Travel

A lesson learned from across the pond

January 4, 2012

As seen in today’s Red Deer Express

Lani Ledingham learns the joys of gratitude through overseas experiences

The sound of the engine held a tin-like roar as our economy airplane flew over the prairies. It was in the heat of the summer of 2000 and my sister and I, in our country girl naivety, commented on the size of the hay bales and how small they looked from the sky. It was our first time flying and the nine others on our team laughed good-naturedly at our awe of something that seemed so minute. But to us, it was amazing and worthy of our captivated glance.

We were on our way to Mexico for a missions trip to volunteer at an orphanage.  It was the first time I saw the ocean, danced in the salty coolness with ice cream in hand, and delighted as the sun set over the Pacific. I managed to escape the diarrhea and sickness some of the others experienced, however I did catch something – the travel bug. Since then I’ve had the privilege to explore Europe, the United Kingdom, Caribbean islands, and various parts of the United States and Canada. And now, 12 years after my first flight, I find myself living in England on a working holiday.

I turned 30 at the beginning of 2011 and knew in my heart that it was meant to be a big year. Something important would happen. Or… at least should happen. What that looked like, I wasn’t fully certain. But after a few months into the year I became aware of the itching desire for an adventure and needed to unbind myself of any chains of mediocrity. My relationship status had changed on Facebook (you know it’s not official until….), and by God’s grace I was able to clear any debt I had, and I pursued “that” conversation with my boss about making changes in my life. It was with tears that I gave up a very comfortable and good job for the risk that maybe, just maybe, there was something more, or different, for me in the next season of life.

Thus began a journey of uncertainty and anticipation.

In the past four months I have travelled various parts of England from the north, south, east and west. I’ve enjoyed Rome and Prague with a good friend. I’ve worked in a bookshop in the height of the Christmas season and managed to come out unscathed from my lack of knowledge of current authors and chefs. Perhaps before I return to Canada, there will be more cities to explore.

In late November my friend Penny and I were walking along a cobbled street in Prague, bundled up to our ears with woolly warmness. Map in hand and trying to figure out where we were, we came across a towering arch with a clock at the top.  It was old, darkened by years of weather and trauma, and held a majestic authority, as though every other building in the square should respect it.

I looked up and said, “I hope I never get used to seeing something like that.” To my friend who has been surrounded by such buildings her whole life and where history dating back 1000 years is fairly normal, it wasn’t as big of a deal. But for me, coming from a country and province that is still quite young, it was amazing.

I am reminded of that delight and excitement of a 19 year old discovering the joy of flight for the first time. I don’t ever want to look at something that once caused awe and amazement and count it as common. Ordinary. Or of all things, not even notice it anymore.

Being this far from home, and after having my first Christmas away from my family, I feel a new awe and thankfulness at what I have been given in life.

I recently read a quote on Twitter by Jim Carrey and it went something like, “I hope people get rich and famous and get everything they ever wanted and then realize it’s not the answer.”

As I develop my photography, I have come to notice details in buildings, people and now in the oddest of places will see beauty. But, had I not stopped to look for it, I may never have discovered it. You see, there are idyllic spots all over the world, you just have to notice them.  It could be found in the park you always go to with your kids. That café you frequent may have a painting you’ve never noticed that will captivate the emotion you couldn’t quite put into words. The people in our every day life could have the most amazing qualities and stories, if we just feed the awe factor.

If travelling and experiencing a different culture has shown me anything it’s that I need to live AND love the life I live. I want to be thankful for every detail and person, every kink that hasn’t yet straightened, and adore every imperfect situation for what it is.

Whether it’s from the window of an airplane looming through a prairie sky, the stained glass of a 500 year-old church, or the backseat of a VW bug, I bet there is some window waiting for an awe moment.

Perhaps it’s from your front door?

 

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