travel

What You Can't Know About Your Country Until You Leave It

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My wife and I took a brief road trip last weekend. I like road trips except for one thing: I get so sleepy behind the wheel. Enter the audio book. This time we chose a book that had been mentioned by a good friend. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight takes place in Southern Rhodesia during the time the nation becomes Zimbabwe. Since Becky and I spent two months in Zimbabwe just five years after the war of independence, we were immediately taken back to those life-shaping experiences as we listened. This enabled us to stick with what others might find a bit of a sleepy read.

Author Alexandra Fuller recounts with an incisive style a childhood reminiscent of the American West, where tough, white pioneers make a life for themselves amid punishing conditions in a tumultuous time and no shortage of adversaries. Hers wasn't an easy childhood. But one thing jumped out at both Becky and me at the same time: when Alexandra left Africa for England for the first time, she realized there were certain things she couldn't know about Zimbabwe until she left. So true.

There are things you can't know about your home country until you leave it.

In my case:

You can't know people in the South really are friendly, for the most part, until you've lived somewhere else. (A friend from New Jersey pointed this out to me.)

You can't know there is more than one way to do things, like flush a toilet. Or dry your clothes.

You can't know everyone doesn't have a choice of 78 breakfast cereals at the supermarket.

You can't know that you live in a country where way too much is taken for granted, as if we deserved everything we have.

You can't know that, in spite of all the pettiness, the infantile political wrangling and the frenzied climate, we still have a system that has been one of the most spectacular success stories in history...

You can't know you live in a place the world envies, and marvels at, and sometimes shakes it head at, but pays attention to ...

...until you've left.

Then you come back and everything is the same -- except the way you see it.

How to Turn a Vacation into a Pilgrimage

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What comes to mind when you hear the word "pilgrimage"? Trekking your way over rugged terrain to reach a shrine? Traveling thousands of miles to meet up with thousands of other pilgrims at a particular time of year? Perhaps. But what if any time you stepped out of your zone of familiarity could become a spiritual experience? Here are some real life examples:

Happening onto a painting at the Musée d'Orsay that touches something buried deep inside you and leaves you filled and wanting more at the same time.

Wandering the streets of a medieval Italian town and stumbling across a secluded garden that feels like it was reserved for you.

Coming across a serene, blue glacier in the most utter silence you've ever heard, with not another soul in sight.

Sitting surrounded by the world's most beautiful stained glass and wishing you could know the king who commissioned it as an act of worship.

Sitting at a table with new friends and wondering how you could possibly have been there for three hours.

Climbing an extinct volcano in New Zealand and appreciating the challenge of the climb as much as the vistas from the summit.

A conversation with a stranger whose kindness cuts through the outer crust of your heart. You come to find out that part of his name means "peace".

Marveling at the mysteries of a lost civilization that left behind the glorious ruins where you now stand.

Being invited to share the meager rations of a refugee family who has lost everything, destroying and rebuilding your notions of hospitality and humility.

All of these, which I have experienced first hand, make the term "sightseeing" sound so mundane, so small. When you step outside to experience something or some place new -- even if it is one of the most touristy spots on the planet -- there are surely divinely orchestrated moments waiting for you.

Especially if you're open to them.

They can be little serendipities, or they can be moments of transcendence that alter your understanding of God.

We're planning a framework for late spring where such moments are sure to find you. All you have to do is show up.

Want to know more? Click here.

"There's a whole world out there..."

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewing a dear Indian-American couple named Pravin and Fiona. They have been living in the US for a number of years, have two sons born here, and are themselves on the path toward US citizenship. (You can find that interview here.) One simple thing that struck me is something Fiona said in response to my question of what took her some getting used to about life in these United States. She said something to the effect of "Sometimes Americans don't seem to know that there's a whole world out there."

Ouch.

I suppose on one hand our navel-gazing is understandable -- there is so much going on in this country, not to mention in our daily existence, that many might say they just don't have time to learn about the world out there. And I get it. Plus, our country is so vast, with so many beautiful places to see, one could spend a lifetime just traveling within the United States.

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Here's what I suggest: if you like a one-dimensional life, one single perspective on things, a single way of doing things, of viewing the world, and already completely understand why people are the way they are...

