Traveling Between the Lines

Travel. It’s trendy. To say you’re a traveler in modern culture is a pithy way to say you are a cultured, experienced, tolerant, interesting human being whose life is fun and exciting and whose thoughts are worth listening to.

And to a certain degree that is true. Travel does wonderful things for the soul. There are images and graphics all over the Internet with the quote from St. Augustine that “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” But simply to have read something isn’t enough. As Catholics, we should strive to be excellent in everything that we do. It is not enough to read great books. In order to gain any wisdom, we must read them well, with attention and humility. It is the same with traveling. In order to gain wisdom and experience truth in our travels, we must travel well.

How do we do that? In many ways, we do the same things we do to read well. Here are four tips from an English major on traveling well.

1)   Step outside yourself.

We read books to gain something we do not already have. In order to do so we have to let our mind enter into situations we have not been in before, or follow characters who react differently to their surroundings than we do. It isn’t just about the characters we connect with, but also the ones we clash with. We have to wrap our minds around ideas that are not our own. We gain a greater understanding of human nature and all it’s nuances. In traveling, unfamiliar surroundings make it easy to feel like we are stepping outside of ourselves, because we are physically out of our comfort zones. This can create the illusion that we have actually stepped outside of ourselves. We must make a conscious effort to connect with our surroundings, even when they don’t immediately pull us in.

2)   Compare.

When you compare parallel ideas from different books they provide insight into each other. When we find things that are similar to home in a foreign place and then examine the nuances, we learn more not only about the place we are in, but the place we came from as well. In good travel, as well as reading well, our senses are heightened and we notice smaller details than we do in everyday life. When we compare these to something more familiar they open secrets about our daily life and ourselves that have been hiding right before our eyes.

3)   Read between the lines.

A good book is never just a story. The story is crafted to reveal certain truths about the world, but if we don’t pay attention to what is not obvious, we can easily miss them. As a Christian, travel should never be about escaping reality or collecting fun stories. God usually has something to teach us when we travel, but it’s up to us to be attentive to it. Be extra prayerful when you travel. This also involves being prepared. If you spend some time learning about the historical context of the places you go, your ability to read between the lines will be greatly heightened. Read a little bit of history before you go anywhere.

4)   Allow it to end.

Sometimes you don’t want a good book to end. You don’t want to leave the experience behind. But if you never close the back cover, you can’t process it in it’s completeness. The conclusion of a book can radically change the experience of the book as a whole. Travel has a designated end date for a reason. When it’s time to go home you are given a unique gift to contemplate the trip in it’s entirety, and to incorporate what you have learned into your daily life. Your day to day can be transformed when you return from a well-traveled trip, but if you try to make the experience last longer than it ought, you do a disservice to the trip and to your daily life.

Traveling is one of the greatest gifts we have been given. Embracing new people and places stretches our hearts and minds and brings growth we usually can hardly imagine. But simply changing our location isn’t enough to travel. We must read well every adventure in order for our travels to truly make us wiser.

The Soultion to our Searching

    I was sailing through a sea of green fields. The wind whipped the soft grass creating the appearance of undulating waves. My car was a vessel floating amongst the vastness of the open road. My course was charted in front of me, by the rough, lonely country road. Small water tanks, like mirrors reflecting the bright blue sky above, dotted the countryside. The beauty was overwhelming. Almost instinctively, I had the desire to capture this beauty, to snap a photo to preserve the image. Yet, I have often found that pictures do not do justice to a breathtaking landscape, like the one through which I was traveling. There is something deeper than the physical beauty that can only be experienced in the present. It cannot be stored and revisited days or months later. One must dwell in the moment to soak in its fullness.

Stepping into the basilica, my eyes were instantly drawn upwards. Golden light shown through the elevated windows onto the enormous baldacchino over the main altar. The central nave extended all the way to the Holy Spirit window, far in the distance. The stone colonnade directed my sight onward and upward. I stared in awe at the vastness of this sacred space. Almost paralyzed, I was unsure of how to react to such beauty. Surely, no camera is able to capture the length, width, and depth of such a space, let alone the brilliance of colors illuminating the air. Yet, around me swarmed, likes bees, hundreds of tourists with their selfie sticks waving and their camera lenses clicking. They seemed unaware of the sanctity of the space, treating it as merely another sight to see on their Roman holiday. As I processed through the many altars lining the sides of the central nave, the artwork continued to draw my mind away from my current surroundings and more toward the One whose sacrifice was re-presented each day on these altars. Upon entering the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, the atmosphere changed. There was a lightness that touched the soul. Only dwelling there in the silence of prayer could the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica truly be contemplated.

There is something appreciable about our desire to capture beauty. It points toward our inner direction toward the ultimate Beauty. After all, every beautiful thing participates in the beauty of God. However, earthly beauty is fleeting. Many poets lament the loss of beauty with the imagery of the changing seasons or the process of aging. They profess tempus fugit and carpe diem - that time is fleeting; therefore, seize the day.

The best way to fully appreciate beauty is to dwell in it in the moment. Not every moment in our lives will be beautiful. In fact, a majority of them probably are not. But, if we truly appreciate beauty when it does come, we will be sustained in times of desolation in the hope of another consolation. One way to actively encounter beauty is to travel, whether that be internationally, or locally. Simply moving oneself out of their current, perhaps mundane, reality can help one find beauty in other people, nature, art, and architecture. The verdant countryside and the brilliant basilica that I described earlier are just two of the countless examples of how I have experienced beauty through travel.

