I came upon an interesting article in the New York Times online, outlining scientific studies on the health benefits of vacations (Vacations Are Good For You, Medically Speaking). Studies indicate those who take vacations are more likely to sleep better and are less likely to die of heart attacks.
While this is nothing new to me, as I have long been a world traveler, it is great to see some research; it’s about time this country recognizes the value of travel, not only as benefit to be healthy human beings, but also as means to understand the world and who we are as global citizens.
Travel also has benefits to the soul, as many generations of faithful in all religions have so profoundly practiced and articulated throughout the ages. Whether one takes sabbath locally, a secluded spiritual retreat, or far off pilgrimage, the impact can revive the soul, help clear the cluttered mind, and is often life-changing.
This is exactly what I going to do very shortly. I have rather cunningly planned a journey that will span from Alaska to St. Paul, MN (as I wrote about previously). This is exactly what I need post my graduate studies—I have faith a job will come, but first I need to rid myself of the clutter that has built up from four years of writing papers, reading stacks of books, and many class discussions.
This journey will pass through some of the most rugged beautiful country in the world and continue through the diverse natural geography of the United States. From glaciers, mountains, and coast in Alaska and the Yukon Territory to NW Washington and through the desert landscape of Eastern Washington, across the continental divide and through the plains of South Dakota, I will journey…to leave behind the inner-city pressure, to clear the mind of theological and academic clutter, to breathe in fresh air, to visit friends, to travel for it’s own sake…
I do not expect to have any revelatory experiences or epiphanies concerning my life, although I am certainly open to the possibility; I do expect to have many stories to share, if I live in the moment. And I expect to be changed in some way, whether small or great. Although I may not have consistent internet access to blog during this trip, I will be writing and photographing the journey. I also hope to organize my thoughts about travel and discernment, perhaps eventually to write more extensively and publish an article about it.
However, having written all that, there is one major concern about travel in our industrialized society. That being the role of travel as source of contributor in carbon emissions. By flying across the country in two flights this summer, I am contributing to the environmental crisis. As a person concerned about the environment and one who aims to live simply, how can I justify this? Well, it’s not so simple, and I’m going to continue to think and reflect on this.