Thursday, September 11, 2008

Adventures on a trip around the world

As I looked down on Sydney Harbor and took in the breathtaking view of the Opera house and the city behind it, I wanted to pinch myself to make sure that I was really in Australia and not just dreaming the whole thing up. I stood there on the opposite shore at the end of a journey that had begun 36 hours before.
When I began my adventure I had one simple goal: Get to Sydney to visit my daughter, Sarah. After thirty six hours "on the road" I was reminded of an important lesson about travel and life itself. The journey is every bit as important as the final destination.

I started my trip in New London, CT at the Muddy Waters Cafe on Bank Street. As walked in the door I felt like I had been transported back in time more than fifty years. It was the perfect jumping off point for my jaunt half way around the world. I had a cup of "joe " and bagel and enjoyed the atmosphere. I imagined what it was like to take the train at the turn of the 19th century and travel across country. My adventure had begun.

I boarded the Amtrak train and was off. I chuckled to myself as I thought of Steve Martin's hilarious adventure in the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and I wondered if I would encounter anyone as memorable as John Candy was in that film. The truth is that I keep to myself when I travel. I think that is why I identify with Martin's character. He had no intention of becoming friends with Candy and yet fate intervened.

I made a quick stop in the Bronx to see my daughter, Becky. I had to get off the train in Harlem and catch a subway up to 167th street. Along the way I stopped to look for a cheap pair of sunglasses or a watch from a couple of street vendors. Boy are they good at hustling their wares! I caught the 4 subway train and headed uptown. As I got off the subway on an elevated platform it started to rain very heavily. I trudged up the hill trying to stay dry under my five dollar umbrella. When I entered the school my sneakers squeaked on the floor with every step I took. So much for not making a scene. The Principal was nice and the teachers welcomed me as I made my way to Becky's class. For the next hour I pretended to be one of her students and I enjoyed the experience.

Then I was off to the subway again and I caught the E train at 51st street and rode the Airtran into JFK International Airport. I went from New York to San Francisco and San Francisco to Sydney on the friendly skies of United Airlines.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about my little scare at the gate. I had to scramble to get a visa and rebook my flight at the gate after it had been cancelled. The gate attendant told me that there was a mix up and I had to rebook my flight because of some airline cancellations. "Didn't I get the notice?" she asked. Talk about having a heart attack. My blood pressure must have gone off the chart. She was great though and in a matter of moments I was back in business and with $25.00 my visa problem was solved.

With the cancellation I had lost my aisle seat and was given a seat in the middle. As I walked down the row I noticed two rather large men and was praying that mine was not the seat in the middle. If you guessed that I was out of luck, you would be right. Things turned out alright though. One of the men was the head of a computer consulting company who was returning to Silicon Valley from a two week business trip Europe. He also happened to be an observant Jew and he told me about his passion for Israel. He and his wife had lived there for a time and he had recently purchased land there and was looking forward to setting up a business in Israel to support the local economy. He believed in giving back. Talking with him really helped pass the time. 

The man on the aisle seat worked for Discovery Channel and had traveled the world. He got excited telling me about Sydney an some of the other places he had been. He was returning from New york after a business seminar there. I wish I could tell you that my four and a half layover in San Francisco was fun. The truth is that I was exhausted and after a late dinner at "Lori's Diner" (which made me feel at home) I sat down at the gate and just waited for us to board. 

There wasn't a lot of people on the flight so we all got to spread out. That is great when you have to sit in a seat for 14 1/2 hours. After the lights went out I actually got to spread out over three seats to sleep. Before that I did chat with a young woman who coached lacrosse at a west coast university. She was traveling to Sydney on vacation. I got the sense that she was an accomplished traveler. After we lifted off she moved two rows back so she could have her own space. I have to admit that I felt a bit like John Candy at that moment but she assured me that she just wanted room to spread out.

I arrived in Sydney at 6:40 a.m. on Thursday, September 11th. (Yes I thought about the date!) I came through customs and was greeted by Sara and an old friend I hadn't seen in 25 years. Neil was Rev. John Brook's nephew and over the last few years we had hooked up again. When I told him I was coming he offered to meet us at the airport. After we got to his car, Neil took us for a quick tour of Sydney. He showed us some of the beautiful views of the Harbor and told us a bit of its history. Neil is a newspaper reporter and a celebrated author here. He gave us a copy of his book and told us some of the nefarious deeds that he had uncovered. It was great. As he dropped us off at the University of MacQuarrie, we made plans to get together over the weekend.

As we walked into Sarah's apartment and sat down for a bit, I began to reflect upon the journey I had been through and the people I had met. Each person had a story to tell and I suddenly realized again that the journey was every bit as enjoyable as reaching my final destination. It was then that it struck me that this is equally true of our faith as we walk though life.

Sometimes we are so focused on getting to heaven or doing the right things that we forget to savor the moments we have along the way. No wonder we miss Jesus when he comes to us in the form of a stranger. Our eyes are hidden by blinders and we march forward focused on our final destination. I don't think God meant it to be that way. He told us to live each day and enjoy the blessings.

I have eight days here in Sydney and I am going to enjoy each one. I am going to try and remember this when I get home. It is so easy to lose focus on the important things. King David said "This is the day that the Lord has made. Be glad and rejoice in it!" In other words, enjoy the journey.

I am going to post some of the photos up here tomorrow when I figure out how to upload them on Sarah's computer. So check back again and I fill you in on my latest adventures.


1 comment:

Denise said...

Woo Hoo, I am looking forward to seeing pictures.