Sojourners in a Strange Land

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. – Psalm 39:12

Meditations in Motion

I recently had the chance to visit the beautiful Central American country of Costa Rica. This framed picture, situated directly above the toilet, was a fixture in the bathroom of our hotel room. What this lovely, effusive phrase is saying, in the exquisitely polite, endearingly indirect, Costa Rican way, is to deposit all toilet paper in the trash can after use, rather than flushing it down the toilet.

Yes, it was a reminder that Costa Rica is a developing country. Their sewer systems cannot handle toilet paper. So, in a bathroom that featured granite and marble surfaces, boutique shampoos and soaps, and modern fixtures, the toilet paper was deposited in the wastebasket, instead of the toilet.

It was a good reminder that I was a guest, a sojourner in the country. I was there to look around and learn as much as I could about the local food, culture, flora, and fauna as possible in one week.

Meditations in MotionAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I did not run while in Costa Rica. The two running choices were the hot, sun-blasted beach (the temperature never went below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night) or the road with no shoulder and aggressive drivers.

In Costa Rica, there are separate police forces to deal with traffic, crime, customs, etc. The traffic police were nowhere in evidence and traveling on the roads was like something out of the wild, wild west – every man for himself. The driving situation did not engender confidence in my ability to negotiate a run without incident. I decided to forego running until I returned to Pennsylvania.

When I got home, though, my subsequent (pain-free, yay!) runs gave me the opportunity to think about the concept of being a tourist.

Meditations in Motion

A baby has a way of examining every situation that is completely forthright and entirely without guile. A baby will look around, wobbling his too-big head on top of his neck, directing his gaze at everything that catches his interest.

He has the air of someone who is intent on learning the lay of the land, touching everything he can get his hands on and looking at objects with curiosity and intent.

It is almost as though he knows he is going to be here for a while, so he may as well make himself at home. We live the first years of our lives acquiring knowledge, soaking it all in, figuring out how things work, and mastering the skills needed to live in this world. Babies are the ultimate tourists.

Meditations in Motion

The word “tourist” carries with it the connotation of naivete, of someone who is somewhat unaware, a guest, rather than a resident. We may shun the label of “tourist” and the lack of sophistication that label suggests.  I believe, however, the refreshing spirit of humility and curiosity implied by the term should be cherished and protected. We are, all of us, “sojourners in a foreign land“.

At some point along the way, as we grow up, we become comfortable. We know our way around and act like we own the place. The spirit of inquiry gradually diminishes. Somehow, we make the transition from tourists to squatters. We take on an air of completely unwarranted hubris.

Meditations in MotionOne evening, while in Costa Rica, my hubby Bill and I were sitting at a bar, waiting to have dinner at a local restaurant. As we chatted with the bartender, a man, obviously a resident of the United States, approached. He summoned a bartender and asked loudly if the bar stocked a hard-to-come-by and expensive type of liquor, seemingly expecting a negative reply.

When the bartender assured the man the liquor was, indeed available, rather than being grateful or pleasantly surprised, the irritated man responded by asking if they stocked a lot of the liquor, because, apparently, he planned to consume vast quantities.

Another American couple we talked to, who were returning to Costa Rica for the second time, warned us of the persistent vendors plying their wares on the beach in Tamarindo, the town where we stayed. The couple was excited about visiting a new Walmart, constructed since their last visit.

The beach vendors were selling beautiful handmade pottery, carved wood bowls, and palm frond baskets hand-woven on the spot. They did approach potential buyers, but if you were uninterested, a polite “No, gracias” would send them on their way. Walmart sells…well, you know what Walmart sells.

It makes me wonder, have we forgotten how to be an appreciative guest? One who has cultivated an attitude of gratitude and humility, who is curious about his host’s gracious offerings? I ask these questions not only for those who visit other locations, other countries, but also for all of us here visiting on this good, green earth. We are all guests; we are tourists, as were all of those who came before us.

Meditations in Motion

In a world literally bathed in grace, why are we not more grateful? Some days it is all I can do to not quit my house, pack my bag, and strike out into the wild, beautiful world, in an attempt to see everything there is to see, to marvel at the wonders and be amazed at the astonishing sights. Luckily, Bill tethers me to reality.

We must strive to be good guests – enthusiastic, engaged, and interested in whatever our generous Host offers. Our visit to this earth is brief; we should get out and learn about the neighborhood where we have been set down.

I am glad to be home in Pennsylvania. There is nothing quite like sleeping in my own bed, seeing beloved friends and family, or eating food I have prepared myself.

My hope, however, is to hold onto the spirit of being a “tourist” long after I have returned home. I want to look at the world with the curious, fresh, and unpresuming attitude of a visitor, to appreciate the pennies that rain down from heaven in a never-ending shower, and to cultivate a healthy humility about my place in the world. I want to be a good guest, a tourist in the best sense of the word.

