The mystery beyond

by Steve Brock on March 27, 2016

Mystery stepsLately, I’ve been curious about curiosity. I’ve wondered about different types of curiosity and how to (and why one would want to) enhance your curiosity. But I’ll be honest. Curiosity, while critical to learning, innovation and discovery, has always felt like the superficial cousin to the deeper concept of mystery.

A curiosity, like the right response on Jeopardy, may be fun to know. But mystery invites us in on a deeper level.

When I travel, I am relentlessly curious. I want to know more about the people, places and cultures I visit. On most trips, my desire to learn remains at the curiosity level. Where I regularly cross over into the world of the mysterious isn’t when I’m exploring some ancient ruin or a dark forest. It’s when I return from my trip.

The greatest mysteries of travel tend to occur after we get home when we’re trying to figure out what the whole trip meant. It is in the return when I have to confront the bigger questions: How have I changed? What do those changes mean for my life moving forward? What have I become and what am I becoming as a result of this trip?

These questions can lead to others (and even, occasionally some answers) that both make complete sense even as they don’t.

Which leads me to today. I write this on Easter morning. I used to see this day not as one of mystery, but of revelation. Mystery was wrapped up in the darkness of the Cross on Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday, in my mind, has always been the bright day when all the answers become clear.

Now, I’m not so sure. As with travel and coming home to confront all that we have learned and are becoming, I think the mystery is just beginning. We’re given enough to grasp the basic story of death, resurrection, the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life as a result. But for me, what lies beyond the Resurrection now holds the deeper mystery. Not on a cosmic or theological level so much as on a personal one.

Simply put, what does it mean to live in light of the Resurrection?

Easter reminds me that just like returning from a trip, I have to be curious enough to engage the mystery. I have to wrestle with the tension of not knowing. I have to keep pursuing answers even when the questions themselves aren’t clear and to realize that the few answers I do get may be as uncomfortable as they are ultimately satisfying.

So why do I do this? Why pursue the mystery that lies beyond the trip or beyond the empty tomb? Because in the journey, in the struggle through the mystery itself, is where we find life. It’s become almost bumper-sticker trite to say that the value of the trip is found not in the destination but in the journey. But I think the Resurrection reveals to us an added and often missing dimension.

The deeper value is not in the journey on the trip and nor in the destination, but in the journey after the destination. The stone rolled away from that tomb reveals both the completion of one story and the beginning of an entirely new one. The mystery of both travel and the Resurrection is that the journey we thought we were wrapping up is only just now starting. We have entered a place of closure only to find a doorway to a brand new adventure.

It’s a mystery we’re not meant to solve. Instead, it’s one we’re invited to celebrate, be part of, discover – and live.






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Looking forward

by Steve Brock on October 3, 2014

Wake of shipAnticipation isn’t just something we practice before we leave on a trip.

It’s an experience that goes with us even as we travel and, for the creative person, something that fuels our returns with as much excitement as when we set forth on the trip.

On virtually every long trip I’ve taken with my immediate family, the last day or two gets filled with several concurrent conversations:

  • “Now what?” Sometimes this involves trying to pack in as much as we can in the remaining hours we have. More often, it means adjusting to a quieter pace and relaxing on the last day or two, savoring all that has come before.
  • “Remember when?” The end of the trip is a time of initial reflection, an attempt to keep the enthusiasm high as we relate to each other high points from the past several days or weeks.
  • “I can’t wait to…” This is where what I call “reverse anticipation” kicks in. Here, everyone begins to give words to dreams that are formed around returning home. Sometimes, we discuss friends or family we’ve missed and long to see. Other times, we think of tasks we need to perform. But usually, something on the trip has sparked a dream.

This last direction causes us to rhapsodize about creative projects we want to continue, the distance from them and home adding greater impetus to our desire to see them accomplished.  Or just as likely, we become enthusiastic about new projects we want to start as a result of something we encountered on the trip.

In any case, we enter into a new form of anticipation as we look forward to our coming home. We see return not as the end of our trip and all its fun and excitement, but as the beginning of a new opportunity to extend what we have learned and become on the trip. Thus, the trip continues in ways we never would have suspected before we left.

