traveling expectantly

The unexpected results of traveling expectantly

by Steve Brock on November 22, 2010

The closest I came to seeing the Alamo on my trip was a cafe of the same name on the other side of town.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned using an upcoming trip to San Antonio, Texas as an experiment in how to travel expectantly for business. I just returned from that trip and here’s how it went.

I left on a Monday morning, got in, had dinner with the client, was driven back to the hotel, went to bed, got up, went to all-day meetings, got taken back to the airport and flew home.

The closest I got to the Alamo was the Alamo Café for dinner, a decent Tex-Mex restaurant off the freeway, a compromise of good food and convenience. I only saw of the northern section of town (the area between the airport, my hotel and the offices where we met) and that seemed like a familiar confluence of strip malls and freeways. As we got further out of town – the client’s office lies ten minutes or so north of the city – we drove past highway-side retailers of animal feed and water tanks that quickly gave way to an undulating landscape (they call them hills there, a relative concept) of live oaks and cedars. That’s all I really saw.

We had a good day of meetings followed by a drive back through suburbs and shopping centers to the airport. I have no idea where the Alamo, the River Walk or even the river itself lie in relationship to where I was. Thus, in terms of seeing anything or tourist value, my trip was a bust.

But was it meaningful?

I got a lot of work done on the flight there. And I had small moments like extending my appreciation to the guy cleaning the airport men’s room – someone clearly not used to being thanked for a thankless job – or, conversely, receiving extensive gratitude from my client who was well-pleased with the outcomes of our time together.

I also got to know some of the people at the client’s office on a personal level and to discover shared interests and experiences.

On the stopover in Denver on the way home Tuesday night, I even saw orange-colored snow (the coloration caused by the exterior lights on the terminal) flowing horizontally above the tarmac, an odd phenomenon given that it didn’t seem that windy outside.

These were curiosities, moments of interest and some satisfaction. But were they meaningful?

Yes. At least to me. Here’s why.

I came on this trip primed to look expectantly to see what God would provide, how he might surprise me. And the biggest surprise of this trip was…no surprise. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened. But that may be exactly the point.

You can’t have a hot fudge sundae for every meal and have it stay special. Some trips like this aren’t exciting or glamorous but are meaningful simply because God is part of them. This may sound somewhat anticlimactic, but in the same way that sorrow often lies buried in our deepest joy, we frequently see or value the amazing fact of Emmanuel, God with us, only when that is all we have to see.

When I think of my trip to San Antonio this way, I can truthfully say that it was a good trip, a meaningful journey. Some day I may see the Alamo or the River Walk. That will be another trip – another kind of trip. On this one, I served my client well, made it there and back safely and intentionally sought God amidst all the non-events that happened. That was enough.

I’m content to know that despite a lack of “travel highlights” I didn’t make this trip alone. And most important of all, in reflecting back on my journey, it makes me realize that I never do.

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Traveling expectantly…for business

by Steve Brock on November 2, 2010

Veiw from airplane window

When you leave on a business trip, you never know what to expect. And that can be a good thing...

Previously, we looked at the idea of traveling expectantly and differentiated it from traveling with expectations. The idea of traveling expectantly may strike you as viable on a vacation where you have more free time and an open itinerary. But what about more structured trips such as business travel? Can you travel expectantly for work?

Yes you can, but your mileage may vary. Sometimes, traveling expectantly for business is like pulling on a sock over a damp foot: slow going with fits and starts and only somewhat satisfying once you’re done. Other times, the restrictions imposed by business travel – appointments, tight connections, limited or no free time – actually help you to travel more expectantly. They prevent you from forming expectations so that you’re more open to any surprises that God brings your way.

