Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A traveler and not a tourist

Please be a traveler and not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what is right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in. 
-Andrew Zimmern

As I sit enjoying my last few hours in Lima, I can't agree more with this quote. Not that I wouldn't consider myself a tourist (which I definitely am), but that the most amazing thing about our world is that we get to live in it. It's not a stagnant mausoleum meant to be passed through without touching. 

It's a messy, glorious slop of human life that is never repeated and can never be captured in a few still frames or blog entries.

We are meant to be travelers in this life, actively taking part in whatever comes and not shying away from the difficult, the awkward or uncomfortable.

A tourist would surely avoid such occurrences in a foreign country. Trying desperately to feel as much "at home" as possible, the tourist would stay only in the well-ranked hotels, visit each place dictated to them by the author of their guidebook, and only see what they planned on while ignoring everything else.

And isn't that just what I have been guilty of in life? Consulting my itinerary instead of God's, always searching for what is next instead of relishing in what I have before me and never taking the time to look up from my map long enough to realize that although I may have gotten lost, I've come to an even better destination?

My trip, which was spent doing mostly the same things I do back home in Denver (going to work, intending to get up and run but oversleeping instead, being somewhat awkward at social events), would probably be considered a failure according to most travel guides. But, nonetheless, I visited a place I never thought I would and met people I would have never known otherwise. And to me, that is the best kind of journey anyone could ask for.

I never made it to Machu Picchu, but I began to recognize some patterns in the otherwise chaotic and random Lima traffic.

I didn't take a million pictures, but I did memorize the routes to the park and coffee shop.

I still speak barely any Spanish, but I know some of the faces of people I passed daily on the streets.

I went to the birthday party of someone I didn't even know (or speak the same language as) and actually danced.

I rode in multiple taxis, one bus and discovered I am braver and more capable than I realized.

I took a risk a met up with someone I barely knew (and had next to nothing in common with) for coffee.

I was called “mi hermana” by the little girl whose room I was borrowing for two weeks.

I consistently embarrassed myself by using the few phrases I thought I knew in the wrong context and learned that a smile can speak more than perfect dialect and vocabulary.

And, above all else, I realized this world is a hell of a lot bigger than I'd ever imagined and I've only just seen a fraction. 

For whatever reason, I have a place in it right now, and that is a gift from God. 

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful reflection! I love reading about your adventures and the way God is working in you. Keep it up!