I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to travel free from commitments and worry for three months through a dynamic place like South America. Amidst this gratitude, though, there is a little pang of guilt. As I traveled through these places, I was reminded that this type of movement is simply not an option for most of the world. For many, seeing a new place is not some chance to explore, it is migration in the search of safety and a better life. This realization sits quietly and powerfully in the background.
I think I’m so aware of this contrast because of the way my family has come into contact with the world outside our home. Ever since my sister and mom went to work at St. Gabriel’s in Malawi years ago, seeing the world has always been framed by the context of being part of it. This especially applies my brother, Josh. His work at Medic Mobile takes him to some interesting places all over the world but he always gets on a plane with a mission in hand. I think calling him well-traveled would miss something. Josh went to Colombia to work in areas affected by land mines with the military; I came to Colombia to stay on a coffee farm.
Coincidentally, the first cup of coffee I ever tried came from beans Josh brought back from that very trip. I took it black, not really knowing that there are all sorts of crap you can add in. That framed my entire experience with coffee. It’s meant to be black. Likewise, my first experiences in other countries came about through the chance to do something. Seeing the world is meant to be paired with engaging with it. Sometimes, the absence of this framing during my travels through South America felt indescribably off. I can’t shake that feeling. I’m not sure I ever want to shake it.
Josh and his girlfriend, Sara (who, not surprisingly, runs in the same circles as Josh), came to Ecuador to travel with me for a week. It was the first vacation that either of them had taken and it was great to see two hardworking people treat themselves. Despite it being their vacation, I could still see the wheels turning as they explored Ecuador. I suppose once you open your eyes, it’s hard to train them to shut. Even though they enjoyed their adventures in Ecuador, I could tell that they would be excited to get back to work.
Travel can offer unforgettable experiences. I don’t regret the adventure I had in South America one bit. But, by the end, I was itching to get back to the mission. Back to being part of a community. Back to shaping the edges of a brighter tomorrow, today. My brother - and my family - have ingrained that in me.
I suppose that is travel’s true power for me: I go somewhere else to feel the pull of home even harder.
Well, now I’m home. And I’m ready to build something.