A few more pages!

I’m sitting in Melbourne Airport. Winter has certainly been in the air today. All going to plan, by tomorrow night I will be in Roma, sitting on a Summer evening, alongside the Tiber, catching my breath, with a glass of vino, watching the sun go down on a city that traces its roots back an amazing 28 centuries.

My Outlook “Out of Office” message is set [thanks Johnny, Nithya and Ailin] and with the help of my good wife’s reminders I think I have everything I need for my solo European “pilgrimage”. Bring on Italy, France and Portugal – and the plan for lots of hiking, swimming, some kayaking and lots of other little, spontaneous adventures – hopefully with not a massive carb blow-out along the way.

Search online for travel quotes and you will find this classic from Augustine of Hippo: The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page”.

It’s a great quote and yes on this trip I am looking forward to turning some new pages in places I have never been before and re-visiting a few favourite pages from past travel chapters.

The only problem with this inspiring quote is research suggests that Augustine [354-430], the early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced both the development of Western Christianity and philosophy, didn’t write the quote.

The closest the ancient bishop seems to have got was in praising the “book of the world”, a metaphorical description of nature, the study of which he saw as important in trying to understand God.

I’m happy to run with old Augustine here as I’m looking forward to exploring a lot God’s beautiful creation in the weeks ahead, including the rugged Cinque Terre, the French Alps and the Portuguese coastline. Nature and connecting with the Creator go hand in hand for me.

I’m not sure if Augustine has ever been misquoted when it comes to food, but I am sure he would have been thankful to see the gracious provision of God in a simple meal and I’m also looking forward to some locally sliced salame in Italy, some good aged cheese in France and some fresh caught sardines in Portugal. I’m not looking for the flash and expensive, but authentic and low-food miles.

I am so thankful to my wife Megan for the opportunity to embark on this trip.

There’s a long story behind it – but in short, an extended family European holiday was planned for early 2017, as I clocked up ten years and long service leave with my former employer BaptistCare – NSW & ACT.

In late 2016 our very settled cage was shaken in Newcastle and within a few months we found ourselves in Melbourne, rather than Italy, and not on holidays, but relocating to take up my current role on team at Crossway.

I head away on this shortened, belated trip feeling a sense of double bonus.

I am mindful that most of the world and many Australians don’t get the chance to travel, so I am always thankful for the “first-world” privilege of national and international travel. I’m also thankful, as I mentioned to Megan and the kids, for the chance to unwind solo. I’m reminded of the importance in our lives of embracing gratitude – in the big and the small, in the extraordinary, like this trip, as well as the mundane in everyday life.

The extra bonus – from where I sit tonight – is knowing the wait was worth it, because it allowed our family the opportunity to step out in faith and embrace the wonderful adventure of moving to Melbourne and becoming part of the Crossway and broader local community. We are so much the richer for this faith step.

A valued colleague sent me an email last night to say: “Have a great holiday – eat lots, explore and write!! Enjoy”

So, having made it to the departure lounge, I am taking up Tab’s therapeutic advice and starting the trip doing one of life’s most soulful activities for me – writing! OK I couldn’t find an Italian, French or Portuguese café at the airport, so I am crossing the border into Spain and enjoying a glass of Albarino and some chorizo potato bombs. [I can see the look on my family’s faces know … you can never pass up chorizo!]

Another great friend Trav, who has been a real blessing since heading south, also sent me a message this afternoon, wishing me the best but saying he knew he didn’t need to ask for photos from the trip – there would be plenty to come on social media he suggested.

So yes, if you hate travel pics and holiday reflections switch the channel, dismiss me from your feed, ignore my posts … because I know photos and posts will follow, as long as my Telstra international roaming does its job.

It’s been a hectic few weeks as is often the case for all of us in the lead up to annual leave. Toss in illness and I’m not as prepared for this trip as I normally would be – but I’m taking that as a good thing. I would never fall into the under-planned category in life, so I’m feeling relaxed as I step out on a trip that hasn’t got every day’s itinerary planned. There are more unknowns than a normal Scott Pilgrim planned holiday and in this season of life that feels very refreshing!

Time for another sip of cough medicine so hopefully my Emirates’ cabin neighbours don’t need to put up with too much of my barking and here’s hoping for a few good movies, finishing my Melbourne-based crime novel and maybe, just maybe some last-minute planning. I can never sleep on long flights.

Roma awaits and the chance to reconnect with a special family that have become part of our lives. We first met Elettra when she came to our house as an au-pair when Megan had been diagnosed with cancer.

Thank God we made it through this stretching season and Megan has been cancer free for more than five years. Life is full of seasons – long and short ones – good and bad ones – mountaintops and valleys and I am so thankful that I can turn to a loving, gracious and sustaining God in all seasons of life.

Tonight, I am thankful for sabbaticals – this will only be a 20 day one – but I know I need it. We all need sabbatical rhythms in our life – be they at home or away; long or short. I am thankful I live in a country and have the resources to make this one.

I open my eyes afresh to await what I will see and learn and all that I can celebrate about the world around me with my old friend Augustine.

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