Saturday, November 1, 2014

Internal Journeys

When my daughter Libby turned 16, my mother and I took her on a five-day cruise from San Pedro to Ensenada, Mexico.  We had a great time together (although Libby probably had her best time in the teen club on the ship, dancing and hanging out with some of the other kids on the cruise.) We make several stops along the way, including a day on Catalina Island where we took the glassbottom boat ride and oohed and aahed at the bright orange garabaldi that swam between the giant kelp stalks.  It was just a fun and relaxing little cruise.

But my biggest memory of the trip was Libby's response to our walking tour of the town of Ensenada.  I had enjoyed the day.  It was a seaside town filled with tourist shops, a good lunch at a restaurant with an lovely outdoor patio and entertainment of mariachi musicians and folklorico dancers in bright embroidered dresses.  When we returned to the ship, however, Libby was quite solemn and silent.  I asked her what was wrong, and she said, "Mom, did you see all the little children who were begging?"

Libby experienced one of the most important reasons we travel...the internal journey.  We don't travel just to check off countries on our "wish list."  What is the point of going just to say we have been there?  We go to learn about other ways of life, other cultures.  Sometimes the things we learn cause a shift in our own world.

Rick Steves, another of my favorite travel gurus, is known for his travel guide books and tours of Europe.  He lives in Europe at least four months of every year, doing research for his books, filming his PBS travel show, and visiting with the many friends he has made in Europe during his many years of working there.  But when he travels on his own time, he goes to Central and South America to learn and write about the social conditions there, or he visits India, which is the place he feels most "rearranges his furniture."  Conditions there are so terrible for so many people, and yet many of them find ways to live happy lives in spite of their poverty.

The internal journey does not always come from observing how good we have it relative to other less fortunate people.  Rob and I have traveled mostly in Europe, and our perception was changed by observing so many things that we found to admire in the European way of life.  The public transportation, the systems of health care, the new infrastructure, and the more balanced approach to work and leisure are often superior to what we see at home.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my country and am very happy living here.  I think we do lots that is right, but from seeing life in other countries, Rob and I understand that the United States is not the "best" country in the world.  It may be the best for us because it is home, but as Rick Steves says, "Many of the world's people may like Americans, but they don't want to change passports with you."

Have fun on your travels.  Enjoy the new sights and sounds and smells and societies...but don't be afraid of "rearranging your furniture," of learning about your own world by observing someone else's.


  1. I love the concept of an "Internal Journey." Back in December 1999, my kids and I went with 34 other children and adults from our church to a small village deep in Central Mexico. I remember how happy the people were down there although they seemed to have nothing modern that we considered important back home. They were happy getting used shoes and underwear for Christmas, when most of us parents struggled to find the latest gadget to give to our own kids. It was a big "ah-ha" moment to see that true happiness didn't mean spending more money, but instead more time with the people you care about.

    1. Joan, that's a great story...and you are so right. Rob and I actually have more fun when we spend LESS money on trips, because then we are more likely to "live like a local"...eating in the non-touristy restaurants, staying at places used by locals. It puts us more in touch with the people there. And always, true happiness does not come from comes from relationships.

  2. Joan, I have never forgotten the shock of seeing those poor people begging on the streets in Mexico--women and children mostly. This post reminds me of how blesses my loved ones and I are, on so many levels.
    I appreciate the idea that so many people would not care to trade passports with us. I love America but know that is because I live here. If I had been born elsewhere I would love that country. Good post, one worth pondering. Terry

  3. I love this view of traveling, not as a chance to put notches in our belt, but a chance to gain a wider perspective of the world and our place in it. So true! (I posted this comment on FB too)

  4. Joan, you've hit upon some of our favorite things about traveling, too, whether it's experiencing a different country's culture -- or one in another region of the U.S. We like to spend a bit of time in one place and immerse ourselves in the town or village. Meandering along on foot is great for that and for finding the spots that locals frequent. And, yes, an opportunity to learn and to reflect on one's own life in comparison -- priceless. Thank you. xoA