April 14, 2013
Affirmation: “The world is an amazing place and the more I learn about it and its inhabitants, the more I learn about myself.”
If you’ve ever been to Disney Land or Disney World you’ve probably been to the Small World ride that plays the song “It’s a Small World After All”, over and over and over. My children always seemed to enjoy the ride but after going on it just once, I found the song to be very disturbing.
While traveling out of the country I began to think about living in a small world. I had a tour guide hand me extra passes to the Pope’s Wednesday morning audience and say “You never know who you’ll meet. It’s a small world, especially in Rome.” In this instance, even with a million people there I didn’t meet anyone I knew. I must admit I have been very far from home when I’ve been stunned to meet someone from my local area. But, for the most part, I rarely meet an acquaintance when traveling. Mind you I meet a lot of new acquaintances, just not a lot of old ones. And, isn’t that one of the reasons to travel?
I traveled with Owen, my thirteen year old grandson to London to visit with my adult daughter Ellen and her fiancé, Adam. Then Ellen, Owen and I headed to Rome. Two years ago I took the same trip with my granddaughter, Isabelle. She too was thirteen at the time. After visiting London on that trip we then headed to Paris. Yes, I feel blessed to be able to share the world with them. I feel blessed that they want to come with me. As Isabelle and I deplaned in Raleigh and were heading towards customs, she asked me where we were going next. “We need to go through customs, Honey.” “Oh no, Grandma, that’s not what I meant.” And she smiled. Throughout this trip, Owen has suggested I adopt a “travel buddy.” He has suggested himself.
When Ellen, Owen and I were in Rome, the tour guide mentioned in passing that one corner shop had “the best gelato in Rome” and that “the line for the gelato is sometimes longer than the line to enter the Vatican.” When we finished our Vatican tour I was ready to find our way back to our hotel and rest for a while but that wasn’t Ellen’s plan. She whipped out her trusty iPhone and located that shop. We walked this way and that way and what did we find, the best gelato shop in Rome. So there we stood in line with a group of nuns from Albania who had also discovered the shop. When they told us where they were from, Ellen surprised them by announcing she’d been to Albania. The nun told her to come visit the next time she had a reason to go there. We would have missed out on that whole experience if it wasn’t for her desire to experience it all and to have the “the best gelato in Rome.”
I have friends who have traveled all over the world. They aren’t the least bit concerned with safety or even worse, Montezuma’s revenge and if they are concerned, well too bad, the adventure is more important than the worry. I think of them as having a huge appetite for life. They want to experience it all. They don’t care if they encounter challenges along the way. In fact, they relish the challenges. Remember the movie Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell? She says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” I don’t want to starve to death. I too want feast from the banquet of life.
What happens when one travels? Your world becomes larger. It’s true, life is a banquet. There is such diversity, so many delightful flavors. I think that’s why the Amazing Race is one of my favorite TV shows. In it a dozen or more people travel around the world engaging in the local traditions and customs of the country they are visiting. What is of the greatest interest is not what they see or do and I certainly don’t recommend racing through any worthwhile experience. What is of the greatest interest is what happens to one’s thinking when one steps outside of their box. It’s what happens inside us that’s so amazing.
We get to choose whether or not we want to live inside a tiny little box, the known world or expand the box. The world can be a scary place but at some point we will no longer be a part of it. While we are here we should embrace the concept of living in a big space, of learning about our planet and its people and therefore, about ourselves. It’s too easy to stay safe and comfortable and to let our world shrink to our size. Maybe one doesn’t really need to hop a plane or a train in order to stay green and growing. I see how small our world can become every time I visit an assisted living facility. We get to choose if we want to eat from a buffet or have the same food over and over. If travel is beyond your means, go to the library, go to the theatre, and borrow some travel videos. There is no reason in this day and age to miss out on all that’s available in the world that can nourish our minds, hearts and our souls and help us to live a life of abundance and adventure, even if we’re confined physically by old age, illness or finances.
Because of Ellen’s sense of adventure we got to meet Albanian nuns. How many people outside of Albania can claim that? Because of my sense of adventure we got to go to Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and view the Pieta and see Pope Francis. Owen’s interests took us to see some of Banksy’s London street art. Each of us journeyed to a new place. We discovered new people, new visions, and new appreciations and therefore, we discovered more about both our outer and most important, about our inner worlds. I’m pleased my grandchildren and I have had the opportunity to travel together. This trip certainly wasn’t the first but the trip to Europe was the farthest, not however, the longest. The longest journey is the one we take to know ourselves better, the one within and by spending time together, especially in a foreign location, we learned a great deal about each other and about ourselves. We not only created some amazing shared memories but we ate from the banquet of life and it was great!