Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks

        There is something to be said about the effects of nature on the soul.  How it fuels the soul by allowing one to tune in to one’s “self” in a stage like no other.  And there is no better stage to experience nature than in a national park.

      To visit and explore a national park is to be in constant awe.  You can’t  help but marvel at these natural wonders.  They provide a playground for hiking, horseback riding, boating, and so many other activities.   The National Park System of the United States now comprises 390 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 49 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.  Places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Zion are all popular destinations and must-see parks, but so are some of the lesser known but equally amazing parks such as Black Canyon and Death Valley.

        Our national park quest began back in 1997 and, to date, we have visited most of the major national parks in the U.S., and two of Canada’s as well.  Our trips have created memories like no other, and have instilled in our children a love for America’s greatest places.  These have been unforgettable family trips for us.  I realize we have been blessed to have experienced these God-made wonders, and I highly recommend that you venture into at least one national park in your lifetime.  Here’s a link to the National Park Service:  National Parks – Find a Park.  It will provide you with a list of national parks to choose from, and information to plan your visit.  

        In the near future, I will begin posting additional “Exploring the National Parks” entries containing travel information and links on some of the great national parks we have visited.  Look for them soon.

The National Park Conservation Association plays a crucial role in ensuring that these magnificent lands and landmarks are protected in perpetuity by, among other things, educating us about the importance of preserving the parks, and by helping to convince Congress to uphold the laws that protect the parks. I encourage you to become part of the NPCA to help protect our national parks for this generation and those to come.  Every little bit we do as individuals to help protect and maintain these natural wonders makes a difference, as our government has its hands full as it is with other important programs needing its funding.
                           To see a world in a grain of sand, 
                             And a heaven in a wild flower,
                         Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, 
                                  An eternity in an hour.
                                                        – William Blake

Travel for the Soul

              Travel for the Soul is a series of entries dedicated to my travel experiences.  In them I write about and describe a few of the places my family and I have visited, and include photographs and informational links as well.

        Every time we take a trip, one which takes us away from our daily routine, we have the opportunity to heighten our awareness, and thus, grow spiritually.  Every single time.  Whether or not we take advantage of that, is entirely up to each of us.  So I decided to create this series not only to share some of my trips with you, but mostly in the hopes that these entries may be helpful in planning some of your own getaways – hopefully some unforgettable experiences – the kind that will fuel your soul.

                                                                      HAPPY TRAVELS!

Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.
~Rick Steves

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.
~Lillian Smith

Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes – with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience.  That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.
~Michael Critchton

Spiritual Awakening – Courtesy of a Defining Moment

        Some people are born faith-ready.  Mom reciting prayers before bedtime is their first memory of childhood.  Being taught the three Rs in Catholic school; arriving in this country on a Tuesday and having their first outing to Mass on that Sunday; involved in youth groups throughout the teens and young adult years; teaching Sunday school forever; no day can begin or end without a conversation with God.  Some people are born faith-ready.  I am one of those people.  And although my faith has ridden the rollercoaster on many occasions, there has been a constant familiarity with Christ that’s been ever so comforting.  [I owe this to my mother, the true pillar of strength and faith in my family].
  That’s great you may think, to have had that throughout life.  It may even impress you.  I’ll tell you what impresses me.  Those people who go through life for years not being sure where their faith, if any, belongs, and whose behavior denote exactly that.  But who, at a defining moment, courtesy of some other person or some act, see the light, and begin the journey, in the process transforming their life.

        Defining moments, most of us experience them at one point or another.  Could be about a job, a relationship, or could be spiritual.  The latter, the most life changing of all.  This can be eye opening and soul lifting, and most importantly, it can bring eternal life.  We need to understand and not doubt for a moment that we are instruments of God used at times to trigger these defining moments, so it is crucial that we walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  I’ve seen it happen.  Like the guy whose spiritual journey was set in motion because he loved the faith-filled girl he wanted to marry, and then stayed the course because he realized how he needs his God;
and like the friend who embarked on her journey for her children’s benefit, for her own, changing her trajectory and that of her family’s 180 degrees.  We all know people who could use Christ in their lives, praying for them is essential if we want them to recognize Christ and reach their defining moment.  But to lead someone to Christ we must act out our Christian life, and then ultimately trust God for the results.

        At this time when a new year draws near and so many of us look to make a fresh start, whether you were born faith-ready or you’ve been lucky to have already experienced your spiritual defining moment, let’s make our resolution to walk the talk as we never know when God will look to us to come up to the plate and touch someone’s life, setting off that awakening that leads to eternal life.

-by Connie Perez

                                 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13