 

I am linking up with Shank You Very Much for Dream Team and Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Hooks and Dragons for Mix It Up, My Random Musings for Anything Goes, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Kooky Runner for Tuesday Topics, Char at Trekking Thru, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, and The Ched Curtain for Say Cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

73 comments

  1. I just took care of a one year old grandson yesterday and he was happy, curious, content, crawling and sojourning all over his new world. I love watching babies! Oh, to cultivate every day a fresh look at the world! Each day I wake up, it’s as if I’m given a new life, a new chance. I pray for guidance and strength… for humility and gratitude. And I also send prayers to those who are in darkness and could use some hope, strength, inspiration, and grace!

    A great post and reminder! Well done, Laurie.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One of your very best, Laurie. I have often thought that it would be a good thing to behave as though I were on vacation in my daily life — meaning, having that good guest and tourist attitude you speak of so eloquently.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I enjoyed this post very much Laurie – very insightful. I traveled a lot in my late 20s and early 30s. I wanted to see the world, but not solo – not that brave – so I went with tour groups. The ugly tourist surfaces so often and even all those years ago, it left me shaking my head in disbelief. Interesting note in the bathroom. I traveled to Russia in 1983 and we were told that some of our hotel experiences in Moscow and Leningrad might be a little primitive – we should ensure we took a rubber sink stopper to use in the bathroom sinks – I bought two stoppers thinking what if I packed up in a hurry and left the one behind (we were three days in each city). Our group got to each hotel and I discovered my room and bathroom fit for a princess – rustic … really?! Heated floor and ceiling, “movie-star lights” dotted the mirrors, gold-plated bathroom fixtures, telephone in the massive claw-foot tub area as well as by the sink area. A large-screen TV – yes we suffered so much. I certainly didn’t have these amenities at home. But then there was the Turkish toilets on another trip – all I can say is that it was a wicked hot day, we were told not to drink the water but have pineapple juice instead, but not to drink to much or we’d be visiting the dreaded Turkish toilets.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! I have never been to Turkey and I don’t know if I would be brave enough to visit now. When we were in Chile, I was told not to drink the water when we were out in the countryside. In the city, the water is fine. I didn’t drink the water, but I brushed my teeth with tap water and got sick. Not intestinal issues, flu-like symptoms. It was awful! We didn’t flush toilet paper in Chile, either, so I was kind of used to that. Your Russian accommodations sound very luxurious! I wonder if they are still that way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It might have changed and modernized but at that time it was pretty primitive Laurie, but we were warned beforehand. Unfortunately it was a hot day and you had to stay hydrated. I didn’t know that about the water in Chile. My boss’ brother has a language translation service for American businessmen working or doing business in Chile. I’ve been lucky not getting sick when traveling. Our Russian accommodations were wonderful and they had tempered our expectations beforehand so it really surprised me since Maupintour is a big tour company and surely they went there all the time? I was impressed with Maupintour – we had our tour director who was with us the entire 3 weeks and in each country we visited, we had a separate tour director who spoke near-perfect English and was anxious to show you their country. It was Scandinavian countries (Denmark/Norway/Sweden and Finland) and USSR. Both hotels were close to town and very nice.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was really pleased with them. I had an American Express for the Greece/Greek Islands and Turkey/Israel/Egypt (the last three were one-day land tours), but Maupintour was even better. They planned events for us each night in Russia – they had a gate or a bridge of some type when we stayed in one of the Russian cities. If we went into town alone, we were warned to be back at a certain time or they would be closed. But they had something planned every night as well if you were interested.

        Like

  4. I love your thoughts and how you present it. This piece touched my heart on so many levels. Everything is on loan to us, we are visitors and must always be mindful of what we do. I am happy to come across your lovely blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s going to seem hyperbolic the number of times I use the word ‘love’ in this comment. But I love this post. I love your sentiment, I love your baby analogy, I love your humor, I love personally understanding the strange behavior of Americans in foreign countries, and I love your use of words and the fluid way you build this essay. Loved it! I’m so glad you stopped by my site and allowed me to learn of yours. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a great concept – I’d never thought about looking at the world through the eyes of a tourist. Sometimes I’m out walking and I’m just so grateful that I live in Australia – a long way from political upheaval, beautiful weather all year, clean air, a lovely home. So many don’t have that and I’m very grateful to God that I ended up here and not in a war-torn or 3rd world country.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Lovely post! Hope you enjoyed your trip even if nothing is more comfortable than our own bed :)! Loved the comparison you did between the baby and the tourist, it’s very accurate and may we always have this “the curious, fresh, and unpresuming attitude of a visitor”
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My grandchildren are definitely “tourists” when they come to visit, and it takes me a couple of days to locate all the misplaced items and restore order, but I love having them explore.
    And I’m sure glad you translated that message about petals, etc. because I certainly would never have reached the proper and intended conclusion without your help!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had to laugh at your comment about finding things after your grandchildren leave. We are the same way here!

