When I was eight years old, my family took a two-week road trip to California to visit family. I remember dad's cousin Bub's car soaring down crooked San Francisco streets and my fear that Bay Bridge would fall into the ocean as we drove over it. But we loved our California adventure so much that, three years later, when the parents proposed another road trip to Washington state for a wedding, Andrew and I printed out a sign of protest and chanted, "Washington, boo! California, yay!" for a good ten minutes.
(Not that it did any good. We still went to Washington. Plus, we were mistaken. The Pacific Northwest is fantastic.)
Anyway, great-uncle Don was our financial supplier for the first leg of the California trip. Whenever we left the house, he'd hand my brother and me a 5-dollar bill to pick up souvenirs. Andrew would come home with gumballs and erasers and toys from 25-cent machines; I'd come home with five dollars. When we unpacked our suitcases in sweet home North Dakota, my mom asked, "Where did that stack of cash come from?!" Instead of souvenirs, I brought home a deposit for my savings account.
(Should I mention the time I deliberated over a 10-cent bag of My Little Ponies at a garage sale? All that pony magic for only ten cents! But what if something better came along later and I didn't have any money left? I think my mom was proud of my mad budgeting skills at such a young age, but she was also concerned that I had no friends.)
(P.S. I did end up with the ponies.)
This summer is going to go down in history as The Summer I Traveled, and I don't mean to say that in a boasting way. I listened to an online speech last night in which the speaker told high school graduates, "Don't climb the mountain so the world can see you; climb the mountain so you can see the world." This is probably my last summer in Europe and potentially the last with so much free time, and there are so many mountains to climb, places I'd hoped to see, people coming to visit. It costs only slightly more to fly between six different countries than it does to drive round-trip from Minot to Minneapolis, and if I had children to feed I'd stay home and feed them, but that isn't my life right now. My life has been tucking away little caches of birthday money for something, someday, and I guess this summer is the something someday. I don't fully know why I feel like I have to justify it, except that I live in Europe where people don't expect missionaries to be, and a lot of you help me live and work here, and I think it's important to say that my life is not one giant European vacation which you are funding, even though those are the parts that get highlighted on Facebook. I don't want to lose anyone's trust when it comes to financial things; I use support money to live here lightly. Uncle Don's souvenir money is what's keeping me in the cheap hostels and feeding me the breakfast pastries.
A lot of what I'm about to write is going to feel like a travelogue, and I hope it never comes across as, "Hey, world, look how awesome I am at the top of this mountain!" At the end of the day, I'm still as sweaty and tired and wearing as much melty mascara as anyone else, and the number of countries I see will never make me a better person than anyone else, and I am just not that cool. So will you please forgive all my rambling and keep praying that I don't climb mountains just to be seen? Because I don't want to become that person. And what I want to say in all the writing about it and talking about it is only, "Hey, here's the view from this mountain: will you look with me, see as much as we can see together?"