PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,
Those of you who follow Ann & Christina’s blogs will know that they’ve recently returned from a 3-generation family pilgrimage to South Korea – birthplace of Ann’s adoptive children, Brian and Sally. This meaningful journey provided insights into a different culture, reflections about family history, and the joys of traveling with loved ones. It also gave additional food for thought for Ann and Christina, who dedicate this month’s newsletter to the question, “why travel?” They share their insights below, and you can read their related blog posts here.
by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea
Our travel clothes aren’t even out of the dryer before Alaska Airlines sends us a survey “How did we do on your last trip?” followed by Flash Sale ticket prices for the next trip.
We have friends who see the opportunity to travel as one of the brightest benefits of their upcoming retirement years. We also have friends who, as part of their commitment to lessened environmental impact, drive a Prius and will not get on a jet plane.
Last September we made a working trip to Germany and combined it with an educational holiday to Ireland on the way home. In early April we returned from a family pilgrimage to South Korea. We have now arrived home to spring on Whidbey Island, amazed and grateful at the beauty of where we live. Ahhh, home again.
Folks in our age bracket talk about a “bucket list”- things they want to do before “kicking the bucket” (dying). Travel is usually high on that list. We have traveled! Some years, we were gone nearly 40% of the time introducing The Circle Way around the country and the world. Between us, we have visited every state in the United States except Rhode Island and 22 countries. (See list below.) And, as we have immediate family members stretching from Alaska to Arizona, Minnesota to North Carolina, a daughter and family in southern California, we will leave home again. However, coming through jetlag and catching up on our local lives, we are living with the question of “why travel?” Why do we travel?
There was “business,” of course, and in PeerSpirit, the business was about meeting people and co-inspiring each other to collaborative ways of being. That was the most enriching part of travel – being in authentic conversations and a deep diving experience with lovely and thoughtful people around the world. So, the primary reason for us is: engagement.
Years ago American activist Fran Peavey traveled around the world in the 1950s with a printed sign she would lay at her feet on which she’d written: “American willing to listen.” We have done our best to follow in her spirit, because the second reason we have traveled is to gain perspective on what’s going on in the world. The USA is a huge country and as we have visited 49 states, we know people can wander across the continent and never get away from “all things American” – the same national media, the same food chains, language, and certain assumptions that reside in the collective American psyche.
But there is a whole world out there looking back at us/US, and our lives are greatly enriched by being informed by ordinary citizens and their questions, comments, concerns, and dreams for their worlds! Years ago, after a circle training in Denmark, we asked our friend Toke, a master at question design, “What is one question you’d like to send us home with?”
His response was, “I’d like to think that Americans are contemplating, what else could America be?” Great question – we’re still asking it, of ourselves and sometimes of faraway acquaintances to add to the perspective.
A third reason to travel is the joy of diversity. Canadian cultural anthropologist, Wade Davis, notes, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” Having just returned from South Korea, we are still immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a culture new to us. We are grateful to have been dipped into understanding their history, spiritual sources, and aspirations at a time when the world is watching their careful progress toward peace.
Our traveling family of three generations and seven people, consisting of one “made- in-Korea” young woman, her Hispanic partner, their beautiful children, and three wrinkled Anglo grandparents, represented diversity to those around us. And the children, bright-spirited Sasha and thoughtful Jaden, were ambassadors of universality as we made our way through language barriers and customs.
One day as we boarded a subway in Busan, a short, older woman boarded just ahead of us and sat in the seat right next to the door. When Sasha climbed on board, the woman motioned to her to sit down. Seven-year-old Sasha joined her and Ann sat next to Sasha. The remainder of our crew of seven stood in the aisle. More people poured into the car and the doors of our efficient, underground transportation closed. The woman was smiling and reached up to pet Sasha’s beautiful golden brown hair.
“What is she doing?” Sasha turned and asked Ann.
“She is just showing kind attention to a beautiful child who sat next to her on the subway,” Ann responded. “Just be your happy, loving self.”
“OK,” our dear granddaughter said. She turned and smiled at the sweet woman sitting next to her. The woman only traveled about two stops but when she got off she nodded and then smiled at Sasha and Ann.
Travel is a privilege. We hope we have used it well and fully and that we carry into our families and local communities the richness of these years on the world’s road.
Countries visited in our PeerSpirit work and life: