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What Travel Does

July 19, 2017

(Sorry for my delay in publishing this online but our summer has been a bit busy.)

Another Way for week of July 14, 2017

What Travel Does

Fifty years ago this month my parents took the trip of two lifetimes. I say two lifetimes because I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to duplicate it. But that’s ok. That they even attempted it, is just as incredible to me today as it was in 1967.

They went around the world visiting Germany, Amsterdam, France, Switzerland, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Hawaii in a trip of about four weeks.

However, fifty years ago in June 1967, less than three weeks before they were set to leave, the “six day” war erupted in Israel. For several anxious days, they (and the tour organizers for their “Holy Land” tour) pondered: can we still visit? What will happen? Many many more face those kinds of ongoing questions on almost any trip abroad or even as we fly or travel in the U.S. Where is safe?

They did what so many others do: go anyway. Nowhere is truly safe, not even in 1967.

They didn’t feel too guilty, either, for leaving us at home doing the chores on the farm (with the help of a wonderful family who moved in with us for the duration). Just three years earlier, in 1964, Mom and Dad took our whole family on a western U.S. camping trip that we planned and saved for over five years—and remembered for decades. Truly our lifetime trip as a family.

Mom and Dad did not first plan on going clear around the world. The original idea was to attend Mennonite World Conference in Amsterdam, a long term dream. When they went to make arrangements through the travel agency, Mom and Dad asked the agent how much extra would it cost to visit France and Switzerland, where they wanted to visit historical sites related to the beginnings of Mennonite faith. Looking at the map, then they asked how much extra it would be to add on a leg to the Middle East to visit the Holy Lands and then India, in order to visit food distribution sites for the CROP program Dad had long worked with. The travel agent pointed out that once they were that far, it made as much sense to continue on to the Far East. So they decided to visit locations where heifers and other donated animals were making life easier for families in Thailand through what was then called the Heifer Project (now Heifer International). And so it went. I remember those details because Dad told the story so often!

It made sense for them to do this trip even though they were ordinary farmers with an average income which went up and down with the price of pigs and corn (two of our main products on the farm). Dad always said they paid for this trip by not smoking all their lives. Think about it. At today’s price of roughly $25 a carton (on the super cheap side), if you smoked a carton a week that’s $2600 a year for both husband and wife. You could save up for a pretty nice trip in ten years—$26,000, which isn’t that far to plan ahead.

A big savings for them was staying with missionaries in some locations, and also with friends who had visited our home over the years from various countries. They ate frugally—they both came back having lost weight, if my memory serves me. When you are visiting countries partially to see just how far the crops and money you donated to “feed the hungry people of the world” went (one of their main goals), you don’t exactly feel like gorging at a buffet.

Dad came back a “missionary” himself: as he began sharing their slides and many stories, they were invited to numerous churches, CROP programs and farmer banquets to talk about the needs they saw and deliver the message that yes, there truly were starving people they were helping through both distribution of precious sacks of rice and grain (where he witnessed very thin men scraping the leftover grain up off distribution platforms, so as not to let any go to waste). Dad often told that story with emotion in his throat and tears in his eyes. He learned and shared that supplies and food sent through government agencies often sat in warehouses or docks and spoiled because of red tape, while goods shipped through Christian and other non-governmental sources reached the people with less obstruction.

My memories these fifty years later, and how thoroughly Dad preached Christ’s gospel truth of “caring for the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) to anyone who would listen, is one testament to the lasting impact their life changing trip had.

My father as a young school boy, circa 1922, second from left in front row, who couldn’t have imagined flying in an airplane, let alone going around the world.

What has travel done for you? Even if it is only to an area nearby? What have you learned through opening your eyes to needs—perhaps in your own backyard? I’d love to hear from you at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media,  Box 363, Singers Glen,  Va. 22850.

***

My own brief experience at Mennonite World Conference 2015 in Harrisburg, Pa. was described in several blog posts here.

***

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

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8 Comments
  1. singinglady37 permalink

    This was wonderful to read and it brought a tear to my eye What a wonderful memory!

    • You are so sweet to comment, Caro Claire; I’m glad it was touching. They enjoyed almost 60 years together–a milestone I think you’ve passed, correct?

      • singinglady37 permalink

        Yes We had our 61st last May and we have gone out together for almost 64
        for various reasons we didn’t have big celebrations for the 50th and 60th and our family have persuaded us to have a celebration on the 29th as a belated 61st and combined 80th birthday Martin’s was in June and mine is coming up in August Now that it is getting closer, I am getting anxious! xo

  2. You were youngsters when you got married! That’s how folks did “back then”–eh?
    I’ll be watching for photos on your FB page of the combined celebration!

  3. Beverly Silver permalink

    What a beautiful story and memory! Thanks so much for sharing. I have been so fortunate as to do some traveling, but mostly for interest, tho perceptions of the rest of the world have certainly had their impacts. Beverly

  4. Judith permalink

    Thank you for this entry. Your parents were stalwart travelers and dreamers. I can’t say we have done anything so adventurous, but every trip has brought us new insights, new tolerances, new ideas, and patience. I hope we can continue.
    Judy

    • Thanks, Judy, nice to hear from you here. Yes, Daddy was a dreamer and tackled the things that were important to him. Traveling certainly requires patience these days. My recent visit to Orlando took an extra day to get home after rainstorms delayed my flight going to Atlanta. It also took two trips to two different airports for Stuart to retrieve me. 🙂 It goes with the adventure I guess! I hope too you can enjoy many more adventures.

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