The Journey Begins

Footprints in Sand

Do you take journeys, or only trips?

What’s the difference, you ask?

journey is less destination-specific than a trip. On a trip, you’re headed somewhere in particular. You know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and how long you’re going to stay. But on a journey, you don’t always know when, where, or how the journey will end.

journey might be one-way, but most trips are round-trips. On a trip, you’re headed somewhere, then you’re coming back. You’re going out, and you’re coming home. But sometimes a journey is leading you to a new home, even a new home you’ve never seen before.

journey is broadly purposeful while the trip has a narrow purpose. The trip has a thesis statement, a detailed outline, a chapter on methodology. But with a journey, some purposes — perhaps many — are unknown. Some of the purposes might only become visible in the results. And that’s part of the point. On a journey, you have a broad idea of what the journey will entail, yet that broadness is not an enemy of the journey but its friend.

It’s important to take journeys, not just trips. It’s important to put yourself in positions to discover things unintentionally — where your intention is to make unintentional discoveries, where your lesson plan is to learn unpredictable lessons.

When we only take trips, we begin living off preparation and planning alone. We mitigate all risks, protect ourselves from all surprises, and suffocate the need for faith. We content ourselves with being specialists in that one area that keeps us comfortable and reputable, that one area that earns us a living, that one area that never rocks the boat we’ve propped up undangerously on the land, where every now and then the tide reaches up and splashes the dry hull just to keep us thinking we’re actually on a journey.

Don’t they sound different?

“The trip begins tomorrow morning.”

“The journey begins tomorrow morning.”


2 thoughts on “The Journey Begins

  1. thanks for this post, gunner. one of my theological teachers often emphasized the difference between being a tourist and a pilgrim, which has some similarities to the contrast you helpfully developed above. your comment about opening ourselves to unintentional discoveries made me think about this contrast’s relevance to formal educational contexts: perhaps there are some dangers to the prevalent educational professionalism (with “learning objectives”, “measurable outcomes”, etc.). thoughts?

    1. In education, goals and frameworks that provide direction, spur discovery, and stir curiosity are helpful, but goals and frameworks that stifle vision and creativity and put ceilings on the classroom can do more harm than good. “Measurable outcomes” are a good servant but a terrible master, because wisdom and virtue (the main goals of education) are not immediately measurable.


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