10
Jul

The tension between savoring beauty and real life


The other day I had to delete a comment from someone who accused us of being entitled and elitist. Her conclusion was that because we were recently in Tuscany with friends, and because we’re about to go around the world with our kids for a year, that we must be rolling in dough and live lives more like gentlemen farmers than blue-collared workers. (I don’t necessarily judge her for assuming something like that, what with our penchant and ability to travel, but the deleting was because of her mean-spirited and ad hominem attacks. I’m sure she’s on a journey herself, and I don’t know her giants or battles. All grace and no hard feelings here.)

I don’t doubt for a second that we’re not privileged. I mean, if you make more than $10,000 per year, you are richer than 85% of the world. If you make $50,000 or more, you’re in the top one percent of the globe. We’re there. We are utterly bizarre in this regard when compared with the rest of the world. But I don’t think that’s what my reader was referring to. I think she was referring to our freedom and lifestyle choices that allow us time to travel and to work in order to make a decent living. I’m guessing she probably isn’t a regular AoS reader, and simply assumed we are wealthy in the western world’s sense.

kyle

So, I thought it’d be a good time to explain a bit why we’re traveling around the world, with follow-up posts in the near future about the how (including budgeting). Not that I feel the need to justify anything, but I get the sense that as more and more people discover our trip, they’ll want to understand our perspective and choices.

Here’s the number one reason we’re traveling around the world for one year with three small children. Ready for it? It’s big and glamorous.

Because we want to.

That’s honestly our biggest reason for going. Kyle and I first met as travelers on a dirt road in the former Yugoslavia, and we’ve traveled together ever since. Traveling is in our blood. It’s our favorite way to spend our time, and we get a bit antsy if we’ve been in the same place too long (which is another topic itself, too).

I’ll get in to this more when I talk about finances, but we also mold and shift our budget so that traveling remains a priority after we take care of responsibilities. We have one 12-year-old minivan that permanently smells like little boy socks, and it’s on its last legs but we’re holding out until we hit the skies (we joke that we just need it to get us to the airport in a few months, then it can fall apart in front of the check-in desks, for all we care). We’ve never lived in fancy houses in the nice parts of town. We buy plenty of our clothes at the thrift store.

We do this because this is what it takes for us to travel. Not everyone is wiling to organize their budget the way we do, and we get that. But it’s part of the answer to how we can afford to. (More on this soon.)

Honestly, we just love to travel together. It’s one of the best ways we bond, it (usually) unifies our marriage, and because it’s in our blood, it seems to be in our kids’ DNA as well. They are fantastic travelers, and the more they do it, the better travelers they become.

Going deeper

I think sometimes we feel like there needs to be this extrinsic, sign-from-God sort of reason to do something this big. But really, what if God simply delights in us following our desires? What if we’re partly fulfilling our vocation (in the literal sense of the word) by acting on our deepest passions? What if it’s okay that parts of our life be ideal?

tuscan street

We talked about this, the friends I traveled with to Tuscany. It was stunningly heaven-like there, and we better understood why people suddenly move there to renovate a 13th century shanty. Part of us wanted to follow suit. We’d joke about finding villas on the Internet, flying back to the States to grab our kids, and returning to set up some glorious writers’ commune deep in the fields near the heartbeat of the Renaissance.

And yet we can’t help but feel sorta guilty for even wanting that. What about the worldwide refugees who don’t have the option to leave their government-issued tents? Shouldn’t we channel that passion instead into building wells where villages desperately need water? Or what about simply leaving a legacy and inheritance for our grandkids’ grandkids’? All important stuff.

It’s hard to live in that tension, the one where you want to dive deep into beauty, but where you also want your actions to matter. What a privilege even to live in that tension, right? When so many worldwide don’t have electricity or food, struggling between vacation or charity is a luxury in itself.

For whatever reason, I was born in the United States. I probably won’t know why until heaven, but it is what it is, and by default, this means I’m one of the world’s wealthiest (you probably are, too, if you’re reading this). So where I’m choosing to rest until God tells me otherwise is this: you can live in this tension, and both sides can be true.

Savoring and craving beauty is a creation-born thing. It’s native in each of us, though it manifests differently. So it’s more than okay to pursue its many forms, I say. And longing to care for your fellow man because it’s right and good and true is a creation-born thing, too. There’s no creative end to the many ways humans have helped each other, and I don’t think this will stop for a long while.

When I think of us traveling around the world this year, and when some people wonder if our priorities are straight, this is how I rest my head in peace each night: that our family is diving deep in both places, setting our backpacks on that parched grass that divides the line between noble causes and resting in splendor.

coffee

We are traveling around the world. We are giving money where its needed. We are seeing the globe’s greatest wonders. And we are riding busses armpit-to-face for hours at a stretch, sleeping in spare bedrooms in remote villages, giving a small voice to people living their lives daily for others, and buying breakfast at local farmer’s markets and then sitting on the nearby dirt to watch the sun rise. Not because we’re holier than thou. But because we want to live in the tension of both.

It’s both. This is how we choose to live out our passions. This is why we live simply. And with this trip, we are living out very tangibly the core of who we are.



Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of The Art of Simple, a community blog about the art and science of living simpler. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.