We are too afraid. We’re afraid of the uncertainties of this life. We’re afraid of the people around us; terrified less of what harm they may do, then of the truths they may teach us of ourselves. I can’t help but feel that I have grown up in a culture that feels an urge to reach out to those around them, yet gets nowhere, either out of fear, or a lack of courage to act on faith; always waiting for the other person to take the first step. This trip taught me more than I could have imagined about the goodness of others, and of taking that first step. We put ourselves out there, stripped of the usual comforts of our surroundings, and I believe God rewarded us for that. Everywhere we went, people opened their homes to us, and asked nothing in return. Strangers gave directions, or advice. They expressed genuine concern and curiosity for our safety and cause on the road. They were willing to talk with us. They shared a piece of their ever-complicated lives with us, and for this I am grateful. There is so much love that can be shared in the act of simple conversation. The sad irony is, we live in an increasingly connected world that increasingly lacks true human connection. The concept of true community with others has been mostly forgotten in our society, and if there is community, we label it “intentional.” Shouldn’t our lifestyles require community with one another? Throughout our trip, we were blessed to experience more than a few instances of community, whether it was at the Shrine in Harlem, at Mollie’s house, or even just the four of us in the van. Personally, I felt as if I experienced community at each home we stayed at. We shared our lives with one another, even if only in the smallest amounts. At the heart of it, the purpose of this trip, at least from my point of view, was fairly simple: to get out of our comfort zones, to explore our world, to connect with those who we might not normally encounter, and to strengthen our connection to those that we would. Relating with another person’s successes and struggles; letting your life both impact and be impacted by another individual on an intimate level, let’s you see the world in a whole new light, in which our humanity is made more complete in our community with one another. We hold the potential to become connected both spiritually and emotionally; valuing each other as fellow human beings, of God’s Creation. And this connection, in my opinion, is exactly what this world needs.
So basically this whole road trip thing was a blast. I had an amazing time with radically awesome people, visiting awesome places, combined with awesome music. So what have I learned from the trip? Well now i truly believe that the Frisbee is indeed one of greatest inventions of all time, that four people can live in a van somewhat peacefully without killing each other, and that God reveals himself to us through our experiences and the people we meet along the way. ” Travel is a vivid experience for most of the U.S. At home we have lost the capacity to see what is before us. Travel shakes us up out of our apathy so that we gain an attentiveness that heightens every experience.” -D.W. Fiske.
Finally! A time to sit down and put in writing an actual reflection of our trek….I hope the others will have the opportunity to do so as well….
First I should acknowledge the fact that as I am typing this I am sitting in a room with maps all over the walls: some are maps of the country, others are maps of the world. New England is a small place and I am a small person in a big world. My attempt to conquer this earth in whatever way, shape, or form, is entirely fleeting. We can never “find ourselves” by looking outside somewhere because there will always be another place to go. The answers we seek to this life are more often internal.
Our home stays throughout this trip showed me a lot. They showed me that this world is full of good-intentioned people even in the suburbs where there is a lot of potential to be blinded to the need for Christlike love in urban America. I think a lot of suburbians have a wall put up, maybe not intentionally, but just because that’s what they know, but I know that everyone we stayed with blessed us and their local neighbors, at the very least. So I’ll confess that suburbia is not all bad. It is not all middle-class Christianity prosperity gospel. I’m glad for that.
I was pleased to find, in particular, that I did not meet a single rude person in New York City. Everyone we encountered was helpful and pleasant. Stereotypes are lame. Of course, you meet the occasional shady or creepy guy, but let’s have some grace and stop condemning entire urban pockets for the fault of a minor fraction of the population.
One highlight of the trip for me occur in the Bronx. Last semester I read up on the Rastafarian faith and did a presentation on it as well. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a Rastaman (they aren’t dime-a-dozen). I began to see the real value in learning about other religions and how I can have a positive impact on their followers (and how their followers can benefit my own faith). Now I am considering Religion as my minor.
New England is a pretty region of this planet. The people that we met there were laid back and made me feel welcome. Interviewing my interviewee in Rhode Island gave me a lot of perspective on the challenges that I am passionate about. I learned that to achieve a big goal and make a big change, one cannot proceed alone. The expertise and various gifts of others must be implemented into the project collaboratively. In Carlisle this summer, I don’t want to make big changes; I want to make small changes (by the world’s standards). I still want to strive for social justice and loving of the neighbor, but I just don’t want my ego to be fed from it.
All of our hosts taught me about hospitality. They were all so excellent at it and I hope I can one day visit all of them again.
Also, Maine had a sweet beach and we all cut our feet because we sunk so far into the shell-filled sands.
Frisbee is now the greatest sport on the face of the globe. We got so much practice in.
