Have you even been somewhere that made everything seem more real? Or maybe it was a certain circumstance or person. Maybe it’s just me that's felt this way. Maybe I’m overly sensitive. I don’t know. But somehow the things that we tend to run away from, that are considered “undesirable" to a certain degree, are the things that make me feel alive.
I don’t like to be cold. I get cold so easily. Give me a 65 degree day and my hands and feet are blocks of ice. Thank goodness I have my car! If I didn’t have it, what would I do, walk in that ridiculous cold? Even better, my garage that protects me from the extreme cold of a car that been sitting outside all night in freezing temperatures. Even better than that, a garage with a garage door opener! That way I don’t even have to feel the cold to open and close the door. And how will I know if it’s cold outside? I mean, I don’t want to actually go outside! I’ll just watch the forecast on TV…or better yet, check the weather app on my phone. No need to stick my toe outside and feel that frosty wrath! Other than the quick 10 foot jog to my office door, I have finally, completely avoided the cold! Win!! Right?
I’ll give another shout out to my car. Thanks for making it possible for me to arrive other places without using any energy. I don’t even have to shift or roll down the window any more. That’s awesome! My feet don’t have to touch the road, just the garage floor to the parking lot. I also have tons of peace and quiet driving in my car alone. I don’t have to talk to anyone!
Thank you to my TV, smart phone, tablet, and computer. You’ve made my life so much more interesting! I can watch anything I want, when I want, where I want. I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my home to be entertained. I don’t need other people to be entertained. And they are great for the kids! I don’t have to worry about them running around outside or getting sun burned or getting bug bites. They can just be entertained inside without ever having to move…
You know what all of these conveniences have done for me? They’ve helped me forget how good it feels to finally get warm. They’ve helped me forget the smell of a chilly morning (yes, there’s a smell) and how refreshing the cold can be. They’ve helped me forget how good it feels to sit down and relax after a long walk. They’ve helped me become a worse communicator. They’ve made it possible for me to never meet some of my neighbors and for my kids to get far less exercise and fresh air than they should.
I say all of this to not to complain about the modern conveniences that I’m so blessed to have (although I think some of them may not be as much of a blessing as a curse to some extent). I choose to drive my car and work from a computer and sit in air conditioned places. I say all of this to point out that some of my favorite things about going abroad (or even out my front door) are the “inconveniences”. They’re almost like a breath of fresh air. Yes, I’ve found myself uncomfortable, but it felt real. Yes, I’ve wished for my car and an air conditioner, but at the same time, it felt much more natural. I felt more connected to the things and people around me. I felt alive! When my feet went numb in China from walking around with below-par winter boots, I felt alive! When my apartment in the Dominican Republic slowly crept from 80 to nearly 90 degrees over the summer, I felt alive! When I bought way too many groceries in the Netherlands and had to walk home with two grocery bags cutting into my shoulders (because I’m used to having a car!), I felt alive…and tired! To this day I still remember finally finding the restaurant we were looking for in China and the feeling of my feet thawing out. I still remember the one cool morning we had in the Dominican Republic and how good the breeze felt blowing through the window. I still remember the relief of setting down my grocery bags in the Netherlands once I made it to my apartment.
These moments are etched in my mind because they have become so rare to me. Maybe this post is really about more than a reason to go abroad. That’s not how it started. To some it may seem like I’m bragging, but far from it! It feels more like a plea to get back to the basics. To force ourselves to do the simple things like go outside, turn off our electronics, talk to someone. I know I crave these things. Yet I’m just as guilty as the next of indulging in them. Human interaction has become particularly precious to me. I used to talk to people outside of my family on a daily basis and regularly have deep conversations. Now I feel like I’ve been given a drop of cool water on my parched tongue when I get to sit and talk to someone face to face. Sometimes, some time away from what we are used to can completely change our perspective. In fact, it pretty much always does.