These past two weeks have been a wonderful blur. I had hoped to post more often up until now, but my internet connectivity was very limited until I arrived in Spain, and then my time was very limited until I arrived in Cambridge.
I've been surprised, though, by how much my travels have become a spiritual journey. I had expected to go through Europe as a tourist, visiting sites for writing inspiration, and working on stories and settings as I went. This all happened, but the vast majority of my time feels like it was spent in missionary work.
In Ireland, for example: on the flight across the Atlantic, the gentleman sitting next to me (a Puerto Rican living in Ireland) and I had a long discussion about education reform, politics, and the Gospel. We discussed his questions about the Gospel, and about religion in general, and I was able to invite him to learn more about the Church as a way of answering those questions.
This was NOT an isolated experience. On the train through Switzerland, a Swiss-American young lady found out I was a member of the LDS Church and proceeded to ask me a lot of questions that she'd wanted to ask before, but hadn't had a chance. Again, I was able to invite her to learn more. Similarly, in Ireland, on my bus tour of Northern Ireland, I made two good friends – Steve and Laura; Laura had seen and really liked the Book of Mormon musical, and had lots of questions for me about that. We discussed them for three or four hours while clambering over Giant's Causeway, culminating in her asking for and me offering (essentially simultaneously – it was a neat experience) a copy of the Book of Mormon. Steve was interested in one as well.
It was amazing to me: in all of these conversations, I was just put in a place where I could answer questions people already have. I didn't have to push any points on people, or make things uncomfortable – just in the course of talking, the Gospel came up and I was able to explain what I believe and, sometimes, bear testimony of it.
There were less dramatic opportunities as well – a young woman from Amsterdam at the Alhambra; a Swedish girl in France, an elderly Cuban gentleman and a young Thai woman in Cordoba, a girl from Yale here at Cambridge. That last one may not have been good – I'm supposed to be very tight-lipped about the church here, but a discussion of philosophy and the Book of Mormon musical got away from me and turned into an explanation of doctrine and testimony of it.
Anyway, there has been a lot more to this trip than the tourism. Incidentally, that research tourism has been far more effective than I expected as well: when I've needed specific information, I've gotten it quickly and enjoyably. But it feels like the travel between, and meeting new people and sharing the Gospel and making new friends has been my primary purpose in all of this.
Which brings me to Cambridge. I am having a lot of success here and in general in moving forward along my career goals. Today, for example, I found another individual who shares my enthusiasm for education reform; we had a long and enjoyable discussion about it over breakfast, and we may collaborate on setting up a charter school in China. I was given, in a very short period, a novel to write, and far more importantly, WHY I am to write novels. (For details on that, see a future post.)
Similarly, my plans with my friend Jeffery got a boost in Ireland when I was blessed, very specifically, to be up ridiculously early in an attempt to catch a bus that didn't exist. That attempt, however, caused be to bump in to Akinbode, who was in a similar situation; our meeting developed over breakfast and a few hours' discussion into a future business partnership in an import/export business I am currently trying to develop. Akinbode has the contacts in West Africa I lack; I have the contacts in America he lacks. It was a great example to me of the Lord taking care of me.
This entire trip, in fact, has been that way. I have felt the Lord at my shoulder, directing me in the ways He would have me go. It has been a spiritual journey, and one for which I am truly grateful.
PS - Due to some internet constraints even here, I will wait to upload photos until later this evening.