...well, then, you're probably not reading this blog! Because this is the place where we have turned up our curiosity, where we believe the world has more to teach us than we can contain, and where we KNOW we are richer for every single thing we learn and experience from the OTHER -- whoever and wherever he or she may be.

Did you catch my interview with Navajo Nation member Dale Tsosie (pron. 'sosie') last week? He had some powerful things to say about his identity as a Native American, and how reading the Bible is what gave him permission to fully embrace his Navajo identity.

In this week's podcast I have the pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful lady named Sarah Lanier, whose book, Foreign to Familiar, is a fascinating and readable look into how different people behave based on the climate of the culture they live in -- hot or cold. You won't want to miss this!

Let's Talk Turkey

World to the Wise Podcast

While much of the public attention in the US -- and other parts of the world, was focused this week on the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we chose to shine a light on a completely different part of the world -- a land that from where I sit is too unknown by most of us, including yours truly.

One week ago today, there was a failed attempt to overthrow the government of President Erdogan, who was democratically elected in 2014 after serving 11 years a Prime Minister of Turkey. The aftermath has not been pretty. These events only illustrate more acutely the fact that Turkey is, in many ways, a divided country.

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But there's much more to Turkey than politics and religion, just like any country, and this week we'll explore some of the other fascinating aspects of this ancient land. Technical difficulties and a sensitive political climate in Turkey prevented us from airing the two interviews we did for this show, so I'm flying solo and attempting to adequately portray a country that has just moved up a few notches on my bucket list.

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One of those interviewees, Duke Dillard, has a travel business in the heart of Turkey, Cappadocia, and you can find his website here.

For some fascinating and little known facts about Turkey, click here.

And I highly recommend this book, mentioned in this week's podcast:

The Wise Traveler

World to the Wise Podcast

In this episode, brought to you from Athens, Greece, I ask the question: Is there a right and a wrong way to travel? I would say yes. There's not just one right way and one wrong way, however. Find out some of the characteristics of what I call the wise traveler. With the magnificent, world-shaping city of Athens as a backdrop, we explore what it means to travel wisely. If what Solomon said is true, wisdom is something to be sought after above all else. Wisdom is the ability to apply intelligence at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way. So what makes someone a wise traveler and not just an intelligent one? 

Take a listen, send your feedback, and share! Share your comments either here or on the Reviews section of your favorite podcast store, or email me at podcast@daviddurham.org. I'd love to hear your own insights and experiences!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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The Land of the Shire

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One of the most desirable travel destinations in the world, yet perhaps one of the least fulfilled, is New Zealand. It's understandable why most people only dream of going there -- it's a long way from just about anywhere except Australia, and it's not cheap. About a year and a half ago my wife and I were able to spend two fabulous weeks there, visiting our dear friends Neil and Jill White. Neil and Jill were our colleagues during our years in Amsterdam, and they had already come to visit us in Nashville years after we had parted ways. So it was our turn to visit them in their homeland, and I will tell you it was not easy to get back on that plane to come home. (Want to know how we were able to swing it? Travel hacking! Find out what that is in my interview with Chris Guillebeau.)

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In this episode of the World to the Wise podcast, I have the pleasure of introducing you to this beautiful country as Neil and Jill give us an overview of the land, its people, and its culture.

It's worth mentioning that Neil and Jill are also Air BnB hosts, so if you happen to decide to make the journey, you MUST spend a few days at their place on the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of the North Island.

Next week I'll be coming to you from beautiful Switzerland, where I just arrived yesterday for a brief concert tour.

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Chris Guillebeau Interview

World to the Wise Podcast

Do you have a personal quest? Climbing a certain mountain, learning to play an instrument, reading a certain number of books? Author, entrepreneur and adventurer Chris Guillebeau does. Several years ago the idea came to him to visit every country on the planet. Find out whether he has accomplished his goal yet -- and some of the many life lessons he's learned along the way.

You'll also hear about Chris's latest book, Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do, where he challenges us to think outside the limits we have placed on ourselves.

Chris is engaging, fresh, personable, and a pleasure to know. I hope you enjoy hearing him.