Our Current Trip (from which we just returned)

We have no illusions that we can change the world, or even one small corner of it, in six weeks, so we won’t pretend that’s what we did on this trip. This journey was more subtle and more realistic than that. It’s primary purpose was two of the most important things that we know of:  (1) connection, & (2) learning.

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For six weeks we traveled across East Africa, visiting three countries: Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, with a primary goal of (in addition to visiting Travis’s parents) connecting with as many people, communities, businesses, and organizations as possible along the way. We hoped that we could provide listening ears and a bit of encouragement. We also wanted to learn as much as possible along the way about the people we meet, about the countries, regions, and towns through which we passed, and about the needs and opportunities that exist locally.

We hope that we can now share with others what we have learned in order to facilitate greater connection and collaboration across this global body of fellow humans who are on a great and complicated journey together. Perhaps by sharing what we have learned and by connecting more people, communities, and resources, some small but valuable positive impact may be made. We also learned and connected with our own futures in mind: what does our own future involvement in East Africa look like? Would we ever move back? If so, to do what? If not, how can we remain connected and continue to collaborate from afar?

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Our trip consisted of 17,056 miles (or so) of flying and over 2,200 miles of land travel (plus a few ferry rides). The scope of resources being used here was and is not lost upon us, and we took this trip very seriously and humbly, aiming for tangible, practical good to grow out of the connections and learnings that were cultivated along the journey.

Over our next few posts we hope to introduce you to a few of the remarkable people, places, and organizations we have met along the way.

In the meantime, here is a photo of some camels. #trafficprobs

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A Daily Journey

Every day is a journey. The sun is rising, we open our eyes, and we are embarking. Bravely, we face the world. We meet other characters along the way, many of them recurring, some new and surprising. Even the recurring characters often surprise us. We meet challenges, face obstacles, and sometimes we descend into darkness. Not every day or every journey has a clear resolution or a happy ending, but at the end of the day’s journey the sun flashes like fire, red and orange, as it sets in climactic glory. We sleep, awaiting another day, another mysterious journey into the unknown future, another chapter in the larger journey of our life.

Once upon a time, Lauren and I were on a journey. A grand adventure. Then it ended. Suddenly it was over, and everything was ordinary. Mundane. That was how I saw it, but for only a moment. Then I learned to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I met the single, solitary day. I introduced myself. “Hello, today,” I said. “Who are you? What can I do with you? How can I get to know you better?” Be. Here. Now. …this is what I learned to start saying to myself. And it has made all the difference.

Not in the future. Not in the past. Nor elsewhere geographically. Just BE. HERE. NOW.

Geographic travel is empty if you do not know and love the present moment. You must be thankful for today: where you are, what you have, the air that you breathe. When you can do this in your own back yard, then you are prepared for new geography.

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“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

Today, I write from new geography, but that is only a side-note. This place is as ordinary as my own back yard, and my own back yard is as extraordinary as this place. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to travel, to see new places and to meet new people. I do not take it for granted. But if the focus is on travel, travel only breeds discontent. My first focus is to be thankful for the very air I breathe and the land beneath my feet regardless of where I am. To appreciate and honor the simplest of things. If I can’t do this, then the trips I make become only a gateway to later discontent.

So when I wake in the morning, no matter where I am, I greet the day and the new journey that comes with it. I am thankful for that journey. And I set forth on the voyage of today.

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Travels with Charley: In Search of America

The Book:

In 1960 John Steinbeck, at the age of 58, set out with his French poodle, Charley, on a three-month trip across and around America. He drove slow and stopped often, making every effort to engage and experience each passing city, town, farmhouse, and their occupants with the utmost empathy and care. Steinbeck is extraordinarily perceptive and offers a new depth of insight to the most seemingly typical aspects of American reality. I highly recommend this book, especially to bums and travelers.

Reflections:

The young (and I am one of them) are incurably naive. We stumble into a cavernous forest unspoilt by hikers, and we quickly believe that we are the first to find it, and the only ones to know of its existence. Or we discover a new concept or conviction and suddenly think we have thought something new, or fresh. We think we’re breaking new ground, pushing things forward to where they’ve never been before. Especially these days, we love to think we’re radical, but in reality, we are little more than products of our time and circumstances. Just as those who came before.

This is especially true when it comes to travel. Each new traveler is convinced the he or she has seen the most, been the most places, touched the world in totally new ways. The traveler thinks himself to be daring, extreme, a true radical who has defied the status quo and stepped into the next dimension.

But then a guy like Steinbeck comes along and crushes our ego. He speaks unassumingly, telling humbly and honestly of what he saw and thought along the road. And we quickly realize that he traveled further than we did, and for longer. And he did it under much more intense circumstances than we did, and while the world was yet wilder and the paths were still less traveled. And all the while he did this while experiencing the journey more fully and with a greater depth of insight than we almost ever do.

Steinbeck is one example, but there are millions more.

So, young travelers, be humbled by your elders. By those who came before. And next time you step out into the unknown, remember that you are not the first to step there, and neither will you be the last.