Going Places

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As soon as it looked as if the coronavirus had started to loosen its grip on the nation, a lot of  people began to think travel—going places, shedding the isolation. Three months into 2021, the Wall Street Journal asked, “Is Travel Coming Back?” The evidence pointed toward an answer in the affirmative. Among other favorable signs, Delta saw bookings begin to pick up in late February, and airline executives “are optimistic that demand will rebound.”

By land, air, or sea, travel is a desirable activity for millions, providing life-changing experiences. People are able  to step out of their cveryday lives and see the world from a new perspective,  explore a different culture, and meet new people. All of this has a salutary effect on the traveler.  The 2021 devotional I’m using is a collection of short articles by women for women. One of the things I like to do after reading each item is to read the writer’s bio, and  oftentimes, “a love of travel” is  listed among their hobbies. Perhaps you, too, find traveling a pleasure.

Some of us confine our travel to books, which, as Emily Dickinson said, “can take us lands away,” and in literary works, we encounter travel that cannot be done in any other way.  Geoffrey Chaucer’s delightful The Canterbury Tales  can take us on a trip  we couldn’t actually experience today.  Perhaps from your college English Lit class you remember the eclectic band of pilgrims who set out from South London to Canterbury, about 70 miles away, going on foot to see the cathedral where Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury,  was martyred in A.D. 1170.  Along the way, the collection of colorful pilgrims regale one another with memorable tales, and we get to listen in and enjoy them. Some of their stories  give Chaucer a chance to criticize  the church’s hypocrisy, using such characters as the Monk, the Priest, and the Pardoner. The Scholar gets good marks, however,  because he spends his money on books, and “gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” The book is an engaging and enduring piece of travel literature.

Today, travel is easy and convenient, but before the Wright Brothers gave us wings or Henry Ford put the nation on wheels, travel was often a hazardous undertaking.  Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires is the biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie books on which the popular TV series was based. The Ingalls family, like thousands of people in the 1800s heeded the call to “go West” where they would find “free land” to settle and build a life for their  families. The trip out West by wagon was arduous. The travelers crossed rivers, endured punishing cold weather, sickness, disease, and hunger, and large numbers died before they reached their destination. Fraser gives us a  memorable detail in the book where the Ingalls children riding in the wagon counted the grave markers—the crosses—along the way  as they traveled,  but they finally gave up counting because there were so many crosses it was disheartening.

The rugged kind of travel the pioneers experienced on their way to settle in places like Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin has an echo in today’s daring , perilous journey undertaken by immigrant children from Central America trying to get to the United States. Unaccompanied youngsters, some under twelve years old, trek across inhospitable terrain, hoping to find a home in this country. They travel without parents or other relatives or visas. Just like Huck Finn, they “light out for the territory,” hoping to find a welcoming place. It is painful to contemplate youngsters today  having to take their destiny into their own hands like the pioneers, and travel to an uncertain future.

Those of us in the faith community have the travel itch also; we have our sights set on a desirable destination. You may remember reading John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, loved by generations of readers, and at one time was second only  to the Bible in popularity both  in America and England. It is an allegory applicable to those who see life here on earth as a journey toward a better country. The Pilgrim’s Progress is a simple travel story with a profound meaning played out in the characters, their experiences, and the travel destination. Beginning with Christian, every name is significant.  Christian shakes off his cumbersome load after meeting Evangelist and sets out for the Celestial City; he leaves everything behind, and begins his long journey on foot, encountering a host of individuals and experiencing tremendous hardships along the way. He is bogged down at the Slough of Despond; he meets the Giant Despair at Doubting Castle; he overcomes the attractions of Vanity Fair. Finally, he is able to cross the Dark River with the aid of Hopeful and stand victoriously on a mighty hill “higher than the clouds.” When he shows his “ticket” at the Gate, he is ushered into the Celestial City of incomparable beauty where he meets the King.

This journey that Christian takes is open to everyone. The Celestial City is real and waits up ahead. What happens to us along the way changes us and strengthens us to reach our destination triumphantly. The Pilgrim’s Progress is not merely a fictionalized  version of the Christian’s journey through this life. John Bunyan was serious about real travel to his destination. I trust that we are, too.



Young Asian traveling backpacker in Khaosan Road outdoor market in Bangkok, Thailand

“Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.”
Oliver Goldsmith


    • Judith Nembhard

      Judy, my friend, it is so good to hear from you. I’m glad you liked this month’s post.
      Thank you for the positive comment. JN

  • Marjorie King

    Aunt Judith,
    I love to read your blogs. Writing is something I really wanted to do. Your writing is so amazing, encouraging and so inspiring. Everyone can find something in your writing that they can apply to their past, Present and their future life. Blessings. Continue to encourage and inspire everyone that reads your Blogs and your book.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Marjorie,

      I’m glad you liked my blog. Thank you for reading it and commenting. I write with the hope that
      what I post will be worthwhile. It makes me feel good when it’s appreciated. Thanks for sharing. JN

      • Fartema M Fagin

        Hi Judith, I enjoyed reading your post about the ‘travel bug.’ Our mission trip to Kenya has been delayed due to COVID-19; however, our coordinator feels confident it will happen late September 2021. I’m Passport ready! My new friend is also going. She’s a registered nurse, and we’ll need her on board because several of us cleared to go have ‘aging challenges’, including myself. Keep us lifted in prayer.

        • Judith Nembhard

          Fartema, it’s always good to hear from you, and, as usual, you have something interesting
          going on. Yes, you’ll be going places, as a group of you are headed to Kenya. Perhaps you all
          can take a leaf out of Chaucer’s book and tell stories to and from your mission destination. I’m
          sure there would be some interesting ones, especially about spiritual victories. Thanks for
          your good comment. JN

  • Barrington Neville Wright

    Dear Judith,
    Your tavel metaphor is appropriately ironic, when so many people are stuck at home, too scared to move about because of the Covid pandemic. Thanks for reminding us of the many ways we can expeience the wider world through literature and our own imagnations.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Barrington, you see beyond what is to bring new insights to general observations. I think we’re getting
      a touch of cabin fever with the lingering pandemic. I’ve been getting some relief through books. Thanks
      for your helpful comment. JN

  • Ouida Westney

    Thank you very much, Judith! Journeying through this blog which blended the past with the present was very enjoyable – and inspiring.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Ouida,

      I hope you enjoyed reconnecting with Chaucer and John Bunyan. There’s so much in written works to “take us places” and also to remind us about our daily lives. I appreciate your good comment. Thanks. JN

  • Lamont Corder

    excellent post, very informative. I wonder why the opposite experts
    of this sector don’t understand this. You must proceed your writing.
    I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Lamont,

      Welcome to my blog. I’m glad you found the post informative. I hope you’ll look at some of the archived ones. You might find some of them quite interesting. I appreciate your comment and hope you’ll become a constant reader. JN

    • Judith Nembhard

      “Lucky me” also that you read my post and liked it. Look for a new one at the start of each month. I’ll be happy to have you as a constant reader. Thanks for your comment. JN

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Darren. Great to hear from you and to know that you liked the article. I hope you will be a regular reader. Look for the next posting on June 1. Thanks for commenting. JN

  • Judith Nembhard

    You have quite a lineup of websites , I see. I hope you let everyone know about my site. Tell them to buy my books.
    They’ll certainly enjoy them. Thanks for your comment. JN