To illustrate how to travel expectantly, let me do an experiment on your behalf (and mine). I have a trip coming up next month to San Antonio, Texas. I’ve always wanted to visit there but have never made it past Austin. So how can I travel expectantly on that business trip? Here are some questions I’ll be asking myself both before and during the trip:

  • Will I have any free time? Doubtful. I arrive at 6:30 p.m., go immediately to a client dinner, then start meetings at 8:00 a.m. the next morning that go straight through until I leave for the airport at 6:00 p.m. But can I take time after dinner or before the morning meetings to wander around? Maybe. But I will go expecting (you can’t completely escape expectations) that I will have no free time. Thus, if I do, that will be a pleasant surprise. 
  •  Do I know what to look for there? No. I’ve seen pictures of the River Walk, but that’s about it. Thus, I have no expectations of what I should see. This actually frees me to pay attention to what I do see, rather than worrying about looking for something else.  
  •  How can I be present? I’ll rightfully be concentrating on my client meetings and what I’ll say and do. I’m there for business, so my client deserves my best and my full attention to the work. But in the meetings themselves and in the breaks or travel times, how can I listen better? How can I pay attention to people and new sights, sounds, smells and tastes? 
  •  How can I bless others? Ultimately, we find our greatest meaning in sharing in the lives of others. How can I bless the woman at the rental car desk? The receptionist at the client’s office? The server at our dinner? My clients? The people next to me on the multiple flights it takes to get there and back? 
  •  In short, how can I stay open, even on a business trip, to God’s leading? How can I see him in every encounter or new experience? I won’t have the time for any typical tourist activities. But it doesn’t mean that this trip can’t be meaningful.

I will let you know next month how well I was able to travel expectantly on this trip. I don’t know how it will go.

But that’s exactly how it should be when we travel expectantly.

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Meaningful Travel Basics: Traveling Expectantly Part 2

by Steve Brock on October 28, 2010

Kusidasi  vendor with Genuine Fake Watches

I was so relieved in Kusadasi, Turkey to discover that they had "genuin fake watches" instead of fake fake watches. They go so much better with the pink belly dancer outfit...

Last time I mentioned a story that illustrates to a small degree what traveling expectantly looks like. It took place the same day we visited Ephesus.

Our tour ended in Kusadasi, Turkey. This modern port city serves as the hub for excursions to ancient Ephesus which lies some 18 kilometers inland. After arriving in Kusadasi, I took off with my then 13-year-old son Sumner to wander the town. I had only two hopes for the afternoon. Hopes mind you, not expectations – I’d used those up back in Ephesus.

First, I hoped that we might find Sumner a Turkish soccer jersey since he’d been collecting them from other countries in the region. Second, I prayed that God might redeem the disappointment of Ephesus with something special here. I looked expectantly to God to surprise us. How he did that was up to him.

Every street becomes a pathway to discovery when you travel expectantly

The photos here tell some of the story as we wandered the streets and shops of Kusadasi. But what they don’t show is how God took that afternoon and transformed it into something meaningful. Instead, each encounter with shopkeepers or people on the street had a subtle significance, not because of any dramatic insight or revelation, but because we were simply open and present, content with whatever came our way.

You can chalk it up to a change in attitude, but traveling expectantly is more than that. It’s the realization that how your trip turns out isn’t up to you but up to God. In fact, sometimes we actually get in the way.

In Ephesus, for example, I expected the ancient stones to speak to me, to declare God’s presence there and reveal some historic or transcendent insight. Instead, they were to us, as my other son Connor noted, just a pile of rocks.

A simple demonstration of rug weaving becomes something more when you travel expectantly

But in Kusadasi, by traveling expectantly, looking for God to reveal his agenda not conform to mine, he did speak to me. Not through mute stones of the past but through living people of today. In the time together with Sumner on a shared quest, in the give and take of bartering for a handbag with a charming yet crafty salesman and in the extravagant gestures of an old man who showed me postcards that had to be at least twenty years old, I gained insights and had meaningful exchanges that I could never have scripted on my own.

The surprise in Kusadasi, as is often the case with traveling expectantly, is that there was no surprise, at least no big blow-your-socks-off startling moment or singular dramatic event. Instead, we experienced a number of simple, yet satisfying encounters that revealed that God understood what we needed far more than we did ourselves.

I’ve had many other trips that provided more dramatic examples of traveling expectantly, but few where I experienced such a pronounced contrast in the same day between traveling with expectations (Ephesus) and traveling expectantly (Kusadasi).

And certainly no other that offered “genuin” fake watches…

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Meaningful Travel Basics: Traveling Expectantly Part 1

by Steve Brock October 25, 2010

The alternative to traveling with expectations is to travel expectantly, eagerly looking to God to surprise you and show you what you need to see. But it may not be as easy as you expect…

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