      The only way I knew what the sign meant was that the woman who welcomed us to the hotel and showed us to our room explained it to me. 🙂

      Like

  9. My husband always complains about how medical news (and other) are constantly changing: coffee is horrible for you, now it’s great. High blood pressure is a certain setting, no it’s really lower.

    I get that that can be annoying, but OTOH, I truly believe that we need to cultivate that sense of wonder and thirst for learning our entire lives. I hope that I can — my parents had that — until they didn’t. My hope is that I can keep that my whole life, but we’ll see.

    I think in general we’re pretty good tourists. We might go to somewhere like Walmart to get drinking water, but otherwise we love to explore new cuisines and places. Of course it’s been quite some time since we’ve been out of the country, but then again, my 50 states is also about exploring *this* country.

    As to the whole plumbing thing, let’s just say not all our first world plumbing can still handle it. That’s what our plumbing problems have been about. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t realize you are doing the 50 states. No wonder you travel to so many races. That is exciting!

      Yes, plumbing issues are bad here sometimes too, especially with an older house. I was used to the toilet paper thing from traveling in Chile. You don’t flush TP there, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We can never underestimate the importance of having an “attitude of gratitude.” Thank you for your reminder. I have a friend who is a flight attendant (this is her 40th year) and she’s seen it all. There are a LOT of ungrateful people in the world. Take care Laurie!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As usual a very thought provoking post.

    I love to travel to foreign countries. But what bothers me the most is those Americans that go to a foreign country and expect what they had at home. Why travel?

    In France, complaining that there was no Ketchup automatically given to them for their fries.

    I go to learn about a new culture and actually experience the differences even if they are inconvenient. Yup. Bathrooms in Russia – I could tell you stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a great observation! I think we all need to be mindful of our surroundings and respectful of the places we visit. Great post!! (sideline…Deborah and myself are hosting a new Weekly Run Down link-up on Sundays, we’d love for you to join us!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I should write a weekly wrap up post. Maybe now that I am running more I will join. I haven’t been running enough to do it lately! 🙂

      Like

  13. I never understood why people travel to a foreign country and expect the people to cater to their needs and wants, and are disappointed when they don’t find all the “comforts of home.” If they want that, then they should stay home where they will be happier. I agree with you: we are guests in that country and we will appreciate our experience so much more if we embrace the differences.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Wonderful post as always! I love the idea of being a tourist even in known areas. i found moving back to York County after living near Scranton for almost 3 years made me find things in the area I never experienced such as kayaking Lake Redman. Although visiting Ocean City MD all my life, taking Jason along for the first time enabled me to discover new restaurants.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Tracy! I love your idea of being a tourist in a familiar place. I live in Lititz, which is a tourist-y town. When my DIL visited from Oregon, I enjoyed seeing the town through her eyes.

      Like

  15. I am not the traveler, but my mother-in-law was! Oh my gosh, when she passed on my SIL asked me if I would like some of her pictures and I said of course naturally and so now I can actually say I HAVE BEEN AROUND THE WORLD! Fantastic pictures and places my darling Best Friend has been. When I saw many of the pictures my SIL asked me how I liked them of course and I told her my favorite places were Hawaii and being Italian I had to say Italy and she bust out laughing and said Mom must be spinning in her grave! hahahaha

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha! I fell in love with the word “sojourn” too. Oh, I am so sorry to read about your depression. If I could help just a little bit, I am glad I wrote the post. I hope you have a good weekend.

      Like

  16. What a lovely sentiment you’ve expressed in this post. I’d love to go to Costa Rica, but as you rightly say, in the meantime will strive to see things afresh with the eyes of a tourist #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Millie. I think the term “tourist” has gotten a bad rap. Looking at the world as a tourist should be thought of as a good thing! 🙂

      Like

  17. Loved this post, and ……to cultivate a healthy humility about my place in the world….is a great line. I pray this for myself. Great post! Thanks for linking up with us at the #WednesdayAIMLinkParty 33

    Liked by 2 people

  18. This post really touched me, we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful world and when we stop racing through our days and look with grateful eyes at the place we live it makes us feel like a tourist. In many ways in Australia you have to also stop and acknowledge the land that was once all seen as the Aboriginal land and then they were invaded by the White mans way which is so sad as they knew how to see themselves as part of the land, and we are part of the land, all of us. It is good to respect the place we are in, the earth, the environment and remember we are guests here. It is a shame some people miss that. Thanks for sharing with #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mackenzie! So true and so well-said. It is good to respect the place we are in and remember that we are guests here. Thank you for the chance to share!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s