My friend Emily Wierenga has a new book coming out July 1 – Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. I pre-ordered on my Kindle; I’m hearing that the paperback version is already shipping, but I suppose I have to wait until July 1 for the Kindle maginc to happen.
Emily went traveling to find herself, and to fine home – Canada, Central America, the united States, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. And she posed a question to those of us interested in reading her book. Actually, she posed several. The one that intrigued me was what inspires you to travel?
I don’t really travel, at least in the sense Emily means. When I think of travelers, I think of Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux or, more popularly, Rick Steves.
But we have been blessed in our married life to have taken some wonderful vacations.
Before kids came along, my wife worked for the Houston Chronicle in the department that did the travel section, and one time I got to tag along on one of her business trips to Hawaii (Maui, to be specific) for the price of my plane ticket. A few years later, as the result of recognition for a huge project I completed at work, she got to tag along on one of my business trips to Hawaii.
A tenth anniversary trip to London. A couple of family trips to Gulf Shores, Alabama. A week in Charleston, South Carolina when tourists had cancelled plans because of a hurricane scare; we held on to our reservations, the hurricane went north, and we had the city virtually to ourselves. A 25th anniversary trip to Amsterdam and Paris. A week in Montreal (we loved Montreal; I was even able to do a bike ride along the St. Lawrence River and a nearby 15-mile canal).
If I had to pick a best trip, however, I would have to pick two – back-to-back trips to London, in 2012 and 2013, each trip about two weeks. The first one inspired the second one; I think them as one vacation with a pause in between.
In 2012, we arrived at the tail end of the Paralympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics; the Paralympics marathon passed right in front of our hotel on the south bank, right across the Thames from Parliament. And we went to the parade called by the Queen to honor the athletes of both events, joining millions of Londoners and Britons (and waving our British flags, too). We experienced perfect weather, too; I didn’t open the umbrella once the entire time. We did a side-trip to Oxford, and my wife fell in love with the place (me, too, truth be told). And our seats for the play version of Chariots of Fire in London’s West End were on the stage – we were part of the Olympic stadium “crowd.”
In 2013, our hotel was three blocks from Buckingham Palace and two blocks from Westminster Abbey. The room was wonderful, as was the breakfast they would serve in our room any morning we wanted it. The normal London weather had returned, however; it rained every day we were there. We didn’t care (much).This time, we took a side-trip to Canterbury. We got to see James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave in Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic Theatre. I spent a morning at the Charles Dickens House near Russell Square.
|The back of Westminster Chapel as seen from our hotel room.|
Two things happened on this trip that turned a wonderful vacation into something unexpected, and almost profound. I’ve written about them before. One was my Sunday morning visit to Westminster Chapel, a short half-block from our hotel. The congregation prayed out loud during the individual prayer time; I’d never seen or experienced anything like it.
The other was what happened during the daily 3 p.m. prayer time at Canterbury Cathedral. This is a daily event; all activity in the church stops for a few minutes as a prayer is said over a loudspeaker. I was standing next to a group of Japanese tourists (yes, with their cameras) and when we were invited to join in saying the Lord’s Prayer, they joined in as well, saying the Lord’s Prayer in English. To be standing in one of major sites of Christendom on the planet and saying the Lord’s Prayer with all the rest of the tourists was, most likely, the highlight of the entire trip.
We take vacations for any number of reasons – to get away, break the routine, see something we haven’t seen before. In a city like London, we are drawn to the museums (and especially the art museums), the theater, and day-trips to places we have read about but never experienced. And while our vacations have been exciting, stimulating, informing, and exhausting, the one I would call our best vacation was best because of prayer.
While this is a very different kind of travel from what Emily describes in her book, it appears we ended up in something of the same place.
If you have a great vacation story to tell, The High Calling wants to hear from. Check The High Calling's web site for information on submission and linkup.