One of our goals on our journey is for us to “live our values”. That statement begs the question “what are our values?” Our values have been influenced by our involvement with the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, the Canadian Unitarian Council, and Unitarian Universalism in general.
The values which we plan to live during our journey are:
- Living simply.
- Treading lightly on the Earth.
- Nurturing meaningful interactions with people.
- Developing an appreciative understanding of cultures.
Today our lives are complicated. We own a two-story, three-bedroom house with a small back yard. We both work and spend a significant amount of our non-work time volunteering with church. Our lives are busy and full of an excessive amount of things – cars, computers, …
We want to simplify our lives, but it is not an easy thing to do within our current existence. We need an opportunity to really experience simplicity to see if it is something that will work for us.
For this trip, our lives will be carried with us on our bikes. If it doesn’t fit within the panniers or on the rack, it wont be part of our existence. This will force us to simplify our lives: our lodging will be in our tent or a budget hotel/hostel, our everyday transportation will be our feet or our bikes, and our meals will be made on a camp stove or be provided by street vendors. Overall, life will be simplified.
Our destinations will be determined by the weather, our health, and the whims of the day. There are some guidelines that will force us to move along, such as boat schedules, the seasons, and the desire to experience a certain number of places within the time allotted.
However, we will not be giving up our virtual existence. For me, my virtual identity is part of who I am. We plan to keep journals (electronic or otherwise), and update our blog site on a regular basis. I hope to write a few articles for a variety of travel magazines or local newspapers. I expect that our families will be happy to hear that we are safe and enjoying our experiences.
Treading lightly on the earth
We both feel a deep respect for the environment and the earth. There is a saying about camping in the wilderness, your goal is to take only pictures and leave only footprints (and you try to avoid that too). We plan to spend many nights free camping on our trip. We will seek locations that allow us to be invisible and not impact the land we are resting on.
While camping, we will cook our meals using a multi-fuel stove. We will not burn wood in campfires, which scar the land, pollute the air, and pose a potential threat to the land around our campsite.
Another way we plan to tread lightly is by using freighters to cross the oceans, rather than flying. Airplanes are significant emitters of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). According to this calculator our required flights would emit just under 1 tonne of GHGs per passenger. Also, we have both spent a lot of time on airplanes, and don’t find long-distance air travel pleasant. We can’t promise to not use airplanes, as a time may come when we find it necessary, but our goal is to avoid airplane travel. Although freighters burn a lot of fuel, they are already travelling the oceans to deliver cargo. As a passenger, our travel impact is negligible.
We are also looking into solar power (or solar assist) for our electronics. Arguably, this is more of a necessity than it is treading lightly on the earth, as we can not guarantee we will have access to electricity when our GPS or other electronic devices need charging, but it does provide a friendlier way to charge some of our electronics.
Nurturing meaningful interactions with people
It is so easy, to pass through a place, look at the scenery, and totally miss the culture and people that make the place special. On our journey, we want to make a special effort to actually connect with people in each of the places we pass through.
We are looking to several different different organizations to help us connect with real people as we travel through various communities and countries. These include:
- Servas. Servas is an organization that promotes world peace through developing friendships across cultures. As servas traveller’s we will have an opportunity to stay with people for two or three nights, share our cultures, and tell stories about our lives.
- Warm Showers. Warm showers is an organization that connects cyclists who are travelling with fellow cyclists who are willing to provide shelter. Similar to Servas, Warm Showers will allow us to connect with real people in the various countries we are visiting.
- International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. Through our connections at the ICUU, we hope to be introduced to fellow Unitarian’s within the countries we are travelling. Connecting with people who share our faith (or a similar faith), allows us to learn more about cultural differences within a familiar context.
- Canadian Unitarian Council. About half of our trip will be crossing Canada. As we travel across the country, we hope to connect with many fellow Unitarians and visit the various Unitarian Fellowships and Congregations across the country.
Developing an appreciative understanding
Developing an appreciative understanding requires learning about different perspectives while trying to appreciate the person holding the different views. The concept of Appreciative Understanding comes from Man’s Ultimate Commitment by Henry Nelson Wieman (1958)
Appreciative Understanding is an interchange in which the thoughts, perspectives, emotions, and worldviews of each person are recognized, understood, and appreciated. It is the conscious effort of each person to discover value in what someone else is expressing. It is not an attempt to seek agreement, only to understand and appreciate why the other person sees things the way they do. The outcome is shared meaning.1
One of the reasons for nurturing meaningful interactions is specifically to help develop an appreciative understanding of different cultures. One of the areas where I hope to gain a better understanding is the relationship between Islam as a religion and the cultures of its adherents (Arab, Turkish, Persian, Malay, etc.). We will be passing through many counties where the main religion practiced is Islam: Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Malaysia, and southern Thailand. The relationship between the religion, culture and government varies throughout these regions. I hope that experiencing the places and having meaningful interactions with the people living in them will help me better understand a world-view from the perspectives of various people in each of those countries.