ADVERTISING
 
Friday, September 21   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
Faith and political views
In my church...




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



René Breuel
 

The rewards of travel

When we travel we see reality with a different set of eyes; we not only taste new food, smell exotic aromas and hear foreign voices, but we also come to look at ourselves differently.

CULTURE MAKING AUTHOR René Breuel 30 JUNE 2018 17:00 h GMT+1
Photo: Tyler Nix (Unsplasch, CC0)

Why do we travel? What do we hope to find in foreign lands?



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, like many young aristocrats of his generation, set out to travel, and as other Northern Europeans, he headed south. The carriage took him across forests and the Alps, and after a stop at the foot of the mountains at Innsbruck, he reached Italy.



In his Italian Journey, Goethe witnesses to the impact the trip had on him, even 30 years later: he breathes Mediterranean airs, inspect the country’s geology and botany, tastes its cuisine, marvels at its classical architecture and works of art.



The phenomenon of the Grand Tour – from which we gain the term tourist – had started some years before, when aspiring gentlemen from England, Germany and Northern Europe travelled to refine their manners and be enriched by the splendours of ancient times, the Roman heritage, and the works of the Renaissance.



Both rite of passage and means of cultural transmission, the Grand Tour captured the imagination of young people like Adam Smith and Thomas Cook from the seventeenth to nineteenth-centuries, who longed to grasp a fragment of the past and therefore to project themselves to the future.



Giovanni Paolo Pannini’s  depiction of an imaginary gallery illustrates the longings of these early tourists. A group of men, dressed in an impeccable manner and wearing wigs, look around the gallery filled with paintings and sculptures of Rome: the Pantheon, the Arch of Constantine, the Colosseum.



The ceiling is high and the perspective is long; it is almost like another world to marvel at, with decorated skies and enough a dose of refined air. The visitors gaze around and try to absorb as much as they can; even dignitaries like Napoleon, who longed for Rome and projected onto it his imperial dreams, had not had the fortune of laying his eyes on the actual city.[1]



To our contemporary ears, accustomed with accessibility of information, egalitarian tastes and ease of travel, the Grand Tour may sound elitist, stand-offish almost, rich in art but poor in wisdom.



These young aristocrats might have traveled to places of need and poverty, we may think, and have enlarged their horizons in a more significant way.



Indeed, this criticism may be fair when levelled not only at the aristocratic Grand Tour, but also to much of our traveling today, which shelters us from a full-picture view of the places we visit for a few selective snippets: the pretty, the historic, the comfortable, the manageable.



Still, to travel is to be changed. The intense moments, sights and reflections of a week away from home may bring us inner growth that an year at home may not do.



For when we travel we see reality with a different set of eyes; we not only taste new food, smell exotic aromas and hear foreign voices, but we also come to look at ourselves differently.



We enter into a state of wonder, of looking at things afresh, of suspension of our previous understandings to make way for new insights, which helps explain why we feel so alive and why the days are so long and rich when we travel.



We employ emotional muscles we usually do not use, like a climb of the Kilimanjaro will demand different bodily disciplines, and we come in contact with parts of ourselves we may usually leave unexplored – childlike fascination, the thrill of risk, the joy of a meal with the people we love – and these new glimpses of self-awareness both surprise and engage us: “Wow, I never thought of myself in this way.”



“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves;” wrote Pico Yyer in a brilliant essay called Why We Travel, “and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” We forget our problems, worries and daily boredom in the exciting discoveries of a place and its people; we fancy novelty, thrills and encounters; we try on new clothes, food and poses.



But then we travel to rediscover who we are, what is the world, and what is our place in it. We travel to a specific locality but then to universalize our experience; we transport our bodies across space but feel our souls move also across time; and in this particular mode of experiencing time and space, we get unusual glimpses of eternity, we get in contact with our deepest longings and with the vast and lavish benevolence of God.



But the powers of abstraction and the appetizers of eternity arrive only when we let ourselves touch the concrete textures of a new place (and there are a lot at ifonly.com!).



And this is the advice Goethe gives at the introduction to his Italian Journey, as a key to the value of his journey. He tells an aspiring author to pay attention not only to his subjectivity but also to immensities and details around him. “Like all young men, nowadays, he rather fights shy of reality, although everything imaginative must be based on reality, just as every ideal must come back to it.”



Goethe himself made extensive drawings during his time in Italy, not because he hoped to become a painter and not an author, but to “train his mind to pay attention to the external world.”[2]



Be it in a cultured Grand Tour, be it in a summer get-away close to home, Goethe’s advice remains precious.



We learn to see through things after we learn to look at them; we find ourselves after we let ourselves get lost on new terrain; we enlarge our vision of the world when we come out of self-absorption and let the little details, even of a simple sketch, fascinate us.

 



[1] Catherine Brice, Storia di Roma e dei Romani, da Napoleone ai nostri giorni (Roma: Viella, 2009), 57



[2] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey, trans. W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (London: Penguin, 1962),  8, 15.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The rewards of travel
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow

A team of Steiger mission is starting conversations about the gospel in the middst of the football celebration in Russia.

 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
VIDEO Video
 
How does romantic love change over time? How does romantic love change over time?

Psychatrist Pablo Martínez uses a metaphor to explain how romantic love evolves.

 
‘Mediterráneo’ ‘Mediterráneo’

“Something will change if you have hunger and thirst for justice”, sings Spanish artist Eva Betoret in a song about the refugee crisis.

 
How the loss of universal values led to a loss of civility How the loss of universal values led to a loss of civility

Author Bruce Little: “We have moved from a sense of responsibility to ‘my personal rights’”.

 
Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’ Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’

How can we reach those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have not experienced a conversion to Christ? Forty missiologists and mission practitioners came together for a Lausanne Movement global consultation in Rome.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.