Travel weary, wanderlust, and loneliness in community

I’ve been traveling a lot this month. Every year it seems like this happens – the few events that require travel seem to align within the same month (or week) so that I have months upon months of little to no travel and then a string of trips closely scheduled. The week before last, I went to San Francisco with two colleague to do some meetings.

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It seems almost unfair to call this a business trip, because while we definitely had some important meetings, we also had  some down-time, and a lot of fun. San Francisco is a beautiful city, and we got to explore the surrounding areas too, by staying in Marin County, exploring Muir Woods, and then taking one day to drive into Napa . . . where it is my dream to move someday.

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Blogging can be an isolating job . . . there is no water cooler or company breakroom, so most of us have had to create our own community.  I feel really fortunate to have made great connections with other bloggers who I not only enjoy talking shop with, but who have become friends, and who push me to be better at my job but also in my life.

I had about two days home after San Fran and then I was back to the airport, this time headed to Austin for two back-to-back events. The first was a small gathering of Christian leaders and bloggers who are collaborating to bring more unity into the diverse faith community.

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It’s hard to explain this time we had together, but Rebekah Lyons does a really good job:

“Sure, our settings are different. City, Country, North & South. Our ages and stages are different. Single, Married. No kids, 5 kids. Our theology looks different. I like that. But this room gave me a larger vision of a body of women that have much in common. Ways we meet one another exactly where we are, with hearts wide and palms open. Ways we are the same.”

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After this gathering, I went straight to the Idea Camp. This is one of my favorite conferences ever. It is a post-modern exploration of topics, with a focus on the participants. The Idea Camp functions under the premise that the crowd is collectively smarter than any one speaker, so it is a very collaborative experience. I really appreciate that they are working hard to uncover all of the complex issues involved in orphan care.  I spoke on rethinking orphanages, and moving to a permanency model (more on that later.) About ten minutes prior to my speaking, I was caught in a flash flood walking back from lunch. So I was drenched as I took the stage. It was like a stress dream. Only real.

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My experience at Idea Camp was also influenced by the fact that I stayed in a rental house with about 12 other participants – all of whom I really like. It was like being at church camp again. During the day, we grappled with the hard issues of orphans and homelessness and gender issues, and then at night we unwound with food and wine and laughter and a whole lot of singing.

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(Sarah sums it up so well in her post The gift of being together.)

The last two weeks were full of things I love: travel, shared passions, good friends, and laughter. And yet, it is so hard for me to be away from my family, even in short bursts. I always feel a nagging wistfulness, even when I’m having fun. I spent the entire time wishing Mark was wit me. At the same time, I’m already wistful for the community I experienced on all three trips.

 

Living in the internet age is such a strange paradox. I’ve forged friendships with people from across the country . . . people with whole I share a work ethic or or faith or senses of purpose or personality or sense of humor (and all of the above, in many cases.) I have great friendships here at home, but it’s rare that we all get together and experience the kind of community that I do when I travel. I’ve been thinking on this a lot: how we can try being more intentional at home, and whether or not the place we live makes community more difficult.

By the end of this trip, a mixture of homesickness, introversion hangover and lack of sleep left me feeling exhausted and emotional . . . desperately wanting to get home and also both sad and grateful that I’ve formed such incredible bonds with people who live elsewhere.

P.S. if you are interested in learning more about The Idea Camp check them out on Facebook and on twitter. You can also find out more about the IF: Gathering here.


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