I want to go to South America.
Two days ago I was melancholy thinking about it, because is there anything more selfish than traveling? And yes, I realize this is the same ground I’ve trodden and crawled over and examined before, but it resurfaces every time wanderlust gets the better of me.
“Wanderlust is not passion for travel exactly; its something more animal and fickle – something more like lust.”
Wanderlust; a love affair with five continents.
“Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one’s own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live. There is in men, as Peter Quennell said, “a centrifugal tendency.” In our wanderlust, we are lovers looking for consummation.”
My melancholy is for this; traveling has virtually no “kingdom value”; its not explicitly blessing other people and the intentions for it are entirely self-centered; I want to see the world. I want to experience other cultures. I’m going to spend this money on my adventure. Even I want to learn is selfish.
Then I realized, hello, do like all my friends do and volunteer abroad!! I started googling volunteer opportunities in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, etc. Orphans, widows, wildlife, oh my! I even, to my shame, looked into short-term missions trips.
This didn’t last very long because my conscience won’t allow it.
For one thing, I don’t believe in short-term missions trips. And neither do the real missionaries. Sure, we of the white western descent love to serve the less fortunate. Every summer you can see the suburban missionaries parade into Mexico, Argentina, Belize, etc. with their kids’ crafts and their Jesus stickers, leaving in their wake some good memories, emotional highs/lows, and a quiet dependence. We the Fortunate bring home good memories, emotional highs/lows, and lessons learned. We may even carry along a gnawing feeling that our missional vacation didn’t actually do any lasting good. Maybe we’re the only ones who benefited from it.
Plus, all that money raised and spent on our “life-changing” mission trips could fund a real missionary’s family for months, possibly the whole year.
Enough on that for now.
The second reason I despaired over my voluntourism ideas is because its just that – voluntourism. Its simply a way for me to go do my selfish traveling and feel justified in doing so. “Its for a cause”, I whine. It would just be a way for me to feel good about myself, maybe a bit self-righteous too. Its not that I actually care about people; I just don’t want to feel guilty.
The revelation of which caused more despair, and I threw myself onto the couch.
“Woe is despicable me!”
Also, I don’t believe our volunteer efforts do much good. We ought to be empowering and building community from the inside out, not strutting in and laying out the blueprints. We usually ought to not do for the poor what they can (and should) do for themselves. Check out http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/
I’m reading the book and it is blowing my mind.
So where does one turn? What does one do?
We’re supposed to live in service to others, as blessings to others, and point them away from ourselves and to the Lord. So how? And what do you do with wanderlust?
So I phoned a friend. That friend being, of course, my father, who quoted Slingblade at me (“That Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That’s an awful big place to live in.”) and told me to just go to South America for kicks and giggles.
Not that my dad is the authority on all things moral, but it’s nice to have parents who are encouraging. Even if they’re encouraging a directionless, experience-grasping existence.
In all seriousness though, how do you feel about traveling for fun? How do you feel about short-term missions and voluntourism?
I came to the conclusion in Oz that traveling wasn’t sin and in fact does much good. For example, teaching appreciation for all people and learning that Amurica’s way of life is not only not the only way out there, but also not necessarily the best. And remember Warriuka? I was able to volunteer at two camps, one of which was dangerously low on leaders. So what do you say to that?
I would rather be honest with myself, with God and with you, about my reasons for going somewhere or doing something. I can’t pretend its for anything other than learning, fun, and to experience the complexities, the beauties and tragedies, of creation. I’d rather not try to pull one over on you, on God, and even on myself. I want truth at any cost. I’d feel more guilt as an imposter.
And you know what? I even have a friend who wants to go with. He’s a complicated friend, but a friend nonetheless, and I can’t imagine a better vagabonding partner.
All this to say…
I have four dollars in the account now, but the account is called Chile, and friend, it will grow.