Have you ever returned from a trip with a desire to live differently? International travel in particular is a catalyst for life change. It provides a view of life rearranged, of priorities and resources altogether different from those at home.
I was blessed to be able to study and travel abroad frequently in my twenties. In Sri Lanka, I observed women sewing shirts priced higher than their annual salary.
In Jordan, a family prepared me a meal so savory and generous that I'm quite sure my stomach will never be so full again.
In France, I grew accustomed to a life in balance, where Sundays for most families consists of a noontime meal, a nap, leisure time outdoors, and a quality movie on national television.
After these international experiences, I vowed that if I returned to live in the States, I would find a way to contribute to intercultural peace. After all, as John Piper says here about modern Western culture,
"The main idol is self; its main doctrine is autonomy; its central act of worship is being entertained."
In contrast to these values, I wanted to contribute to the greater good and to live a life without habits of indulgence and self-absorption. My first two years back in the United States, I taught French and English during the day and volunteered two evenings per week as an editorial assistant at Mercy Corps. Working alongside motivated people in altruistic professions was refreshing.
But when I married and had children, such long days were no longer the right choice for my family. Yet my vision for an intentional, globally conscious life persisted.
What does that vision look like for my family now? We live on my husband's salary while I teach our children. I speak to them in French, my non-native language. We write letters to a sweet Filapina girl through Compassion International. We host exchange students, often in emergency situations. (My four-year-old is too young to remember all of the students, but she still tells people that she has a sister who lives in Japan.) We buy seasonal produce from a local farm CSA and we don't own a microwave. We limit our belongings and donate the excess as often as we can. We're saving money to travel overseas together. We are still a family of flawed people who regularly make selfish choices, but our vision for a life of peaceful purpose endures and continually shapes our decisions. We're enjoying this journey by keeping the global context in mind.
This week I finished reading Tsh Oxenreider's Notes from A Blue Bike, and I discovered how her work in Kosovo and Turkey shaped her family's choices for a simple, purposeful life here in America. (The book will be released February 4, 2014; I was thrilled to receive an advance copy to review.) Tsh's insight and reasoning really resonated with me. If you'd like to read more about life at the intersection of reality and intentionality, this is your book too.
And if you're interested in hearing Tsh's thoughts on travel as a catalyst for life change, watch this.
I wish you all the best on your journey to a more intentional life!
What inspires you to live a life larger than your own needs and desires? What does that life look like for your family, and how does it differ from the lives of those around you?