During high school in the early 1980s, I was a foreign exchange student to Turkey. Before my flights to Istanbul, my parents made sure that I had reliable traveler’s checks to convert into local currency when I arrived at the far side of the world. It was a choice between American Express or Thomas Cook. We chose Thomas Cook. The company had been in business since the 1840s, and its London headquarters is a lot closer to Turkey than is the US. It all went very well, and that experience moved me down a path in life that defined who I am today.
Of course, nothing crafted from the human hand lasts forever. So it should not have been a particular shock to me to learn today that Thomas Cook has closed down. Well, it was. This is a travel company that formed a regular part of conversations with neighbors and work colleagues during the decade (all of my 30s) that I lived in England. So I was a little rattled when news reports highlighted that more than 150,000 travelers have been stranded overseas by this sudden, unexpected corporate collapse. The British government estimates that it will spend more than the equivalent of $120 million getting its citizens home; and many more will not be so lucky.
Why share this gloomy news? Is it likely that your airline or hotel group will shut down during the coming months? No. Is it likely that you will be hospitalized or jobless right before your upcoming trip? Very likely not. Will there be a natural disaster that prevents you from traveling? Same answer: probably not. But are these things possible? Well, yes, they are. And this reality is why True Hope Travel recommends that you buy travel insurance when you commit to a trip. Similar to having a fire extinguisher in your house or a spare tire in your car, you don’t want to use it—but you really should have it.
To purchase trip insurance (particularly trip cancellation or interruption policies), consider policies from Faith Ventures: https://www.truehopetravel.com/trip-travel-insurance.html
Richard Schiffman is a poet and environmental journalist based in New York. He is a global traveler, but he has learned that the value of a journey is not found in the distance that we cover, but in how deeply we focus on where we find ourselves. As an example, he recounts the experiences of six-graders from Los Angeles who traveled just a few miles up into the San Gabriel Mountains and were awestruck by the beauty of nature. One girl was astonished “by the crunch of freshly crusted snow. She had never seen snow before, still less the sound of walking on it.”
Some people call this “mindfulness” or “being present”, but Schiffman uses the term “affectionate attention”, and he says it has never been more needed than it is today. As an environmental reporter, he writes about regulations and technology that may help address the ecological woes of our world. And he believes these approaches are important to a sustainable future. But “the real problem”, he is growing to suspect, “is that we don’t love the world enough. We don’t love it, in large part, because we don’t see it. We don’t see it because we are not paying attention.”
At True Hope Travel, we love creation as a reflection of our creator. And we regularly see the hand of God in the many remarkable landscapes that we visit, as well as in the faces and voices of the many remarkable people we meet. But in order to capture the spirit of God during our pilgrim journeys around the world, we need to attune our eyes to see God and our ears to hear God in our daily lives. Have we said this before? Yes. Will we say it again? Yes, because it’s important. When we practice such affectionate attention, as Schiffman calls it, we are preparing ourselves to receive so much more from the trips that we so look forward to taking. And we pray the same for you.
(To read more of Richard Schiffman’s thoughts about the spirit of travel in our daily lives, visit Yes magazine: https://issues.yesmagazine.org/issue/radical-travel/theme.html#9thArticle.)
Liam Heneghan is a professor of environmental science at DePaul University in Chicago. Each summer, he takes students to his native Ireland; and during these trips he notices a phenomenon for which there is no name. So he gave it a name: allokataplixis (allo-kata-plixis). This neologism comes from the Greek “allo” for other, and “katapliktiko” for wonder or fascination.
Heneghan says the term captures the idea of noticing the marvellous amid the mundane or finding remarkable beauty in the commonplace. We all do this while traveling. Maybe it’s pausing to enjoy the sound of water bubbling in a city-centre fountain. Or perhaps it’s appreciating the sight of a sunset reflecting on a broad river.
These moments are examples of being fully present in a given moment, and little gifts of serendipity. Each of us at True Hope Travel adores seeing these tiny experiences captivate the people immersed in our pilgrim journeys. From our perspective, they are a recognition of the divine—in that God is all around us, and that He reveals himself to us wherever we allow our eyes to see and our ears to hear. When we speak of travel as being transformative, we are speaking of this heightened awareness of God in our lives—not just on a trip, but in the midst of our lives after a trip. For the truth is our journeys are perpetual.
(To read more of Liam Heneghan’s thoughts about allokataplixis, visit Aeon magazine: https://aeon.co/ideas/we-have-a-new-word-for-that-feeling-when-travel-makes-everything-new)
Gary Werner is a journalist, media project manager, and cross-cultural consultant focused on wine, food, and travel for national and international book, magazine, and website publishers. His range of professional experience includes work for the DK Eyewitness Travel guide series, pre-placement training sessions for transnational corporate relocations, and guidance on global brand localization. The scope of this enlightening work has taken him to 16 countries, including a full decade in the United Kingdom.