I’ve written before about how singles should spend this time wisely. Rather than pining at home, worrying about when you might (or might not) get married, why not take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities presented to you? Everyone chooses to do this in different ways, but the one thing that I’m happy I checked off my bucket list is traveling.
I know that if I ever get married and am blessed with children, pulling up stakes for a few weeks to see the world might not be the wisest move. There is work and school to consider, not to mention hostels without elevators and strollers on cobblestones.
When I finished my Master’s degree, I treated myself to two weeks in Italy on a pilgrimage with the Fraternity of St. Peter. My boss was generous with my time off and I had no debt—thanks to working my way through grad school.
Being on a group trip meant that most of the travel arrangements were out of my hands and I was free to enjoy myself without worrying too much about safety or carting my (far too large) suitcase around. The pilgrims were young and old, married and single, and from all over the United States.
Having gotten my feet wet and my interest piqued, I saved my money and vacation days and went back to Europe a couple of years later—this time with some girlfriends. We managed to travel extensively through England, France, Germany, and Austria, and this past summer we reunited for a Spanish and Portuguese excursion.
Each time I’ve gone abroad, I’ve been so humbled by the long and rich history that the Catholic Church has and its effect on each of the countries I’ve visited.
Coming from American churches built “in the round” in the 1960s, church architecture in western Europe is magnificent and awe-inspiring. Even in the smallest churches, we stumbled on saints’ remains—often a saint that is hardly known outside the local region. There are wayside shrines all along the roads in Germany and often statues on the outside of secular buildings.
Because we were traveling in June, we were away for the Feast of Corpus Christi two years in a row. Bavaria celebrates the feast as a national holiday and we witnessed a procession with colorful banners and locals in native dress. In Spain, Corpus Christi processions take over the city streets with immense floats of the Blessed Mother and various saints. It was so heartening to see religious feasts ingrained in the national culture!
In addition to having the privilege of praying for friends and family at various apparition sites and tombs of saints (some incorruptible!), one of my favorite sights was the Mesquita (or Great Mosque-Cathedral) in Córdoba, Spain.
It is a World Heritage site that combines various architectural styles with a long and bitter religious history. Despite years of studying world history in depth from books, visiting the actual places where history was made left a huge impression on all of us.
When I look back at my pictures, I know I will never regret traveling. I have learned so much about the Church and the histories of countries that have helped shape our own.
I’ve had to order pizza with hand signs in Rome and remember to say “Grüß Gott” to shop owners in Salzburg. In addition to having good times—Munich beer gardens and almost driving on a freighter to Africa come to mind—traveling can expand our appreciation of others, while reminding us that we are all very small indeed.
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” ~ Hilaire Belloc