The Unexpected Text Message and My Next Great Adventure

When we returned from our epic, four-month road trip, things didn’t line up. I felt so different, so changed, yet there we were, biding our time in my parents’ basement, looking for writing projects to pay the bills, and squirming back into our somewhat normal lives. It seemed like nothing at all had changed.

Unfortunately, I didn’t yet understand the concept Terry Pratchett writes about so eloquently:

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

Because I didn’t understand this, I started to feel like I had never left. I started to feel like the whole trip, and its huge bundle of amazing experiences, may have been unnecessary. 

Then I got a text message from Matthew Paul Turner.

I had met Matthew in Nashville during our trip. He and I had grabbed a coffee just outside the city, and immediately I felt a connection. He’s a writer with a beautiful family, and our backgrounds share a lot of similarities. We talked about the projects we were working on. We stayed in touch as Maile and I continued around the country in the big blue bus, and he has been a huge source of encouragement in my writing life.

Three months after Matthew and I met, and about two weeks after Maile, the kids and I returned from our trip, I got this text message from him:

Well…I MIGHT have an open spot on my August World Vision trip to Sri Lanka…I’ll more than likely be inviting you to travel halfway around the world with me. :)

* * * * *

There’s this thing I’m learning about adventures.

They usually have a start date: the day you leave for college, or start that new job, or step on to the plane. The moment you say “yes” or “no” or “I do” or “Let’s give it a shot” or “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” The minute you sign the contract or the check. Sure, there’s a lead-up time, but there’s also usually something marking the date when the whole thing will kick off.

But what I didn’t understand about adventures was this: they don’t end easily. If you’re haphazard enough to embark on one adventure, and you’re not careful, another one will follow after it. The reason for this is rather simple: adventurous paths have many more off-shoots than the normal paths, because the pounding steps of most of humanity have worn the normal everyday paths into deep ruts. Deviations are difficult. Believe me. I know.

But adventurous paths, so rarely trod, are smooth and slippery and wind into the most unlikely places. Once you set off on one, your footing becomes rather unpredictable. In order to continue, you’re forced to lean on something other than your own strength.

* * * * *

So I’m slipping into another adventure. In about four weeks, from August 23rd through September 1st,  I’ll be flying to the other side of the world with a small group of bloggers, all of us guests of World Vision. We’re traveling to Sri Lanka. I’m eager to share what World Vision is accomplishing there and also to introduce you to some of the communities benefiting from their child sponsorship program.

There are so many different opportunities for you to be part of this trip. Consider helping out in the following ways:

1) Sponsor a child through World Vision. If you would like to sponsor a child in the area I will be traveling to, email me as soon as possible at I might be able to meet them in person and deliver a gift, have a picture taken with them, or give them a hug for you. But this kind of meeting takes a lot of planning, so let me know as soon as possible.

2) Help me spread the word by sharing my World Vision blog posts on Facebook, Twitter or by telling your friends about it. Stories change the world – if one of the stories I tell in Sri Lanka resonates with you, please share it.

3) Read the posts by the other bloggers traveling along with me on the trip, and share those as well.

4) Pray that our trip would be productive, informative, and that our presence would encourage those we come into contact with.

You all were such a huge encouragement to Maile and I while we journeyed around the country. I can’t wait for you to join me on this next adventure.

Which of your own adventures has had the biggest impact on you? How did you feel when it was “over”?

23 Replies to “The Unexpected Text Message and My Next Great Adventure”

  1. How amazingly just like our God to orchestrate!!! How wonderful that He is so reliable to lean on, and we will certainly be praying for your whole family during this exciting time!

  2. Hi Shawn, your post today reminds me of that poem( I think its by Frost) about taking the road less travelled. I pray that you and your family are blessed in more ways than one while you are on this adventure. A little over 8 years ago, my husband and I decided to leave our home in NY, where we had lived all our lives and nice to Florida. No jobs, just build a house and go. Here we are 8 years later , 2 kids, a dog, same house, I work in a great school and my husband started his own business. We never see where the road leads to, because I believe its about the Journey, and how we handle what the Lord puts on the path. Sheash, I talk too much.

  3. Joy will tell you how my face beamed when she said you were going. My first thought was: I cannot wait to see Sri Lanka through Shawn’s eyes. I’m honored to be holding the ropes back home, and I’m sure Maile is honored to be doing the same. Looking forward to seeing how God uses your words from another hemisphere to bring help, healing and hope.

    1. Scott, you are so kind. I’m honored to have you and Joy as friends and look forward to the various intersections our lives will take in the coming years.

  4. I was just pondering this very thing. My adventure has not been one anyone in their right mind would plan. No buses, airplanes, trains or fancy automobiles, but one on foot. My adventure has been more of a pilgrimage brought on by living in a shroud of darkness for most of my life. This adventure began six years ago when enough was enough was enough. I look forward to one day experiencing the adventures you tell of. I know it will happen because it is within me, within my husband, an ache that won’t leave us saying “Go.” First we had to walk this long walk emptying ourselves of the messy in order to be prepared for the filling of substance that is sure to come in our going. I am anxious to follow your journey…very exciting indeed!

  5. Shawn, I’m so excited for you! What a life-changing experience this will be- and you get to do it with some of my favorite people to boot.

    I would say my trip to Thailand with a nonprofit after grad school has had the biggest impact. There were a lot of firsts on that trip and in many ways, it helped me figure out who I was and who I was going to be.

  6. I would say right now, living in faith in Phoenix, is our biggest impact trip. We’ve been connected into community like never before, but we’re waiting on the financial miracle. I left Phoenix almost twenty years ago, and now I’m back, and I’m a new person.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  7. What an amazing opportunity for you!! God has a way of working things out. :)

    Probably the most life-changing adventure for me was a 3 week mission trip to India. It wasn’t my first, my longest, nor my last trip there, but it left the biggest impact on my life. The team I went with spent a week volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity homes for the dying & destitute. There were so much peace in the midst of disease and death. It was truly a humbling experience, one that forever changed me. When it was over, I wanted to go back, to do more. So I did.

  8. Shawn – that is awesome – I’m sure you are going to have a great trip. My wife and I were just with World Vision in Kenya in April – they are a great organization and are doing some hard work to make a real difference in the communities they serve. We were very impressed with their staff and their approach to sustainable development. If you have some time you should read “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett it will definitely help you appreciate World Vision’s approach to helping the most vulnerable.

  9. It’s like lay’s potato chips, these adventures. Can’s have just one. Dude. Super excited for you! I will of course be reading your updates. And I’ll tell you what else. Since my own husband has been traveling so so. Much to summer, I’ll be praying for Maile and the kiddos. Way to stretch yourself there, boss.

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