The Promise Of Far-away Places

Written by Dr. S. Michael Wilcox September 20, 2016

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When I was young I used to sit enthralled in the auditorium of my high school listening to John Goddard while staring impassioned at his slides. At the age of 15 he made a “life list” of the places in the world he wanted to explore and was fulfilling his dream. He would then share his travels with children all over America. I remember thinking to myself, “I want that job!” My own head filled with the places I wanted to see–Machu Picchu, the Great Wall, Jerusalem, Florence, the Great Barrier Reef. Our house in California was close enough to the railroad tracks for me to hear the whistle at night. What an inviting sound it was. It held the promise of far-away places as it faded into the distance. And I would dream.

Travel is in our blood! We are born with a curiosity that longs to be fulfilled in foreign lands, beautiful scenery, historical locations, distant cultures, adventure. Where ever I go, I try to connect to the land, for the land has memory and if we are still, if we listen, we can hear the voices of the past, and they will lift us with their intensity and their desire to instill in us a love and connection with all times, all places, all peoples. We are of the world and it calls to us in many voices.

Upon his return to the fields of Gettysburg, Joshua Laurence Chamberlain, the Union defender of Little Round Top, shared his musings and describes in eloquent language the reason why I love to travel–what I expect to happen each time I walk the paths of the past.

“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom greats things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! The shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

The land never fails to remember, and the old familiar thrill of travel I knew as a child is renewed in a sense of wonder which will transport me over great distances of time and space. I know that the lure of another country, another people, the cities and cathedrals of Europe, the wild mountain beauty of China, the smells of the jungles of Central America, the calm peace of Galilee will continue to call and I will always be powerless against its magnetic pull.

For the past years, I have had the opportunity of traveling many places with the Tyndall family, and the Fun For Less team. They share a love of distant vistas, and openness to unique cultures, a desire to laugh and get excited about every new country–every new adventure. And we share a friendship with people all over the globe. People really are each nation’s most precious treasure. They introduced me to a statement made by St. Augustine which has become the theme of their lives and one that resonates in my own heat. I made it my own the first time I read it.

Augustine said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” Many of us, you included, want to read the entire book. We craft our own life list and dream of its fulfillment.

Each week we will try to bring to you the world and share those memorable moments of humor, friendship, faith, adventure and excitement as we have experienced them while reading the book from cover to cover.

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