip and I think, “This could be a great story for The Meaningful Traveler.” If I’m not careful, the experience slips by, not fully observed for the paradoxical reason that I tried to observe it rather than simply being present to it.
So of all the lessons I’ve learned over the last two years with this blog, here’s probably the biggest. Enjoy travel. Just enjoy it. Be fully present: to the moment, the place, others, yourself and especially, to that still small voice of God who may be speaking in a language of your deepest longings to you in that place.
There are layers upon layers to the simplest of trips and I’ve also come to realize just how much God is a part of all of this. But in the moment is not the time to analyze all that. I know that and have known that long before this blog. But I need to remind myself of this simply thought:
The best way to enjoy the journey is to enjoy the journey. You can figure it out later.
And maybe even write a blog about it.