The Question I Couldn’t Answer

I was nervous. A reporter from the local news fidgeted with my mic then attached it to my shirt. I sat down under the glare of those huge lights that look like silver umbrellas. The cameraman watched us through his lens, then turned to the news anchor.

“We’re good,” he said.

For the next ten minutes or so we talked about the four-month trip my family had been on: life on the bus, life on the road, the places we’d seen. I thought we were finished.

“One more question,” he said. “Did you change on this trip?”

Did I change on this trip?

For the first time during the interview I was speechless. My glance slid off to the side. I kind of held my breath.

How did I change on this trip?

* * * * *

You can’t go on a 10,000 mile trip without changing. You can’t visit thirty-some states, or see Native Americans living in poverty, or see joy light up someone’s face when you give them a quarter without feeling something crucial slide inside of you, like the shifting of continents. You can’t get a 40-foot bus stuck in a ditch, or arrive at Yellowstone late at night only to discover you have no power, or lose your brakes at 8400 hundred feet while crossing the Teton Pass, without changing.

I knew I had changed. But how?

I stared at the news anchor, took a deep breath, and I stumbled through my answer. But the truth was, I couldn’t identify it. I knew I had changed: I felt differently, I thought differently, I looked at the world differently. Yet beyond those huge generalities, I couldn’t verbalize the specifics.

* * * * *

For the last week I’ve thought back over that question, and I’m still struggling to articulate the answer. How have I changed?

I’m less inclined to give in to the pressure to live a life resembling everyone else’s.

I’m less concerned about the future than I have been for a long time (most days).

I’m more open to embarking on mini-adventures during a typical day – I used to feel rather glued to the comfort of my desk chair or, in the evening, the safety of the living room.

Still, I search myself for further evidence of change. I wonder if the space given by more time will help me see more clearly.

How have your adventures in life changed you?

* * * * *

This post is part of a blog carnival about travel stories over at Prodigal Magazine. Check out the other contributors HERE.

25 Replies to “The Question I Couldn’t Answer”

  1. I wonder if you’ll notice more changes over the coming months as well. It sure seems like God will use the trip to continue to shape and form you.

    1. I think you’re right, Ed. I feel like I can recognize the changes in me as time passes, especially now that I’m back in familiar surroundings.

      1. I’m glad others have nocited this trend!! I was riding my bike the other day and it seemed there was a chipmunk every 2 or 3 feet!! I’ve never seen so many!!! and a coworker mentioned seeing many the other day .Interesting!

  2. I can’t claim to have taken the adventure that you have, Shawn – but on less audacious endeavors I’ve noticed that I’m more capable then I previously realized, that the things I thought impossible (or too intimidating) are possible, and less scary than I thought. That gives me – at least temporarily – the confidence to attempt something just a bit more audacious.

    However – I’ve yet to figure out how to “lock in” those step ups. It seems that if I’m not constantly challenging the status quo, I slip back down into complacency and fear, and mistakenly identify it as being content.

  3. Such a tough question, Shawn! No wonder you had trouble wrapping up an answer in a few seconds! Traveling, has taught me that you can survive on very little and be very happy. Traveling by myself taught me to be resourceful- to obtain the most basic necessities. And similar to your experience- you begin to realize that the world is much bigger than your neighborhood, and eternal concerns do not include having the most impressive possessions.

  4. Man, that question packs a punch! Really, I don’t think it’s one you’ll ever fully be able to answer. At least, not right now. In a few months, when you’ve had more time to adjust to being home, as well as process the trip, you’ll see more of the ways you’ve changed. I would guess, however, most of the changes will remain intangible. Part of the mystery and beauty of your trip.

    1. That gives me a sense of peace, Leigh, to think that I don’t have to label the things I’ve learned, that they can remain a mystery.

  5. like others have said, it might be sometime before you notice. i also think change often entails some sort of action, some sort of way we live our lives differently. we definitely feel changes and movements within our inner worlds, but sometimes those are fleeting emotions. seeing poverty and feeling bad is different than it changing what you do about poverty. i feel as though i’m knocked around by all sorts of things in life but i don’t always “change.”

    also, i think we put way too much emphasis on drastic change.

    1. I wonder if the corresponding action is what helps keep the change permanent, as opposed to simply remaining in the emotional realm and then fading over time. I always love your insights, Jay. Thanks.

  6. I think you’ll continue to unwrap this particular gift over the weeks and months – maybe even years – ahead. This kind of adventure makes big changes in us, some of them clear and evident, others more slow to develop. So glad I had a bird’s eye view of the journey.

    1. Diana, thank you so much for your consistent support and comments. It’s always so good to know it when folks are following along. The fact that Maile and I did not connect with you continues to be one of the great disappointments from the trip.

  7. Hey Shawn… the measure of a man is best summed up in the countenance of his wife and the confidence of his children. I bet both of those measurements testify to the personal growth you are undergoing. Thanks for taking all of us along for the ride.

  8. I feel like I’m in the middle of an adventure. It’s not a trip, per se, but I guess it’s a metaphorical one. I know I’m in the process of being changed by what we’re going through. I’ll be able to better answer the question in a few months. :)

  9. Not everything can be quantified with words. And I am a firm beliver that in some cases it should stay that way.

  10. I don’t have the experience if travel. However, my sister and her husband spent 4 months travelling around the world. Turkey, Africa, India, phillipines, Australia, new Zealand and Fiji. They ended in Hawaii and decided to stay. During their trip they backpacked, lived in a van and had many more adventures. I bet you could swap stories. (I hope that us correct).. Anyway she documented all of her stories. I bet you would enjoy them.

Comments are closed.