catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 13 :: 2004.06.18 — 2004.07.10


The intentional tourist

Six months after we got married, Rob and I used part of our wedding money to take a trip to Ireland. Ever since being involved in a play by Irish playwright Brian Friel, we?d both been fascinated by the history and culture of the country. With grand plans of biking across the emerald isle, we boarded our first international flight at O?Hare, bound for Brussels and then Dublin. And we soon discovered how lonely and grueling traveling on a tight budget with no plan could be.

Though there were plenty of wonderful moments to eclipse the bad?impromptu jazz on the Galway coast, biking the Aran Islands, hitchhiking out to beautiful Connemara?we generally spent too much money, saw too little and met too few people. Ultimately, we felt like tourists wherever we went, but couldn?t muster up whatever it takes (funds? extroversion? energy?) to enjoy a country like other tourists seemed to do. We gravitated toward the same places again and again, preferring a quiet caf? to a rowdy pub and too introverted to strike up any really great conversations. All of our visions of meeting lifelong friends from around the world receded as we sensed a polite, impenetrable distance between us and anyone we happened to encounter.

This experience inspired thoughts about how we would travel differently the next time we had the opportunity. We realized that our daily lives are too busy for us to feel the ironic vacation pressure to go-go-go, when all we really need is to take a nap. We also realized that we couldn?t expect every five-minute conversation to blossom into exactly what we needed to fill the gap in our friendships at home; solitude is not an undesirable thing and, in a new country, should be pursued to the extent that it allows one to reflect upon and understand a new culture.

Vacations, we learned, should not be undertaken with the goal of producing impressive stories or consuming far more than we would on a day-to-day basis under normal circumstances. Vacations are not an obligation, nor are they experiences that take place in a vacuum, somehow outside of our principles and our daily struggle to live obediently. To be sure, vacations and intentional periods of rest are important for stopping, for renewal. However, to foster wholeness, they should be as unique as the homes in which we live, where we try and fail or succeed in some measure of privacy to make choices consistent with the way we?ve chosen to follow.

Given the learning experience of our vacation to Ireland, I hope I can take my rest choices as seriously as I take my work choices, with an idea of what God is calling me to, what I am made for, when I hop in the car or board the plane. I will ask different questions next time, and pursue different ends with the hope of transforming a haphazard itinerary into a thorough encounter with a gift of the living God: the seventh day.

Discussion: Intentional tourism

What are the questions you ask yourself as you plan a vacation? Which of your vacations have been the most fulfilling? In what sense?

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