I have happy memories of childhood family vacations. Mom, Dad, Eric, and I would go to places we could access by car from our home in Savannah, Georgia—I remember visits to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina; to see the monuments and museums of Washington, DC; and one very special trip to Orlando, Florida, to experience the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Those were all very special times for us as a family—we did fun things that were out of the ordinary for us; ate in restaurants, which was not a regular experience back home; rode on windy roads, floated in mountain streams, and saw museum-worthy artifacts in overwhelmingly large buildings on the National Mall.
We didn’t, though, experience much that was culturally different from our own daily lives.
International travel was something other people did—people in the movies; acquaintances of my parents; military service members. The lack of such travel wasn’t a particular loss in my mind. Rather, it just wasn’t part of our family’s culture or tradition.
In my own adulthood, though, I have been fortunate to experience brief glimpses of the world beyond the U.S.—a few days in the Dominican Republic; two weeks in Thailand; another few days in Costa Rica. And, most notably, an extended 6-month stay (plus two weeks, 10 years later) in Italy—mostly in the region of Abruzzo, but with brief stays in other regions.
For six months twenty years ago, Graham and I lived out of our backpacks, stretching the dollars we (mostly he) had saved during my ministerial internship year and “making a living” with WWOOF Italia—farm owners gave us room and board (yum!); we gave them house-sitting, olive-picking, sheep-feeding, and more.
There’s so much of the world I haven’t seen, and yet these visits to a few distinctly not-U.S.-American places have been profoundly important in drawing me out of—and eventually back into—myself.
It’s uniquely special to be in a place where the language is unknown and the customs unfamiliar and the food sometimes unidentifiable and the landscape differently beautiful … and where the people inevitably are interesting and wonderful.
And so it is that I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity next year to visit—with some of you!—a part of Italy that will be mostly new to me, and to experience it almost entirely on foot as a spiritual pilgrimage.
As my friend and colleague Rev. Rob Hardies—who will lead our trip—explains,
Walking pilgrimage is a spiritual practice that encourages deep reflection on our life journey. As we walk through the beautiful Italian landscape, we will also explore the inner terrain of our hearts and souls with the help of daily readings, questions, spiritual practices, and group reflection every evening before dinner. Pilgrimage is a practice well-suited to those who find themselves at an inflection point in their lives and who wish to explore where’s life journey may lead them next.
Might you join us next September on this pilgrimage of body, mind, and spirit? *
Please read more about the trip on our website—In the Footsteps of St. Francis, A Walking Pilgrimage to Assisi—and plan to attend the Assisi Pilgrimage Information Session on Wednesday, September 29, 7pm via Zoom. (Note that you need to email Rob to get the Zoom link.)
I am sure that this pilgrimage will be a profound experience for all who participate. I look forward to sharing it with you.
* It is a privilege to have the resources—time, energy, health, money—even to be able to imagine the possibility of a such a trip. I am fortunate to be able to consider it for myself. If it is cost-prohibitive for you, but you would otherwise be able to participate, let’s talk.