Although physical beauty is fleeting, there is One that never fails. By encountering the One from whom all beauty flows, we can experience a beauty that the finite world can never offer. Prayer is the way through which we encounter our God. Granted, prayer is often hard and uncomfortable. But, as with travel, God gives us times of consolation in prayer to give us hope in our desolation and remind us of His promise.

Both travel and prayer draw one out of oneself to experience something greater. We are forced to encounter the vastness of the world and our God and reconcile ourselves with them both. We must return to travel and prayer continually to relieve ourselves in the bleak times of life. The fact that beauty can never fully be captured causes us to have to seek it out again and again. And surprisingly, I have found that the more I travel and the more I pray, the easier it is to find beauty in the mundane, and even the ugly. Prayer and travel broaden one’s perspective to see things as they are and to appreciate them nonetheless.

CBC Around the World: 5 Great Community Inspired Breweries to Visit in Vancouver, BC

If you plan on travelling to the Pacific Northwest anytime soon, and you should, there’s a city just a little further north that is worth checking out. Perhaps you’ve heard of Vancouver before, but what you may not have heard is all that it offers. Aside from containing hoards of friendly Canadians, Vancouver is a fantastic food and beverage destination much like its American contemporaries, Seattle and Portland. If you’re there for a night or couple days, Vancouver’s burgeoning craft beer scene is worth checking out. I thought that a quick guide to a few of our favourites would be a great way to introduce people to the scene, and send you straight to the local favorites..

Vancouver is home to a booming beer scene. Not only are the people of Vancouver embracing craft beer but the brewers who produce craft beer have been extremely creative, building a community of people inspired by one thing: beer. If you have the opportunity to visit Vancouver, I encourage you to check out these 5 community orientated breweries. You won’t be disappointed in the beer you’ll taste or people you’ll meet.

#1 33 Acres Brewery

Why I Love It: 33 Acres is one of the friendliest breweries in town with an extremely social tasting room. Featuring large communal tables, you’ll be sparking up conversation with a fellow beer lover in no time. Offering 5 or 6 different brews, they have something for everyone and the food truck parked out front changes daily. Join them on the weekend for brunch which is insanely good despite being limited in options.

My favorite beer: If you manage to stop in, give the 33 Acres of Ocean a try. It’s a west-coast pale and a real hit around the city. It’s a little bit hop forward but not overly bitter. It’s session-able enough at around 5-6% and was a real favorite of mine.

#2 Main Street Brewery

Why I love it: Main Street Brewery, much like 33 Acres, is in what is referred to by some locals as ‘beer town’. Main Street Brewery is perhaps on the edge of this ‘beer town’ and features a fairly small but extremely cozy tasting room. With a long bar at the front and communal tables scattered throughout, you’ll be met by a friendly bartender when you’re ready to order. Main Street is also known for its friendliness and is in the heart of the Mt. Pleasant community.

My favorite beer: They have a couple of rotating lines and then about 5 lines that remain fairly permanent. Perhaps most well known for the Westminster Brown Ale, it’s easy to know why as it’s malty and smooth flavor will have you coming back for more. You can also find this beer on tap at a few neighboring breweries including Craft Beer Market which is only a few blocks away, and offers 140 beers on tap.

#3 Four Winds Brewery

Why I love it: Four Winds is one of those breweries who relies on its community for inspiration into its brews. Not that the other breweries on this list don’t use local ingredients, Four Winds goes above and beyond sourcing nearly everything that goes into its beer from the local area. With a great tasting room, it’s no doubt why people go off the standard beer trail to visit Four Winds Brewery.

My favorite beer: For Four Winds, this is almost too difficult a choice. But perhaps my overall favorite was the Nectarous. A slightly sour beer, featuring heavy notes of nectarine, it’s gone from a seasonal to a mainstay throughout the city. Four Winds got so much flack when they announced that is was a seasonal they had to purchase additional kegerators just to keep it online.

#4 Red Truck Brewery

Why I love it: Red Truck is one of those breweries big enough that it doesn’t necessarily need to engage with its local community. But with a giant new brewery in the self-proclaimed ‘beer town,’ Red Truck has instead decided to completely ramp things up by offering all type of different events, including the outdoor concert series which they host in the parking lot of their brewery, with plenty of kegs mind you,  and is often times free! I was lucky enough to attend one of these parties and it felt more like being at a backyard BBQ as everyone had come together to celebrate great beer and great live music

My Favorite beer: I am a bit of a beer snob when it comes to IPA’s but I didn’t need to be snobby at all when I tasted the Red Truck IPA. Extremely well balanced, with a delicious hoppy flavor upfront, it had a smooth finish which allowed me to keep coming back to it throughout the night. A close second was the Red Truck Golden Ale which is a hoppy summer seasonal which is sure to impress as well.

#5 Big Rock Brewery

Why I love it: Another brewery, much like Red Truck, that embraces the surrounding community is Big Rock Brewery. The main brewery for Big Rock is a province over in Alberta but the Vancouver location has done some really cool things offering more of a brewpub setting as opposed to a tasting room. With live music weekly, the vibe on weekends is really fun and will likely have you dancing by the end of the night.

My favorite beer: By far the Big Rock Citradelic IPA. The name says it all as it features a citrus taste that can’t be beat (except by maybe Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed). Apparently there was a lot of worry that the Alberta based Big Rock Brewery was just going to be a figure piece, but they’ve done a nice job creating some locally inspired brews using local ingredients.

For those looking for a great time tasting new beers and meeting some pretty great people, I definitely recommend Vancouver, British Columbia. Home to a big CAMRA population as well, you’ll see quickly why the beer community of Canada is one of the friendliest in the world.