The COVID Seas Have Calmed: Our International Adventure

For adventure travelers, Antarctica is one of the ultimate must-visits. What keeps most tourists away from a frolic with the penguins is having to cross the dreaded Drake Passage, the most treacherous expanse of water in the world. Waves can easily top forty feet as it boils with the most powerful convergence of the Atlantic and Pacific. Even the stoutest of sailors feel their stomachs turn.

Since COVID hit, traveling anywhere outside of one’s own home country feels as daunting as crossing the Drake Passage in a rowboat. Recently traveling those seas myself, I have learned that it is much less tumultuous than most imagine.

Our Pandemic Trip to Ireland

In September, we took our first overseas adult pilgrimage in the last year and a half, and I felt like I was preparing our pilgrims for forty-foot waves.

What originally started with twenty participants, the team slowly shrunk as the Delta variant renewed people’s fear of travel. By the time we arrived in the land of Saints and Scholars, we had a mighty group of thirteen.

The chemistry of the group was instantaneous.  Smaller numbers meant the ability to engage in a plethora of surprises throughout the journey. Yes, we were cautious. Yes, we wore masks where required. Yes, we had to take a COVID test before coming back to the U.S., but nothing felt forced or weird. For the most part, we were gloriously free in a tourist-empty Ireland.

Our host, music artist, Jeff Johnson, led us in enriching moments of worship and song daily, to the thrill of the group. Our Irish Wonder Voyage Guide, John Spencer, was our bard for the week, as he shared history, stories, and thoughts from the Irish perspective. He even opened his home for a night of grilled steaks. The food was delicious, the beds soft, the hikes sublime, and the holy moments were abundant. Our Selah pilgrimage could not have been better.

The hardest part of the journey was realizing how many people refused to travel based on their fears. We wondered aloud, “Is this the future of travel?  Will people avoid the joys of travel because of the what-ifs?”

Is Travel Worth the Risk?

Leaving for an adventure overseas has always been risky. But the benefits of travel, up to this point, have far outweighed the nominal risks. Ireland, for those who dared brave the waters of overseas travel, was a once-in-a-lifetime journey that will lodge in their hearts as one of the greatest adventures of their lives.

When I went to Antarctica in 2019, our passage across the Drake Passage from Antarctica back to Argentina was as smooth as crossing an inland lake with no wind. You wouldn’t have known you were on the water unless you walked on the deck.

I thought about that crossing as I waited to return to the U.S. after our two-week pilgrimage to Ireland. Our journey was smooth. We experiencing nothing that would warrant the fear that is causing so many to be reluctant to get a new stamp on their passport.

In fact, the future is bright. Next year will be Wonder Voyage’s biggest travel year in our 23-year history. We hope you will join our merry band of pilgrims and see that there is smooth sailing ahead.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,

Wherever He may send you.

May He guide you through the wilderness,

Protect you through the storm.

May He bring you home rejoicing at the

Wonders He has shown you.

May He bring you home rejoicing

Once again into our doors.

After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.

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