Travel can be exhausting. It seems strange in a way: travel involves a lot sitting around – sitting in airports, sitting on planes, sitting on buses. How can so much sitting around be exhausting? And why is it, when we arrive in Copan some twelve hours after leaving our hotel in Dulles, are we so worn out?
It wasn’t all sitting, of course. Some of it even approached running, as our flight from Atlanta to San Pedro Sula began boarding before our flight from Dulles to Atlanta even touched down. Thank goodness the Atlanta airport has fast trains between concourses!
But mostly it was sitting. And still we feel pretty tired out as we arrive.
I think part of it is the sense of not being in control. Traveling by air to another country puts us at the mercy of a lot of other factors. We can’t decide how fast the security line will move; we can’t decide when to board the airplane; we can’t decide how air traffic will be rerouted because of storms elsewhere in the country. A lot of what happens is up to other people and other forces, and we have to be on our toes, often enough, just to keep up.
Maintaining that level of attention, without any corresponding action, can actually be kind of mentally draining.
On the other hand, on the very last leg of the trip, I began to recognize that not being in control could also be a gift. As the bus wound up and down the mountain roads bringing us to Copan, and I realized it wasn’t up to me to avoid the potholes or steer around the trucks or manage the hairpin turns, I turned my attention instead to the scenery. Not listening for airline announcements, not keeping track of where and when and how long, I just started looking at the countryside as it went by.
The forests look greener this year than last; everything seems more lush and verdant; it must have been a good growing season for the sugar cane and coffee we saw harvested. There is much beauty here – like the Shenandoah Valley in a way, and yet very different as well – and it is a gift just to take some time and enjoy it for what it is.
So here we are. Tired from a long day’s travel, not quite in control of what happens now and what happens next, trying to receive this place and this time and this mission as a gift. So now we sleep, and tomorrow will be our first working day.