Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 1127 | September 22 2010
Lord willing, two weeks from now I will be in London on the adventure of my lifetime. A couple of months ago I was invited to spend some time in Ireland by longtime friends Ward and Marda Stothers whose permanent residence is Berkeley, California, but after retiring from their "secular" jobs signed up to be missionaries in Belfast. Ward studied for the ministry when I was studying how I could retire from my writing job in industry (and we are approximately the same age) and he became ordained in a Presbyterian denomination in his sixties. I met them for dinner before their initial departure and got the impression they might do that for a year, but they are now already in their third year there.
A newsletter about their work earlier this summer was so full of reports about visitors they have hosted and travels they had done with them, that I ventured to ask, via email, if I made a trip to Ireland, would they show me around a bit. Their reply was the invitation to be their guest and I took it as an offer too good to refuse. I've been to Ireland six times, but met no one other than the owners of some of the B&Bs my fellow travelers and I stayed in. I even tried eating in pubs a few times but didn't really strike up any new acquaintances by that, either. So spending time in Ireland in the company of friends who have a network of local friends some of whom I expect to also meet, is (to me, at least) greatly to be desired.
My main interest in a return trip to Ireland is that since my last visit in 2002, I have found my "retirement vocation" as a C.S. Lewis Scholar, having written two books mainly about Lewis and a third nearly done that cites him frequently in every chapter. Belfast is where Lewis was born and returned as his "home" for the rest of his life after moving to England (initially to attend boarding school, at age 9), and though I've been in Belfast twice before have never visited the places there associated with him, and that's my main goal in this present tour. And since I'll be that close to England (and flights to and from London are much cheaper than ones direct to Belfast or Dublin), I "had" to also visit the places associated with Lewis in Oxford, where he was a don (lecturer and tutor) for most of his adult life and Cambridge, where he spent his final decade as a professor. I've been to Oxford several times before, too, but visited only the pub where Lewis and his writer friends (known as "the Inklings") met weekly among the places associated with him there. This time I want to visit the Kilns, the house he and his brother bought with another resident and lived in most of their lives, the college of Oxford University where he taught (Magdalen) and the historic trail or path (Addison's Walk) he once walked almost all night with a couple of close friends who persuaded him of the validity of the Christian Gospel. And I have already been able to book a lunch meeting with a fellow author who lives and works at the university at Oxford.
The reason I'm seeing this "as the adventure of my lifetime" even though I've flown around the world on an earlier trip, is that this is the first overseas trip I have even planned as a solo venture. In the past, a church group I joined, then my brothers Bob (on the world trip) and Tom, and my sons Mike and Kevin, have traveled together (though never all of us in the same trip). I don't know why, but the idea of making a flight without a fellow traveler as far as London is so daunting that I could not contemplate it until now, and this time it is only because I was assured I would be hosted once I get to Ireland that I considered it. But why? Business travelers jet to London, Tokyo, and Shanghai every week on their own. My erstwhile ministry mentor Carl McIntire flew around the globe literally many times on his own. I've been in New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and other smaller cities scores of times on my own; I've lived alone in Philadelphia and now do so in San Jose, so what's the difference? I'm hoping this will convince me that there is no negligible difference and that, if I live long enough and my money holds out, I will yet get up the gumption to make that long-desired trip to Greece and Turkey one of these years.
More on trip planning next time.
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