One Year on the Road

Thinking Outside the Bag

I’m thinking about Paris. Wondering what it would be like to be having a wonderful time in the most romanticized city on earth and suddenly be in the midst of a one-way war. It’s hard not to dwell on the horror of it. And I know it happens on a regular basis in less popular places. Beirut. Bagdad. Syria. Cairo. Kenya. And those populations are just as worthy of our empathy. But Paris hits home. Because for so many people, it’s a dream destination. For those of us who have been there, it likely holds happy, exciting memories. Many who haven’t been there have it on their bucket list. It’s Paris, after all. The City for Lovers. Rich with history and charm and culture. And if a sudden and brutal war against civilians can happen there, it could happen here.

For the last eight months, Kate and I have been on continuous vacation. Traveling this way has opened my eyes to some things – pockets of American history I hadn’t been aware of, connections with people I wouldn’t ordinarily approach – but in other ways, it’s a little like pulling a bag over my head. We don’t read newspapers. We rarely watch TV. And as much as I love NPR, I don’t miss waking up every morning hearing about the latest atrocities in the world. For the most part, we avoid big cities and prefer pastoral countryside, quaint little towns, beautiful national and state parks. It’s like traveling in a bubble of prettiness.

I have to admit, living unaware has its advantages. I’ve appreciated the distance from the grim realities of the bigger world. I rarely feel better about life after watching the news. But when something like the terrorist attacks on Paris breaks through my happy bubble, it makes our big adventure seem small.

Kate has said on this trip, “I thought I’d be having more epiphanies.” And we both thought we’d be plugging in to communities more than we have. We brought our hammers and nail aprons to join in on Habitat for Humanity projects. Kate is especially interested in how different cities work with the homeless population. Instead, we’ve kept busy moving from campsite to campsite and generally having a blast. We’re likely to keep doing just that. And why not? This is our year on the road. But these last two days, I’m thinking about Paris and remembering there’s a world outside the bag.

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