Photo by Eric Blauer/SpokaneFaVS

How Summer Travel can Help or Hurt living in Contentment

By Eric Blauer

It’s the time of year where many vacation, travel and road trip around during the warmer weather of summer. This is a season when our minds and hearts sort themselves out among our leisure, contemplation and rejuvenation.

As we wander meadow trails, wade through mumbling streams or swim in pools of emerald mountain waters, our duties and desires collide in a mass of nature inspired  introspective. Life questions bubble to the surface as we begin to breathe outdoor space. Our inner selves stir and voices that have been submerged by our busy lives begin to grow louder as we grow more silent.

In such moments we often analyze why we are living as we do, who are we becoming and have we tasted the joy that we intended? Sometimes travel can become a meaningful dissection of practices, place and purpose but it can also become a distraction from the miracle of the mundane.

Seneca said:
“[Travelers] make one journey after another and change spectacle for spectacle. As Lucretius says, ‘Thus each man flees himself.’ But to what end if he does not escape himself? He pursues and dogs himself as his own most tedious companion. And so we must realize that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves.”

We need to be attentive to the state of our souls when travel becomes a hinderance instead of a help in living more content. Discovering or celebrating beauty somewhere doesn’t have to diminish your own beauty. Our journeys offer us an opportunity to see our own world with fresh eyes and rested hearts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
“I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins. Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

These spaces in ourselves are provoked by places and will nag us until we break through the pestering to the peace of a well reflected response or surrender. Time in nature can nurture within us little transformations to align us to more true and eternal matters of inner formation and outward action.

The Psalmist practiced the art of seeing our own boundaries as blessings instead of burdens.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance,” -Psalm 16:6

The limits of our lives are meant to provide plenty of margin so that we don’t try to be more or do more than a good life invites us to cultivate and experience.

This contemplative conundrum is woven through a lot of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories. The beauty of the wilds, the delights and dangers of adventures, the ache of memory and the power of place thread throughout his stories. These are pungent words that are meant to awaken an attentiveness to the small and the sacred all around us. They are echoes of things that matter like butter, smoke rings, mantles, steel, forests, beds, books and of course all the looming madness of the end of the world.

Roads Go Ever On
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,

Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.
-Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

As June blooms, I hope our hearts and feet will turn towards home, a word that is meant to be remind us of what is most true, good and beautiful in our day to day lives.

About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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