I don’t get it

by Steve Brock on February 22, 2014

Wooster, Ohio SunsetOne of the most common points that has come up lately in discussions on meaningful travel is that travel is experiential. But the “experience” alone rarely comes with inherent meaning. Meaning is usually something we discover or come to understand after the event when we reflect. No reflection, no meaning, or so it seems in most cases.

So here I am 24 hours after snapping the above photo in a small town in Ohio. I was on a break between work meetings, wandering around the quaint downtown of this quintessential Midwest town thinking about how wonderful the trip has been: a fun location, a great boutique hotel, surprisingly good meals, wonderful company and positive outcomes of our meetings. The only thing left now was a final dinner and then the trip home.

One out of two went well.

Dinner was great at the home of a colleague who lives in this small town and was the reason why we met there.

Getting home? Let’s just say I made it back.

The short of it is that my flight was cancelled in the middle of the night before departure. It took two hours just to schedule a new flight out of a different city. I couldn’t drop my rental car in the new city, so that meant paying over $200 for a taxi ride for a colleague and me to get to the new airport. All of this resulted in my getting a little less than one hour of sleep that night.

Throughout this exhausted hassle, I kept clinging to the line that, “It’s not an adventure unless something goes wrong.” I half wondered, half prayed, “So God, what adventure do you have in store for me?” God didn’t say.

I ended up leaving from an unexpected city, stopping over in another unexpected city and eventually getting home. No life-changing conversations on either flight. No dramatic moments. No adventures. Just home.

So here I am – home – and I have two realizations.

First, I don’t get it. I don’t understand why any of these travel hassles occurred…yet. And that’s the key: I have to accept that reflection takes time. I just got back. I haven’t had enough time (nor sleep) to adequately process this. You can’t rush some things or, as I recently read in a comment by Brother Lawrence, the 17th century monk known for his humble pursuit of the presence of God, you can’t “go faster than grace allows.”

Second, not everything has to make sense. I want a bow tied and a pleasant little life lesson or moral attached to my every experience. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes we just have to live in the tension of not knowing and trust God to make sense of things later. And so I do.


Fast forward one more day. I had a good night’s sleep and with it comes enough clarity. I still don’t get it all, for I suspect there is more to uncover. But this I do understand now:

I’m home. Nothing more than that. I made it home and am so thankful just for that often underappreciated blessing. Sometimes gratitude is its own destination.

I don’t have to understand what I’m not yet capable of understanding. I don’t have to get it all. In fact, yesterday, all I really needed to get was home.

And I did.

That’s more than enough.


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The making of a good story

by Steve Brock on March 13, 2013

Stories from the classicsIf I had a dollar for every time over the last five or so years I’ve heard someone talk or write about the importance of stories, I’d have enough money to last me the rest of my life. Assuming I died by next Tuesday.

Seriously, maybe because I’m in marketing and branding I hear it more than most, but my guess is that you too have heard it over and over again as well. Life is a story. We’re all part of God’s bigger story. Find your story. Live a better story. Tell your life as a story.

I’m as guilty as the next story proponent because part of what I do for work is to help organizations to know their story and tell it consistently and compellingly. When they do, it makes a huge difference in their ability to attract, inspire and retain customers, donors and other constituents. We point to organizations like charity:water, because they communicate well (even without capital letters), both in words and in images (still and video). They have a simplified message and they stick to it. They know their story and they are good at sharing it…and inviting others to join in it.

I work with clients of all sizes and while many of them talk about the power of storytelling, few of them do it well. Why? Several reasons.

First, it’s hard. Good storytellers make it look easy, but that’s what all great artists do.

Second, it takes practice (and thus relates to the first point).

Third, – I think the biggest reason – is that most of us don’t know how. I count myself in that crowd. I can teach others, but I’m only starting to learn myself how to tell a better story. So let me impart a portion of what I share with clients and over the next several entries here on The Meaningful Traveler, we’ll explore how to apply these principles of storytelling to travel.

The goal is not just to make you better at talking about your trips, but also to improve the actual experience on your trips.

Now I recognize that a good story is a lot like art – you can’t define it but you know it when you see it (or in this case, read or hear it). If there were a perfect formula for storytelling, it wouldn’t last long. It’s like looking for a perfect church: Once you find it and join, it’s no longer perfect. If everyone used the same story-telling formula, it wouldn’t be long before you’d be reaching for the remote or hitting your back button.

However, certain time-tested principles do apply. We’ll explore a few simple ones next time. (Because there are numerous books on the subject, we’ll just be glancing over the surface here). But let me leave you with a simple definition I once read (and forgive me for forgetting the source).

A story consists of a protagonist (usually a person, but not always) overcoming (or at least striving against) an obstacle to achieve a goal.

Think about it: a person overcoming an obstacle to achieve a goal. Simple, yes? Then come back next time and we’ll unpack how this applies to travel.

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Coming home to spring

by Steve Brock on March 22, 2012

This last week, I had two back-to-back trips. Different clients, different parts of the country, each flight leaving so early in the morning that a chart of my circadian rhythms would have resembled a seismometer readout during The Big One.

But now I am home. Thus, I should be happy. And somewhere, deep inside of me, I’m sure that I am. But I’m troubled by one small detail.

In the few days since I left home, the world has changed.

In the short while since I left, spring has arrived or is at least inching its way into our garden. I pull into my driveway and see the first hint of plum blossoms. The forsythia ekes out its speckling of yellow. A few camellia blooms (see photo) make a brave show of it. Even the moss in our grass that I’ve pondered now for several weeks seems bittersweet, glowing brightly even as it seems to realize its days are numbered.

The problem is, I am not ready for spring.

I come home tired and, due to too many time zones, too little sleep and too much “on” I can’t appreciate what would normally delight me.

I tell myself it’s because we had, as did most of you, one of the mildest winters in memory. Thus, spring seems like winning your March Madness bracket by selecting your teams by accident: It feels just a tad undeserved.

But that’s not the real reason I’m not ready for spring.

I’m not ready because everything right now overwhelms me. You could tell me that your Oreo cookie didn’t twist open evenly and I might start crying. You could ask me for $1 and I might give you $10 simply because the extra zero wouldn’t register (but don’t bother testing that one…). If you told me I had to get back on another plane right now, I wouldn’t scream or threaten you with bodily harm. I’d likely just lower my head and sigh.

Travel wears us out. When you travel for work, you force yourself to be up. But when that blessed moment of return occurs, maintaining that same level of focus and energy feels like trying to hold water in your arms.

I love to travel but when spring no longer seems like a long awaited gift, I know that travel has taken a toll and I have forgotten the bigger picture of my life. So I can choose to complain about the drain and toil of travel – and it is real – or I can remember a quote from an aged saint of a woman who had walked closely with God all her life. When asked one day how she was, she replied:

“I am better than I feel.”

And so am I.

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The unimportance of travel

by Steve Brock February 1, 2012

Travel doesn’t really matter, except when, of course, it does. So when most of you comment about issues on this blog that don’t relate to travel, well, that might be a very good thing…

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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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Too soon to tell – Part 2

by Steve Brock May 5, 2011

When you first return from a trip as I recently did from Peru, you’ll want to show all your photos to friends. But wait. What you show later will mean more to them and to you. And you might just see things you didn’t realize on your trip…

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Too soon to tell – Part 1

by Steve Brock May 2, 2011

As I’m finding out after returning from Peru, you need time when you get back from a trip to process what you’ve learned, but more importantly to understand the story that lies within the facts surrounding your journey. That fuller story only becomes clear with time.

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