Traveling was never my cup of tea. I’m more of a “stay-at-home” kind of person. But my life as a Daughter of Saint Paul and communicator/writer/producer has called me to travel much more often that I would normally choose, whether it’s last year’s book tour to seven cities in North America, or this year’s trip to Rome for a congregational seminar to deepen our understanding of the Pauline spirituality. I’ve also become a rather cautious traveler, especially when I don’t know the language of the country I’m visiting or traveling through, and even more so now because of my restricted diet. But perhaps my caution makes the trips even more exciting, as I take on a “pilgrim perspective” of relying on God to provide. Once I’m on the road or in the air, I invariably find that I really enjoy the new experiences, especially meeting people, experiencing firsthand what another culture is like, discovering how faith is “incarnated” in that culture, and taking in all the new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Traveling internationally is even more of an adventure, as I am immersed in what is even less familiar. It opens me up to seeing things in a new way.
I’m especially blessed when I travel because often I’m traveling to visit or stay at one of our convents. (We Daughters of Saint Paul are in 50 countries around the world!) And no matter what language or culture a Daughter of Saint Paul is from, our common “spiritual culture” is so strong that I always feel at home.
During this trip (I’m actually in Rome right now), I am trying to be a real pilgrim, and use the newness, lack of familiarity, and my limited understanding of Italian, to pay more attention to my surroundings, and to see with new eyes. I also want to drink in the sacred atmosphere—both of the new places, and of the special places that I have already come to love while I’m in Rome.
I used to think that traveling as a writer meant carrying a notebook or my laptop everywhere, tapping away on my keyboard in airport lobbies–and I actually do that. But more importantly, as a writer (and as a human being), I want to use the awareness of being less comfortable, of being in less familiar surroundings, to “wake me up” to the reality of others’ experience. Traveling as a writer means opening wide my eyes, ears, and heart, so that I can enter more fully into the experiences of others.