Looking back at 2016, it was the most ridiculous year of travel for me. In fact, I hereby declare it as
No chill travel.
4 continents. 6 countries. ~230,000 miles flown. I literally left the (continental) U.S. of A. every month from January to October. And it wasn’t even to escape from presidential candidates!
A few cool memories to savor:
Recently, in November, I flew to Washington D.C. for the day to visit a friend, came back home that night to sleep, and got back up early the next morning to fly to San Diego, CA to visit another friend. Coast to coast. To me, this was probably one of the crazier things I did. And using my dad’s flight benefits is dangerous at times.
I remember traveling to Nashville, TN the first weekend of August for an epic day trip with a buddy of mine. As we were catching Pokémon near the Pantheon, trying to sneak into Vanderbilt’s Catholic church and a convent of Dominican sisters, and chillin’ to live country music downtown, I recalled that wow, even though I’m in Nashville this particular weekend, just in the past 30 days I was in Japan, Italy, Czech Republic, and Poland. And a month later I found myself returning to Italy. And a month later I went to Australia.
When I was in Nagoya, Japan and Sydney, Australia, I frequently ate non-native foods because the culinary diversity is strong in these cities. Because of Japan, I have a better appreciation for Indian food. Because of Australia, I have a better appreciation for Turkish and Lebanese food and French fries (“chips”) with everything.
I went to Rome, Italy twice in two months, and the first time was in July. When I returned to Rome in September, I ate at Filipino restaurants twice in two days. My Filipino travel companion and I didn’t really ask for help getting around town from Italians because we kept running into Filipinos so we asked them instead. Because I went to Rome for the canonization of Mother Teresa, I saw and interacted with a variety of people from all over the world gathered at the Vatican for the canonization. Most memorably, I stood by a group of singing Kenyans, a large group of elderly from Martinique, and a sweet woman from Costa Rica gave me a pin.
And the best experience of encountering the world was when I was in Poland in July for World Youth Day. I remember the sense of awe and joy of seeing so many people from all over the world gathered for the sole reason to encounter Christ as a community of faithful as the Church. I wrote in my travel journal for Wednesday July 27, 2016 and listed where people I had met that day are from: Philippines, Brazil, other people from my own diocese (we had 200, so it took the entire trip to nearly meet them all), Kansas, Australia, others from the Philippines, Houston, Guatemala, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Ireland, and others from Texas. Each day for the World Youth Day activities was filled with encountering people from all over.
Here’s a high level timeline of all my trips in 2016:
- January = Philadelphia, PA; Nagoya, Japan; Washington, DC
- February = Nagoya, Japan; Kyoto, Japan
- March = Narita, Japan; Honolulu, HI (returning from Japan); Lubbock, TX
- April = Los Angeles, CA; Nagoya, Japan; Tokyo, Japan (Haneda)
- May = Nagoya, Japan
- June = Nagoya, Japan; Osaka, Japan
- July = Nagoya, Japan; Tokyo, Japan (Shinjuku); Rome, Italy; Prague, Czech Republic; Brno, Czech Republic; Auschwitz, Poland; Wadovice, Poland; Krakow, Poland
- August = Nashville, TN; Nagoya, Japan
- September = Rome, Italy; Hulbert, OK
- October = Sydney, Australia; Baton Rouge, LA
- November = Washington, DC; San Diego, CA
- December = Pittsburgh, PA
Obviously, 2016 was an exceedingly well-traveled year for me. In all my travels last year, I intentionally made sure that they all had one common thread and in doing so, I proved to myself something incredibly practical and awesome!
Again, the easiest excuse for me to travel is to actively pursue my Catholic faith no matter where I am in the world. I spent some time over the Christmas holiday recollecting everywhere I’ve been to in 2016, and I marked on the Google Map above of all the places that I attended Mass (green markers) and Catholic places that I’ve visited or prayed at (blue markers). Click the top left button to see the names. I may have missed a place or two, but I think it’s close to complete.
As a Catholic, I’m not just limited to my neighborhood church down the street though it is preferred to call my local parish as home. Whether I’m sitting in a pew next to a friendly Japanese nun in Osaka, Japan or if I’m in Pope St. John Paul II’s hometown in Wadovice, Poland, I can practice my faith by going to Mass in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I think it’s awesome and really practical as a traveler that I’m able to go Mass anywhere in the world to encounter Him, and as long as it is celebrated validly and licitly, Mass is Mass is Mass even if it’s in a different language, celebrated on a basketball court, or in an intimate setting where I’m the only attendee.
Looking back at where I’ve traveled to in 2016, Jesus’ words to His disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew when He commissions them to make disciples of all nations again come to mind and, truly, I’m able to enjoy the fruits of that mission from the past 2000 years. Just look at that map!
Since traveling the world is now a hobby of mine, I’m grateful that I’m able to pursue both travel and my Catholic faith at the same time. And that’s awesome. And practical.