After viewing a gallery of posters and key chains that claim “life is a journey,” many of us no longer ponder the similarities between the two. However, when experiencing a literal journey, a real trip across oceans and across continents, we are startled at how much a journey can teach us about life.
If you’re a person who hates surprises then don’t go traveling without a tour guide. Life is full of surprises and nothing proves it better than traveling to a foreign country where you don’t know the customs, speak the language or drive on the same side of the road. Guidebooks provide essential information to the traveler venturing out on his own.
Frommer’s, Rick Steves’, National Geographic, Trip Adviser and a slew of other web sites, all give helpful advice about transportation, lodging, and must-see sights. You can set out on your journey without doing your homework, but you might end up somewhere entirely different than you intended. If you decide to design your own tour, parenting books, marriage relationships books, and (most valuable of all) the scriptures provide crucial advice about how to live your life when the celestial kingdom is your destination. If you’re lucky enough to find a trustworthy tour guide then following the flag she raises high in the air will prevent you from getting lost in the crowd.
Nothing is more important than getting the right advice from the right source. The desk clerk at the hotel may tell you the train to Milan leaves at 9:30 a.m. Yet it is the taxi driver, who drives people to the train station all day long who knows the train actually leaves at 10:30 a.m. Getting wrong information can cause you to wait an hour in the rain with no available bathrooms, and miss your connecting train. The good news is, despite the inconvenience and expense, it is possible to ultimately catch a train to Milan. On your journey through life many will be willing to give you bad advice. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die” the opinion leaders may exclaim. If your expensive detour reveals someone gave you really bad advice you can always repent and look for more reliable advice.
The person giving you advice will give better advice if they 1) have been there before and or 2) if they have your best interest in mind. A concierge may claim it takes only 10 minutes to reach San Marco Square via water taxi. Yet someone who has been there will know there are two ways to travel the waterways of Venice and the water bus takes 40 minutes. A 30-minute delay would normally be inconsequential unless you miss the sold out tour of the Doge’s Palace. Elder Holland once said, “I have been where you are, but you have not been where I am.” He, and those who have gone before, are in a pretty good position to give advice. Parents, priesthood leaders, those who love you and care for you will want to give you all the options available to you so you can make a truly informed decision.
Traveling requires you to be flexible. Your initial plan may be to ride the hydrofoil from Naples to Capri, but when you discover you can rent a boat in Sorrento you may delight in the chance to bounce through white capped seas with the salt water spraying your face. You may have planned to view the trimmings of an elaborate cathedral, but upon discovering you can’t go inside as there is a wedding taking place you decide it is equally fascinating to witnesses the wedding customs of Montenegro. Life requires us to adjust our plans at every turn. Maybe a better job looms, perhaps a better neighborhood. If you’re willing to take a calculated risk, a bigger adventure can enrich your journey immeasurably.
Enjoy the journey even when plans change. Your first choice may have been to view Michaelangelo’s Pieta, however if upon arrival you discover St. Peter’s square looks like general conference you may decide it is kind of cool to see the Pope instead. Your life plan may have been to marry, have four children and live happily ever after. However should divorce enter your life or infertility or death, you may discover there are other options that may be good too.
Above all, travel light. No matter how much you pay for transfers, you will have to schlep bags from the airplane to the taxi, to the train station, to the hotel, to the bus, through customs and immigration. The bags can get caught in doors, break open on staircases, crowd a funicular and create sore muscles. Unless you have a porter, you will be carrying a lot of baggage yourself. I guess you could say that Christ is our porter in life. He carries a lot of baggage for us. However, much of it is unnecessary baggage. Grudges, anger, bitterness, resentment are bags we can shed, allowing us to be light and nimble, moving forward without delay or soreness.
While touring Europe as a student I had a professor who advised us, “Never walk down the same street twice.” It meant that at times we got lost because we refused to go beck the way we came, but we always saw something exciting and new. And we learned countless lessons about life.
JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her books on relationships can be purchased at www.amazon.com.