Here at The Meaningful Traveler, I’m about to venture forth into something new as well. Not the end of this trip of writing on meaningful travel, but more like coming home to start something very new and yet really, just an extension of what I’ve been doing here at The Meaningful Traveler for the last four plus years.

I’ll share more about this next time, but I leave you with this reminder: Great trips never really end. We just extend them into the future, drawing from them and using what we learned from them to anticipate our next adventure.

And as with life itself, in so doing, even as we learn to value the present moment more, we simultaneously live in a manner that is always looking forward.

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You can go back, but…

by Steve Brock on March 5, 2014

Freiburg Cathedral

Let’s revisit the idea of a re-visit, shall we?

A re-visit is when you go back to a place you’ve visited before. Sometimes, that can be rewarding because you see details or new elements of the place you missed the first time. Other times, it can be disappointing because the wonder and novelty you associated with the place the first round no longer exists. It’s like watching a rerun of your favorite show.

Rerun. When’s the last time you heard that term? I can’t recall when I last saw a rerun of a television episode. I don’t watch enough network TV for that to happen nor am I forced to watch reruns because of a lack of other viewing options, what with Netflix, Amazon, iTunes or others. In short, we have so many other new shows available on demand now that we don’t have to go back and watch even old favorites.

But we still do.

Similarly, we often revisit a special place, somehow convincing ourselves that we can still have that original, magical experience.

So, how was that rerun?

I should talk. That form of denial or misplaced hope may explain why last summer we visited the town in Germany where I spent my junior year in college. The city is Freiburg, located in the heart of Germany’s Black Forest. Initially I tried to avoid going back there – I did try – but then my sons thought it would be fun to see where Dad went to school. Oh, why not? What’s the harm? So back to Freiburg I went, family in tow.

As we approached via car driving in from the East, I found myself remembering places and I found the surrounding countryside even more beautiful than I had recalled. Maybe this will be a good experience after all, I mused. But once we got into town, two things happened that reinforce my belief that revisiting certain places may not lead to the most meaningful of experiences.

Freiburg Street

First, the city both had changed and it hadn’t. How’s that for insightful? What I mean is that much of it was familiar. I recognized many of the streets (like the one above) and even the buildings such as the old city gate with the McDonald’s sign on it.

Freiburg Old Gate with McDonalds sign

In the same way, the Muenster, the Romanesque Cathedral in the heart of the city seemed familiar.

Freiburg Cathedral Candles

I have to admit, however, that I never noticed this, uh, well, unusual gargoyle before.

Freiburg cathedral gargoyles

Yet even what I recognized as being the same, wasn’t. Not exactly. For example, many of the walls around the town, once so quaint and historic, were now covered in graffiti. It was like visiting Disneyland and seeing trash all over the place.

Second, I had both changed and hadn’t. So instead of viewing Freiburg with fresh eyes, I came with this bundle of hope and nostalgia, recollections about the place, the people I’d known there and even who I was then and who I am now. The problem was, I couldn’t see the place for its own sake. Instead, I kept making comparisons which rarely comes off well: No one likes to date someone who is always comparing you to their past flame.

Does this mean you should never revisit a place? Of course not. And is Thomas Wolfe correct that “You can’t go home again” meaning you can’t return to the places of your youth to relive them? On that, I’m not so sure. Perhaps you can. But you need to do so with your eyes wide open knowing that those eyes may be seeing much more…or much less…than is actually there.

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Stories beyond words – Part 1

by Steve Brock April 10, 2013

Storytelling isn’t always done in words. Learn how to tell stories in your photos and videos and you’ll improve your trip…and your time after you return. This is the first of a series on visual story telling. It’s also a contest of sorts where you have to use the images to figure out the location. Ready?

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The making of a good story

by Steve Brock March 13, 2013

We hear about how important stories are, but how do you tell a good one? Learn what makes a good story, at home and especially on (or after) a trip.

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Coming home to spring

by Steve Brock March 22, 2012

What do you do when travel wears you down so much that you no longer delight in the things you most enjoy?

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An ordinary day

by Steve Brock July 6, 2011

Returning home from a trip helps change your perspective about both where you went and also where you’re from. Coming back after being away can help you see that the ordinary life you lead may not be so ordinary after all…

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