I got a taste of what it’s like to be a touring musician as well. More of that will come this summer, but a brief little introduction to that career gave me some invaluable insight, at least practically speaking. Our musical adventures throughout this trip were very fun.
Now, I am even more interested in writing as well. Perhaps as a “future vocation.” I prefer not to know my future though. I’m quite the opposite of many people in that respect, but I don’t like to know what’s going to happen or what I’m going to do. So far, that mentality has blessed me a lot. Not only am I never disappointed, but I always value the adventure all the more.
Thanks to the career center for support, and thanks to our hosts, fellow musicians, those who followed our trip, etc.
PS – We kind of have this running lie on the footage we shot where I talk about every giant building as if I own it, every statue as if it is me, every city as if I founded, established, discovered, or conquered it. Let’s be honest. Again, I am a small person trying to make small changes on earth and in people for the Kingdom of God to be advanced a lot. I mean no disrespect to any founding father, historical figures, national events, government “authority,” American citizen, or any other human being or human action. Just a disclaimer. I swear my ego is not that big
it is finished.
we will soon reflect on our experience via this blog. but now it’s time to sleep. because we need that.
Right now we’re in Yarmouth, Maine – right outside Portland. We’re playing music at our friend Mollie’s house tonight. We already went to the beach today and the water was great. We’ve had delicious home-cooked food (opposed to the random box of sugar and carbohydrates we’ve been digging through all week). I believe we are sleeping outside tonight. Hope the bugs don’t bite!
Last night the Messiah alums that we stayed with were incredibly hospitable. Personally, I might have unintentionally learned more about my future vocation from them than anything else on this trip. I didn’t even do an interview. That was Morgan.
Tomorrow is our 11-hour trek back home. We will play a gig at my family’s church in Hanover, PA in the evening. I hope the drive will give us time to talk and reflect and listen to good music We’ll see.
_ phil and the gang
We’re sitting in Boston’s main park. We’ve been playing frisbee with our beat up frisbee for a few hours. Saw some Peruvian street music. Life is very good. Tonight Morgan has an interview with Messiah alum Katie Keith (she is a social worker). Mollie’s house/Portland, ME tomorrow. Back home friday!
_ phil and crew
So after a lovely stay in Connecticut we traveled to Jim Ryczek’s humble abode in Road Island for an interview. He heads a homeless coalition and has heart full of compassion for the poor. After our inspirational chat with this amazing man; we journeyed to New Port and Jamestown. They were both ocean front, and filled with quaint historical sites. Our visit included exploring the fisherman wharfs, investigating an old lighthouse, and of course playing frisbee. After our sea faring excursion, we moved on north towards Massachusetts to stay with James, a Messiah student and friend who happens to live really really close to thee….dun dun dun….Plymouth Rock. Driving to Plymouth filled us with excitement as we awaited viewing the rock of all rocks. Well, we did see the rock, but it was quite small, and probably only five pilgrims could stand on it at one time, but historians claim that the rock today is one third the size of what it was when the puritans stepped off the Mayflower. Tomorrow we head for Boston, shall be fun!
Last night we pulled off at a rest stop just outside Hartford to sleep, waking this morning to the steady drone of cars and flatbed trucks on the passing highway. It was a restless night for me, not that I expected different. The van was pretty cramped, but I guess that’s half the fun.
It was chilly and overcast today.
After everyone was awake, we drove into Hartford, with no particular destination in mind. We had a whole day to do whatever we wanted, with no schedule. We eventually pulled up beside a city park. Phil was excited to play frisbee, so he and Emily and I all played while Morgan happily crocheted under a tree nearby.
We wandered around for awhile after this, exploring a nearby playground and neighboring Koi pond, which was rimmed with trash.
Making our way past the capitol building, and finding nothing of interest, we decided to make our way back to the car and drive til we found something interesting. This wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped.
We made an unplanned stop at a bank. Phil and I went in while Morgan and Emily stayed with the van. A gruff older woman wearing a green flannel shirt and a trucker hat was making loud conversation about the new city meter machines with one of the tellers. She soon overheard Phil explaining to another teller our reason for being in Hartford. “God bless you!” she said. “And good luck!”
You could tell that she meant it.
Later that day, I saw a homeless person half-wrapped in a blue tarp, sleeping in a grove of trees by the river. They were wearing a green flannel. I pray to God it wasn’t her.
After leaving the bank, there came a totally chaotic path around the city. We didn’t know where we wanted to go, and didn’t know how to get wherever it was that we didn’t know we wanted to go. So we just drove.
(Actually, I drove. Everyone else just yelled conflicting directions and pretended they knew exactly what they wanted to do and where they wanted to do it.) Ultimately, fate would win over choice.
