Our last few months in Europe was an interesting kind of experience.
And it lead me to the conclusion that Europe is not my favorite travel spot and in fact, the Western world does not always offer the things I love about travel.
Yes there are castles and museums and buildings older than my own country and there are mountains that break the clouds. But there is something missing and leaving it feeling unlike the startling adventures I crave and stumbled upon so easily and frequently in Asia or South America.
Why? Because in developed and affluent countries like Germany and Austria, people are comfortable with their private lives. They go to their private homes and grocery shop at clinically clean grocery stores. They offer friendly smiles, but they do not truly need one another and struggle with one another the way we’ve seen in developing countries. It’s honestly not so different from the U.S. in that way.
And you know what? I don’t like it.
As strange as it may sound, I have fallen in love with the developing world. When we arrived in South Africa for our brief visit, I breathed in the gritty smell at the subway station and a rush of excitement went through me. It finally felt like travel again in a way that Europe hadn’t. And sure enough even if our brief visit we still found ourselves sitting down to a long conversation with strangers in the national park discussing the intricacies of South Africa.
I don’t mean to knock on Europe so much though because we really did have some very interesting and meaningful experiences. For instance we had a wonderful time introducing Drew’s mom to Europe and it was so wonderful to live vicariously through her excitement for her family’s genealogy. I’ll never forget navigating the busy districts of London with Mary Ann, hunting down the church where her great great great relatives were married and baptized. We followed 11 police vans into the “ghetto” and strolled right by a sidewalk brawl to visit the beautiful and endearing church at Stepney.
But still….I’m ready to say goodbye to Europe because the developing world teaches me things I love to be reminded of.
I see people leaning on one another in a life structured more for the interaction of people than the protection and possession of things.
On the one hand, the developing world brings you face to face with the brokenness that is poverty.
On the other hand, the developed world brings you face to face with the brokenness that is ….privacy and affluence….comfort to some unnatural extreme.
Both are broken, but for some reason the developing world has won me over not because I can ignore the brokenness of the developing world but because I’ve have gotten too good at ignoring the unnatural comfort of the Western world…and I want to be stretched. I want to grow. I want to wrestle with the things worth wrestling.
We have one more brief trip scheduled for Europe, and then at last it’s back to Asia, a world that challenges me in my most favorite ways.