It’s been almost two weeks since my husband David and I returned from our whirlwind tour of Portugal as we filmed our next series, The Faithful Traveler in Portugal. It was such a spectacular trip, and I plan to tell you about it in future posts, there is so much to say… I’ve needed this time to get back to everyday life. Returning from a trip abroad is always so difficult for me. I get used to life abroad, learning to love things in foreign countries, and speaking foreign languages. I have to make such a huge mindshift just to get back to being American me, and I don’t always like it.
Of course, this provides me with my first opportunity to grow in holiness: to be grateful for the things I experience and to sacrifice the things I lose when I return home.
- I am grateful for Portuguese bread and coffee and the amazing food I ate there. I no longer have it, and I miss it, but tis better to have loved and lost… right?
- I am grateful for having met the many wonderful people I met on this trip. I hope to meet them again someday, but if i don’t, thank God for Facebook!
- I am grateful for having been able to see the many amazing churches and sacred sites in Portugal. I may never see them again, and if I don’t, thank God for my camera and for my future series, The Faithful Traveler in Portugal, during which I can share them all with you.
Returning from a pilgrimage abroad is difficult, as well. When you’re on pilgrimage, you have a different mindset than the mindset of everyday life. You’re more prayerful. More aware. Of course, the challenge after a pilgrimage is to continue that mindset when you get back to normal life, but it is a challenge. Who prays that much every day? I know I need to, but I don’t! That provides me with my second opportunity to grow in holiness: try to keep up that level of prayer. Pray upon waking. Give thanks whenever I can. Pray before I go to bed. Ask God for guidance, and offer up the many little frustrations in life.
As amazing as our trip to Portugal was, parts of it were difficult simply because I am clearly the kind of person who makes things more difficult than they need to be. Do you ever feel that way? I don’t know what it is. I need to chill. To accept. To surrender.
Today on the Feast of All Saints, sitting in my warm office overlooking a rainy day in the Philadelphia suburbs, I think… if I do it right, travel can help me in my goal of becoming a saint. With the right perspective, it can help us all. The key is surrender. Doing what Padre Pio tells us to do: Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Travel affords us a great many opportunities to surrender. Let me tell you about some of mine.
Before any trip, I always have great expectations. Before this trip, my expectations were associated with the fact that we would be filming for The Faithful Traveler.
Let me just put this out there from the get go: my expectations usually tend to be unrealistic. What can I say? I’m an optimist. An idealist. The good thing about that is that I am driven and I get things done. The bad thing about that is that I’m not always living in reality, and when other people are involved, they get swept up in this madness that is “Diana must do all things.” You all saw my itinerary for Portugal. It was crazy. While we did miss a few things, we were able to film most of it, and it was amazing. Granted, David was half dead by the end of the trip and there were some things we missed in my mad need to capture everything. What can I say? It’s all a learning experience.
So how can I use this to grow in holiness? Surrender. At one point early on in the trip, I had to accept the fact that I would only get what I could realistically get. Before any filming expedition, I pray, “God, show me what you want me to see, let me film what you want me to film, and give me the strength to do what needs to be done.” He always does. In my quest to film everything and to tell every story, God is an amazing editor. While I might not always like his big red pen crossing off things in my life, at the end of the day, I always appreciate it. He is wonderful for sometime allowing me to peek behind the curtains and to see what it is He is trying to do with me and The Faithful Traveler, and for that I am grateful.
During the trip, I felt like superwoman. My pre-trip month-long training sessions with Jerome Robinson of Daily Grind Fitness conditioned me to the point that I was able to climb a seemingly endless amount of stairs to the top of monastery after monastery, carrying a heavy camera, tripod, and extra lenses day after day without hurting myself and without getting breathless. Like the Monastery at Batalha. I climbed to the top of it, camera, tripod, and extra lenses in hand, like a BOSS.
I slept well each night and awoke every morning to an amazing breakfast.
There is a good deal to be said for taking care of the body that God gave us, and I am grateful to Jerome for helping me to strengthen my body to help me spread the word about amazing things God has given us around the world. Plus, I’m losing weight and gaining strength–always a good thing! I feel GREAT!
I am also convinced that because of your prayers, God gave me a strength that enabled me to scale the mountains I had to scale. It was awesome. Thank you.
Despite my superhuman endurance, my itinerary was still so idealistic that I met with frustration, day after day. There was always something–rain, traffic, and poor David got tired, too. Some of the places we went to hadn’t received our request for permission to film. Others were closed by the time we arrived. The potential for anger and frustration were high.
I always say this, and it bears repeating: anytime you try to do something good for God, anytime you try to be good, the devil always runs after you and tries to trip you up.
Again, this is an opportunity for sacrifice and trust in God. Is speaking a foreign language getting tired and frustrating? Is sleeping in a foreign bed hard on you? Is understanding foreign train schedules difficult? Are you getting cabin fever with your travel mate? All an opportunity to surrender.
I could go on and on with the daily pinpricks and challenges I encountered on my trip, and I won’t lie to you and say that I overcame them all with grace and aplomb. I failed quite regularly, and I’m sure I provided David with many opportunities to make his own sacrifices.
But today, on this Feast of All Saints, I’d like to remind you–and myself–that while travel can be an opportunity for joy and opening our minds and hearts to so many of the amazing things this world has to offer, it is also another wonderful opportunity to grow in holiness through sacrifice and trust. Something always goes wrong when you travel. It’s the nature of the beast. The challenge is to take it all in stride, and to try your best to enjoy your trip. Give thanks for the opportunity to be where you are–not all can make such journeys. As a Christian, remember that you are also an example of Christianity to others. Do you behave well, or do you give non-Christians yet another reason to think we’re all hypocrites?
This month, wherever you journey, remember that it is part of your earthly pilgrimage toward Heaven. Offer up what you can. Give thanks along the way. Ask the saints to pray for you, that you might be aware enough to recognize opportunities to grow in holiness, so that one day, we might all join them in Heaven.