Notes from a Traveler’s Journal

Explorer X Newsletter | March 28th, 2019

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Travel as Renewal

We love to hear from our travelers out in the world. Our friend Tim sent this note recently while on his Explorer X trip in New Zealand. We think it is worth sharing...

"I’m driving through the north island in New Zealand and things are new again. It’s been 33 years since I’ve traveled alone internationally. I’ve driven with family on the left side of the road, but driving solo is a slightly different experience. The only impressions I get of the countryside are my own. No one to rely on for directions or even read every store sign out loud to me. There was even a small moment on a long drive when I stretched my left arm out behind the headrest of the seat to my left... and I realized... I’m 58 years old and I’ve never done that while driving in my entire life! Travel is “renewing” in many ways. And I think it’s because it helps us see what’s “new.”

It’s so easy to live your life the same from one day to the next. From the exact time your alarm goes off, to the route you drive to work, to your bedtime routine, it’s easy for the default assumption to be “same”-ness. The face you see in the mirror each morning looks identical to the one you saw yesterday and not that different that the one you remember from a year or even a decade ago. And not a lot of surprises. 

We know that’s not true intellectually. Our skin regenerates itself completely every 27 days. So if we look closely, there is always something new to see.  

But travel gives us new eyes. In my leadership development work with health care professionals, I’ve often shared the stories of Rachel Naomi Remen, the physician, writer, and medical educator. She uses a lovely quote by Proust that “the voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new vistas but in having new eyes.” She advises clinicians to draw on the work of Angeles Arrien and each evening review the events of their day by asking three questions: What surprised me today? What moved me or touched me today? What inspired me today? Those are pretty good questions for travelers as well. 

For this trip, I’m working on “seeing” things anew. And on being surprised. Often, it’s the tiniest thing... “Oh, lot’s of restaurants in New Zealand put a basket of silverware and napkins on each table so you can help yourself!” Or “Why are there so many different and confusing configurations of dual flush buttons on each toilet?”

There is plenty “new”, but it does take me back to what was so transformational for me when I made my first international trip 41 years ago.  On a ferry crossing in Scandinavia with the high school music group I was touring with, we met a Norwegian girl’s “handball” team (it didn’t hurt that they were extremely cute, but that’s a different story). How could there be a great international sport that I’d never even heard of? What was this international sport that I’d never heard of? When our bus drove through a small city in Denmark and we asked the tour guide what a large facility with tall smokestacks was, we heard “That’s the plant where we burn the trash from the city to make steam that is piped throughout the city to heat our homes and buildings.” What?! I couldn’t have even imagined that! Yes, I did buy a handball to take home as a souvenir.  But more importantly when I arrived home in Kansas, I looked at the house across the street and to each side, and started to consider the idea that the people living there might not see the world exactly as I had for the previous 17 years. 

It’s nice to be on new roads doing new things meeting new people.  And it’s kind of fun turn that gaze inward and catch a glimpse of the new within yourself.

kelsey bumsted