Travel As A Non-Escapism

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Something I’ve been reflecting on in the past 2 years since I started traveling frequently to international locations is the intent of my travels. Because I tend to go to far and away places, it’s really tempting for me to consider my travels as a form of escape from the rigors and struggles of my ordinary life.

But of course my life at home has struggles since I have many responsibilities and obligations especially to my family, my friends, my work, and my ministries. Not only that, but also in the care, upkeep, and cleanliness of my place of residence. And the dog. I’m gaining lots of experience points in adulting, for sure!

Yes, all these things can be stressful. And yes, it’s really easy for me to be admiring blooming cherry blossoms in Kyoto, lounging around at first class airport lounges in Hong Kong, praying at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, or long walks along many beaches in Sydney (all things I have actually done recently) as ways for me to forget about everything that I’ve got going on at home.

But, I don’t.

Or at least…I try not to.

I try to make all my travels intentional. In other words, I try to have a specific purpose or purposes in mind when I do travel. I strive to make sure that I’m not escaping my realities. I don’t use travel as an excuse to get away from or not deal with whatever struggles I’m dealing with at the time.

I guess the question I ask internally when I travel is how do these travel experiences help me grow as a person? What lessons do I learn when I experience other cultures or places or people? When I begin to ask myself these kind of questions when traveling, it becomes less and less of an escape.

Why do I not want travel to be an escape? Simply put, I don’t want to be an escapist junkie or one who is addicted to escaping reality. That’s juvenile. I say that’s juvenile because as an adult, I have to learn how to confront issues, and I can’t be running away from all my problems. When I was younger, the frequent solution to bad feels was to get lost in activities or isolate myself physically or emotionally. And traveling frequently, especially to far and away places, it’s easy to fall into the temptation of using travel as an excuse to not deal with or confront my struggles as an adult.

Perhaps it’s all the retreats and pilgrimages I’ve been on that help me travel this way. With retreats and pilgrimages, there’s always a specific intent of why they’re occurring and never as a means to get away from it all. Even with retreats, these are not meant to escape from the daily battles, but rather, they are time spent away to recollect so as to reengage the daily struggles even stronger than before.

And pilgrimages. A pilgrimage-style trip is very intentional because just as important as the destination is also the journey. I often travel to places with an attitude of pilgrimage-ing because I’m willing to forsake being comfortable and things going according to my plan. If I get to travel in a luxe way due to my airline and hotel statii, I would consider those as bonuses rather than entitlements. In fact, I’ve found that the more hardship I encounter on a pilgrimage or pilgrimage-style trip, the more I grow as a person and being acutely aware of how every opportunity I’ve been given is awesome. Which in turn makes for a better trip.

While 2017 won’t be as intense of a travel year as 2016 was, with every trip I take going forward, I will try to not use them as a means to escape the daily battles and struggles of my life. If anything, these trips will be an even better opportunity to grow as a person better equipped to handle them or even confront them head on.

Long story short…

  • I don’t want to be an escapist junkie
  • Travel is really tempting to be used as an escape for life struggles
  • I strive to travel intentionally so as to grow as a person
  • Retreats and pilgrimages helped me have the mindset of traveling intentionally
  • I’m not traveling to 4 continents this year, but all trips from here on out will be opportunities for growth

-JD

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