The metaphor of life as a journey continues to be an important one to me. One of the most engaging pieces I have read on this theme is an interview with Alastair Humphrey’s a British traveller and dad! The whole interview can be read at
However the section I like most is transcribed below. It reminds us of the importance of engaging with the speed at which we travel. If we want to belong in the places we travel through we need to ‘slow down’! The mission of the disciples .. our mission .. to go into the world requires that we make this journey through life in a particular way. What follows is food for thought this morning!
ON HOW CULTURE SHOCK DISAPPEARS AT 10 MPH
It really struck me cycling around the world how often I felt culture shock. It was so rare on the trip as to actually really stand out when it did happen, whereas if you jump on an airplane to anywhere, well, it’s weird. Flying anywhere, you get through a terminal, you walk past the ATMs and the Starbucks and the guys with the iPads picking up taxi people and you could be anywhere in the world, but eventually at some point culture shock hits you hard when you travel by plane and you suddenly realize you’re somewhere very different.
When cycling one of the only culture shocks in my trip was taking the ferry from England to France, which is only two hours, because that suddenly was a change in language. From France until South Africa, it was pretty much land the whole way, just creeping across continents. The land changed at 10 miles an hour, so you just don’t really notice it changing. The language occasionally changes at borders, but the landscape you’re moving through and the general wealth of a place and the cultures of it was such a slow-moving change that I really felt comfortable pretty much everywhere I went. The few exceptions to that in the world were very jarring because they were so rare.
A real joy of traveling across countries by bicycle is that you move so sly that you can feel like you actually belong, which is an illusion, of course, but it’s quite a pleasant one to feel that you’re part of the place you’re going through, rather than just being a voyeuristic observer as I zoom into a place by taxi from an airport.
I’m a human, and cycling all the way around the world at 10 mph made it really just feel like one world with some random little arbitrary borders and some strange foods along the way. By and large now, I’d be entirely happy to be dumped at random in any country in the world. As long as I could find somewhere to sleep tonight, I’d wake up tomorrow morning excited and curious to go have a look around.
My general feeling now from going to so many countries of rich and poor and all sorts of flavors is just how normal most people’s lives are. There’s the superficial weirdness and differentness, but very, very quickly you just realize the flow of life, people waking up and they find breakfast and they take their kids to school and they go to work. Maybe they’ve got a pig on the back of the bicycle or maybe they’re in a shiny car with an iPhone, but they’re just going to work.
Anywhere I’ve ever been in the world, people have always given me water when I’ve asked for water. No one ever makes you pay for water. No one ever says no to that. Just these little constancies that made me feel very much just like I, and this sounds like the most ridiculous hippie thing, but I’ve really started to feel that I just live in the world rather than I’m an English guy.