We pulled into an expansive gravel parking lot, at the other end of which was some sort of outdoor theater, and some maintenance workers. The parking lot was totally empty, save for our van. Phil and Emily ran off to play more frisbee in an empty lot, which was separated from the parking lot by an open gate and a small hill. I talked to Morgan for a few minutes, then went to join them. We played frisbee for a really long time.
This lot was unlike the gravel parking lot below. It was a mixture of sand and dirt and asphalt, mixed with broken glass and assorted plants that grew at random, out from the sand, and from the cracks in the cement. I fell once, and spent the next few hours picking thorns and burs out of my clothes and skin. Not that this interrupted our frisbee game in any way.
The lot was flanked by several rows of train cars on different tracks, and before leaving we climbed up a ladder to look inside. The cars were empty, but larger than I thought. If I fell in, I couldn’t get out. We balanced on the tracks for awhile, talking about nothing in particular, and then went back to the van, where Morgan had been sleeping.
The rest of the day seemed to pass more quickly.
We moved our van to a new location, a church parking lot. Phil, Emily, and I took our instruments out of the van, and walked several blocks to the river. We sat on the dock for awhile, playing whatever music came to us, and feeding bits of peanuts to the birds hopping around on the dock’s wooden planks.
We made the walk back to the van, and soon after met Emily’s old roommate, Kelly, who was visiting from a town nearby. We decided to drive to a local grocery store. I bought Goya coconut water. An argument arose concerning the purchase of fruit, which was soon resolved. We returned to the church parking lot. More frisbee.
The sky got clearer, and the air got colder. We said goodbye to Kelly, and drove the twenty minutes to the Korn’s house, where we were greeted with warm welcomes, connolis, and a comfortable couch. Mr and Mrs Korn went off to bed, and we stayed up, trading stories of all our adventures, new and old.
I am the last person left awake in this house, and there is a comfortable silence. It is amazing the comfort that can be found in friends.
Morning is almost here. I need to sleep.
but here’s an update!
Two days ago: Philly was great. We did anything that tourists might do: Love Park, run up the same steps of the art museum that Rocky ran in the movie, take a taxi to go eat Cheese steaks, etc. Oh, I should mention that we determined that both Pat’s and Geno’s provide delicious cheese steaks, but we like Pat’s more because we go to a college rooted in Anabaptism and those goofy people at Geno’s are very patriotic and love war. They also dislike ethnic diversity. If you don’t believe me, go there and see for yourself.
Sometime mid-afternoon we left Philly for Phoenixville. If you’ve never heard of it, go there. There aren’t many towns such as this one. On the same block (and same side of the street), you can find the sweetest cafe ever, an old movie theater, underground record label, a book store, a hipster store, a kilt shop, an Irish restaurant, and an eco-friendly store called “Earth Mart.” Ian interviewed the lady that owns Earth Mart. Lisa, the store owner, allowed us to play our music outside on the sidewalk for those passing by. I’d like to think that we lured some customers in, but that’s completely subjective.
There’s also a Latin American grocery store around the corner. Forgot to mention that. But seriously now, if you want a town that loves the arts, loves environmentalism, loves activism, this is your place. It’s nice and quaint and a beautiful collision of old school and new school town life.
After Phoenixville, we drove to my Aunt Charlotte’s house and played a few songs for her in her living room (which had fantastic acoustics). I know that I personally was asleep as soon as I went to bed. Long and successful day (whatever that means)!
Yesterday we left my Aunt Charlotte’s in the morning (she lives half an hour north of Philly). We were quickly off to the Big Apple (and by quickly I mean that it took us an hour or so to sit at Panera Bread and figure out the best way to get into the city).
After crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, it only took about fifteen minutes to find parking at Coney Island, home of the hotdog (also the inspiration for the song “Sleep” by the shoegaze band Godspeed, You Black Emperor – if anyone has heard that song, please know that people still sleep on the beach. Not all hope is lost).
We parked the van and caught a train into Manhattan where we browsed the many happenings of Time Sq. Actually, we even saw Elmo and Cookie Monster being checked by the cops. Typical.
Around 8 PM, we decided it’d be nice to start leaving town, so we caught the train back to our van and headed just south to Flemington, NJ to stay with Sonja and Jim, friends of my mom. I am now awake typing this, but Ian, like usual, is still in bed. Morgan and Emily are downstairs. I hear Emily tearing it up down there on the piano. Today we’re going to go back into the city and then start our trek into Connecticut, where we will be tomorrow.
We are on the road!
Yesterday afternoon we left Grantham and headed towards Lancaster!
We went to the park city mall, saw some friends from messiah and play frisbee at a store called Amish Stuff.
it was pretty ridiculous, I’m not going to lie. Phil threw the frisbee on the roof and he had to climb on the roof in the rain to get it down.
After our frisbee adventure we headed to Wagontown PA to stay at our friends, the Reno’s, home.
This morning we’re all well rested, full, and clean so we’re heading to philly!