Traveling in a group is a very rewarding experience. I have had so much time to spend with people, laugh with people, and get to know the real side of them in a way I never would have otherwise if we hadn’t been squeezed together in our little ship of a bus on this sea of European cities.
I have taken, in my time here, to washing clothes by hand. It’s been a good chance to have a moment of peace during my constant flurry of activity, and I feel as if, for a moment, I am getting back to my roots – My ancestors probably didn’t have coin operated washing machines. The truth is that pilgrimage isn’t all fun and games and glamorous architectural marvels! Sometimes participant living requires mundane chores.
So I wash by hand, and naturally, have to wring the clothes out to minimize the drying time when they are hung outside on a line. It takes a great deal of work to squeeze out the water, though, and by the end of a load, my forearms are stiff and sore from so much concentrated effort. Sometimes it even takes two people for the bigger, heavier articles.
As we go, having a plethora of new and incredible experiences packed into the busiest, shortest two months of my academic career up to this point, I have a suspicion.
I suspect that, as I wash, I am echoing the greater experience of this European escapade in the difficult but satisfying task of doing laundry. In the same way that I want to squeeze every single drop of water out of my clean clothes, I want to be intentional about squeezing every ounce of meaning out of my traveling adventure. I seek to separate the wheat of observation and engagement from the chaff of self-absorption and the indiscriminate plodding along of an ignorant tourist. The longer I’m at it, though, the more tired I get and the more my emotional forearms ache. Sometimes, it even takes two people to process these things that are so much bigger than myself.
But it’s worth it! In the end. those mental and spiritual drapings are there now, clean and fresh, and ready to be drawn on for truth, context, maturity, interest, and possibly even some trendy European fashion statements.
Keeping washing, my friends. It’s worth it. (Trust me, not even a European wants to be naked ALL the time. )