Saturday, July 10, 2004

Reasons & Passions

When people learn that I'm heading to Asia for a month, the immediate question they have for me is: "Why?" Given the circles I mostly move in these days, that question, implicitly or explicitly, means: "Are you going for missions ... or for fun?" Truth being told, neither answer is really a particularly satisfying one for me, but since I'm pretty sure I'm not going for "missions," at least not the kind of missions most people think of when asking this question, I tell them that it's "for fun," but that's not quite right:

I'm sure there will be aspects of the trip that will be very, very "fun" -- there are things I will be able to do on my own abroad that I could not do in either of my "native spheres" (Europe and the U.S.) as well as things I could not do as part of a travel or missions group (... paragliding outside of Beijing, anyone? Cabaret in Bangkok?) More than that, though, I expect it to be very, very instructive, horizon-broadening and challenging to who I am as a person, a Christian, a woman, a writer.

One thing I've discovered very quickly is that I lack any kind of "tourist inclinations." This didn't come as a complete surprise: Growing up in a family of modest means and strongly introverted personalities, travel was something primarily accomplished via books. Much of Europe still has not reached either the state of affluence much of America's middle class "enjoys," nor the readiness to go into debt to finance luxurious travel. Cities, regions and countries are explored slowly and meticulously, frequently over a period of years, returning for many vacations in a row: After four years, for example, my parents were ready to move their annual vacation from one tiny Northern German island (smaller than your zip code!) to another.

As a result, I'm approaching my trip like a particularly involved research project. Fortunately, there are a great number of books and websites available for the intrepid Asia journey-woman, one of the most comprehensive of which is aptly URL'd -- a wonderful resource for the lone female traveller to most anywhere. I was particularly impressed with the recollections of a 40-ish American teacher tooling through China on a motorcycle: Now, that's the kind of spirit I'm looking forward to if and when I make it to (early) middle-age :)


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