We had a dose of this earlier in the week. The pilots at Lufthansa, our air carrier for most of the journey, went on strike 5 days before we were scheduled to leave. Fortunately, they were back at work within 24 hours and our departure from Dulles shouldn’t be affected.
Then it turned out that the Egyptian government has changed the practice of issuing visas to groups entering the country and we will have to prepare for the new routine, with each of us going through the line individually, paying for our own visa stamps, and reassembling on the other side, rather than having our guide take care of the transaction.
In the great scheme of things, these are very small events, hardly worth mentioning. But they raise the specter of the unexpected, which is so much a part of pilgrimage. If we wanted to have orderly, predictable, calm lives, we wouldn’t travel. We go on pilgrimage—at least in part—because we are seeking the unexpected, hoping for something we cannot yet name, open to the changes and chances of new places, people, and experiences.
For the same reason, it’s important to travel light. We can make ourselves crazy trying to prepare for any eventuality—bringing all the right clothes, packing everything we think we might need, reading everything written about the places we’ll visit before we get there. Preparation is good, but being too prepared can make the journey so predictable that we might as well watch a National Geographic DVD.
A better approach? Make modest preparations. Tend to your spirit. Remember that we are traveling in community, that we will watch over and care for each other on the journey, that there are people waiting for us in Egypt—and readily accessible back home—who will also watch over and care for us, and many more who will gladly share their knowledge and support.
And then expect the unexpected, and be grateful for the adventures ahead.