The Joys of International Travel

Jun 22, 2012

There’s never a bad time to travel, but the summer is a good time to start! Commentator and History Professor Dr. Brian Clardy reflects on the the joys of international travel and recommends Murray State students and staff consider the various programs offered by the university.

The older I get the more I reflect on those things that make life happy and exciting. One of those great life’s thrills is the joy of international travel and tourism. Whether it is skulking about the great cathedrals o f Europe, relaxing on a Caribbean beach, or walking along the Badaling Great Wall, the allure of observing human personality, diverse religious observances, and the natural wonders of the planet can be a deeply spiritual experience.

Many years ago, I happened to be in England for a conference at St. Anthony’s College Oxford. It was my 37th birthday and it changed the way I viewed the world and issues of faith. After I got out of the cab from London Heathrow airport, the Porter at the college took my bags to my set and called me yet another taxi to take me to Christ Church Cathedral. I sat through the first service, very tired (somewhat hungry), and generally unimpressed; it was a Said Matins service without a lot of music.

I was pensive and agitated, but I needed to stay awake so that my own body could adjust to the new time and new setting. But my gut told me to stay through the next service…..Sung Eucharist. And I followed that sixth sense…and my life and views towards Sacred Music was changed forever. Steven Darlington’s Christ Church Cathedral Choir sang some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. And Canon George Pattison’s theologically heavy sermon changed the way that I viewed Sacred Speak. Needless to say, I went back to my room in college on Cloud#9………because I felt as if I had literally been there.

I would recommend an Oxbridge vacation to any would be traveler because it will give them an opportunity to visit the great colleges, cathedrals, bookstores, and novelty shops. It is rich with history, culture, and tradition. And if the tourist is a fan of great British crime dramas like “Inspector Morse” or “Inspector Lewis,” there will be an almost immediate connection with the diverse and intricate setting.

Not all of my travels have been so centered on the cerebral. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Montego Bay, Jamaica. And it was a virtual musical and culinary smorgasbord. The wind coming off of the Caribbean Sea tempered the oppressive heat of the August sun. Music ranging from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Eek a Mouse, and Jimmy Cliff formed a very attractive soundtrack to mornings on the beach and evenings in the dance clubs. The food and wine were PERFECT. And the trip on the Catermerand up the bay to Jimmy Buffet’s Restaurant was a once in a lifetime experience, especially when I got over my morbid fear of falling into the sea.

A Caribbean vacation would be ideal for those who enjoy fun and sun. But for those who love interactions with people from every walk of life, enjoy exemplary service, and lush settings, a trip to Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, or the Bahamas would be very well worth the trip.

Then there was China. The trip that I would never have envisioned embarking upon in my wildest dreams. But I got an email from Murray State’s International Office in the early Spring of 2008 notifying me that I had been chosen as part of a delegation to represent the University on a visit with the Peoples’ Education Press. That is when the excitement began. Gift purchases for our hosts, visa applications, lectures and readings on proper etiquette, and books on the history of that great civilization only added to the anticipation. 

And the night before our trip, I couldn’t sleep a wink. I think I watched the musical “Hair” on my kitchen television at 3am right before heading to the motor pool. We got to Nashville and were delayed on the ground…….we were just about to miss our flight from Chicago O’Hare to Beijing’s Capital Airport. But as luck and fate would have it, we made it just in time for the 13 hour flight. 

Jet lagged, anxious, and unable to speak the language, it was nonetheless exciting to see the people….enjoy the food…….read the English newspapers…..and enjoy the scenery. One of the highlights of the trip for me was to get on my cell phone and call my loved ones from the Great Wall of China…..a truly moving moment in my own life. Tours of cities like Kaifeng, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, and of course Beijing was a dream come true.

Students of diplomacy, connoisseurs of fine dining and cooking, exotic music, and the arts would appreciate a trip to China. It would be a life changing experience and make global exchange a reality.

Murray State University has always been our window to the much larger world. And I would encourage students and faculty to look into great opportunities at international study, travel and enrichment. Racer Nation students have great opportunities to spend a semester taking classes at the University of Regensburg in Germany, another gateway to visiting Europe’s finest cities. There are also great venues through the Kentucky Institute of International Studies, and the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad. Reading about these great international destinations in the covers of a book are one thing, but actually visiting these places and studying with our knowledgeable faculty can provide a chance to view the world from a new perspective.

The key to the joys of travel is to view one’s self as part of a much larger global schema. And the thrills and excitement from visiting other places, and learning about different cultures is truly a great way to understanding the world, and one’s place in it.

Dr. Brian Clardy is an assistant professor of history and Coordinator of Religious Studies at Murray State University. He is also the host of Café Jazz, Thurday nights on WKMS.