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Photo by Emily Shahrzad Rahravan, Indonesia Semester.

Leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home

“For me, the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light…”


My first reaction to this article was feeling the experience of time travel, jerked back into the 1990s – it was a blast from the past. However, my aim here is not to critique and judge Mr. Iyer’s writing, but to introduce myself, so my quote is about not judging, and leaving my beliefs and certainties at home.

I am an Orthodox Christian Deacon, was educated in Byzantine Theology in Lebanon, and embrace the joys of serving a Divine Liturgy each Sunday. There is so much history and possible prejudice packed into that last sentence. Orthodox Christians in Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt do not enjoy a happy history with Islam, and I have spent time in all of those countries (except Syria). Living with friends there, I have experienced mostly joy and love in the face of hostility and terror.

But today is the day that I leave my beliefs at home. That doesn’t mean that I abandon my values, but it does mean that I will be open to new ways of living and knowing, of interacting with each other and with God. In my experience, even the idea of holding a core value can a path toward prejudice and exclusion. But meeting and interacting with people, being open to new ways of thought and morality can be the best way of breaking down prejudice and opening new doors. On this trip, I hope to experience what I thought I knew about Islam in a new and different light.

I am also a librarian and a great provider and supporter of serendipity in my library (Serendipity: coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”)  My goal is to be surprised by accidents and sagacity. I intend to be open to the experiences of my fellow travelers and to be surprised by them.  I intend to be open to myself, to the pain in my body, and to be more aware of what is happening in the moment.

I am really looking forward to building new friendships with my colleagues, group leaders, and host families, growing and learning to see the world and “everything I thought I knew in a different light.”