Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Month of Travel Abroad: Introduction

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t[1].  -Douglas Adams

            There is a moment during the takeoff of an airplane in which it seems certain the plane is going to stop ascending at any moment and gracefully plummet tail-first into the ocean/city/field/mountain range that is below and slightly behind it. This moment terrifies me every time.
            My brain understands the physics behind the magic of making a gigantic steel tube full of naturally flightless animals hurtle through the sky at astonishing speeds, but the academic understanding of how it all works doesn’t stop my stomach and my heart from switching places during that moment of every flight.
            I’ve spent the past month traveling the world and I’d have thought at the beginning of that month that with all this travel, I’d have grown more accustomed to that awful moment of gravity defiance, but that has not proven to be the case. Each time, I find my insides in all the wrong places and a feeling of absolute impending doom.
            This is it, I think to myself, this is the part where I die. I hope my kids know how very much I love them.
            And then the airplane proceeds to do what airplanes nearly always do – which is continue to ascend and happily deliver its occupants to their destination of choice (or the destination of their employer’s choice as is also frequently the case.)
            I have never been disappointed by an airplane’s ability to carry me to new and exciting places or to familiar and comfortable places. It is always worth it to be lifted gracefully away to meet new friends or to return to family. The thrill of the journey never fails to enrich, excite, and enliven.
            I’ve been to many destinations of my choice this summer. Since June 13, I’ve taken a total of 15 airplanes on 5 airlines (Turkish Airlines wins for best airline this summer. . . UsAirways and Pegasus are tied for most mind-bogglingly awful) traveling to/from/through 11 different airports (Pittsburgh International and Istanbul Atatürk in a tie for the win with JFK/Konya in a tie for worst experiences.) I’ve been on 7 trains (6 regular and one high speed), 1 rental car, 4 ferries, and more busses and taxis than I care to count.
           I have made layovers and brief stops in between destinations in Philadelphia, Shannon, Orlando, New York City, Izmir, and Konya.
I’ve been in Edinburgh
St. Andrews
And Ankara 
It’s probably best not to ask too many questions about Ankara.
I've been in cathedrals, mosques, modern churches, and ancient chapels carved into caves. I've seen more historically important religious sites and ruins than I can count and have walked the roads of early church fathers. 
Prior to this summer, I’d traveled much of the United States - with the strange exception of the Pacific Northwest – but the farthest out of the US I’d ever been was Guatemala. Suffice it to say that this summer was the sort of summer that I will never forget. Additionally – because I know you’re going to ask – I’m every bit as exhausted as one would think I should be right about now, but I don’t regret one moment of it all. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth every plane, train, boat, car, bus, and taxi. It was worth the lost sleep and motion sickness.
            Over the next weeks, I’ll post about my experiences in the different places I went and keep an eye out for my sermon this Sunday – much of it will be about my experiences in Scotland. There will be a sermon most weeks now on the blog as I have the joy of having been called to serve as the temporary pastor at Liberty Presbyterian Church in McKeesport, PA.
            For now, I leave you with the following question to answer in the comments:
What has been the most exciting and/or life-changing trip you’ve ever gone on and why?

[1] Adams, Douglas (2007-12-18). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (p. 24). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


  1. Alan Olson11:52 PM

    Without a doubt or a moment's hesitation, my trip to Nicaragua in 2010 was both the most exciting and life-changing trip I've ever been on. During that trip, I truly learned how to let go and trust God. In the months after the trip, as I processed my experience, I began to understand my sense of call. I doubt that I would be where I am today if I hadn't gone on that trip.

  2. Megan Shaffer5:30 PM

    Spain in 2003. I hit mostly tourist cities, but also got to spend time with friends of Josh's in Madrid and Bilbao. That was the first time I ever truly understood how small my worldview is, and felt it crack open a bit. I can't wait to go back!