After 90 days quarantined at home, many people are itching for an adventure this summer. From taking day trips or crossing state lines, travel allows us to experience different scenery and to explore life from literally a different vantage point. Regardless if you scout out a big open terrain or densely populated urban landscape, the new view is breathtaking. It awakens our body by the magnitude of creation: from towering mountains and deep canyon beds, soaring eagles to the tiniest fireflies flashing before bed. Our senses are heightened by the scent of pine and the crackle of needles as we walk a dirt trail. Similar effects occur when visiting a big city: towering steel skyscrapers loom above defying gravity, yet constructed to sway with the gusts of wind. Favorable street smells of chocolate fudge or buttery crepes, and the voices! There are so many languages and types of music that stream in and out of shops as people pass by. As my mind and body take it all in, I create new data points on how people interact, activities they are performing, and the fashions* they’re sporting (well maybe that last one is unique to me!).
As a relational being, I love interacting with others. I often wave and smile as I run or drive by, always saying hi to neighbors …and strangers, and when given the opportunity, I ask a ton of questions to learn their story. Because unlike reading stories on a screen, page or book, exploring allows us to experience our life and the life of others in 3D:
- In a NYC hotel lounge, I’ve met a paraplegic veteran and his wife. I wanted to know how they met each other, and why they were wheeling his chair through the city during a blizzard. They shared their desire for children and showed pictures of the home our government was providing them. From my perspective, they seemed too young for all the trauma they had already experienced, and unknown challenges ahead. Yet that night I l left with his same optimism for his future and her dedication to loving him. It’s been over four years since meeting them, and with each winter snow, I remember their hope and smile knowing they made it to the taping of Saturday Night Live the night before the City was shut down.
- Dining al fresco, I’ve exchanged stories with two highly accredited, millennial-aged men, pursuing an inter-racial relationship while successfully advancing their careers in Detroit. From my perspective, Motown would be a tough city for this couple to navigate and thrive. Yet as they shared stories of not being accepted in their homes, I could feel their strength in creating new family and community. Their contagious smiles are stuck in my mind’s eye as I recall their authentic desire for unity, as our country better understands each other’s differences.
- What do you get when you gather a wealthy Jew, an Arabic speaking Iraqi social justice worker, and a Jesus lover? I’m sure there is some joke that can be inserted here, but the answer is … great dinner conversation! You see, this occurred only a week ago and it has pushed me to re-think how I can expand my reading, traveling, and interests to have more conversations outside of my echo chamber.
Normally, we see life through our past incidents and upbringing – for better or worse, we are predisposed to be enthusiasts or indifferent, to fear or take risks, to be cautious or reckless. By breaking out of and expanding our norm, we are able to consider new dreams and desires … as well as recognize our own limitations. It’s in our expansion that we awaken our soul.
I encourage you to explore life in 3D. Listening to alternative viewpoint can open your eyes and heart to new ways you might not have ever considered, even without leaving home:
- Are you traveling to coastal cities, boating on inland lakes, hiking through National Parks? As you are exploring, take the time to talk to some strangers! Really get to know them. Create new data points that allow you to learn more about yourself.
- Are you staying in town? Are there people with differing views that you can invite to your grill-outs? How can you spice up these conversations? Take time to explore your beliefs and prejudices, maybe even challenge yourself to change your bias. And as you tell your story, take it from two-dimensional to 3D! Share the good and the bad, the hurts with the dreams. Who knows what hope, love, community, unity, real struggles, and successes the listener will remember about you, and how you might influence changing their perspective, in the years to come.
*For those looking for some great casual looks while exploring, click here*