Day 1: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
As I sit in LAX awaiting my flight to Manila, Philippines, my mind splits as a thousand thoughts vie for focus. I’ve been awake for 33 hours, but my adrenaline is still going strong. I close my eyes and consider the things I’ve left behind. Almost a full year will pass before I see my friends and family, more than 300 nights will go by before I sleep in my bed, six major holidays will happen without me. I look down at my over-stuffed backpack, knowing my house has been replaced by a tent, my bed has been replaced by a sleeping bag and my closet has been reduced to a week’s worth of clothing. Do I really want to go through with this?
While I stand in the terminal checking boarding times, I see a suspicious number of camera-wielding journalists lined up near the baggage claim. They keep filing in right off the street; each one with slicked-back hair and camera lenses the length of baseball bats. “Who are these guys?” I ask out loud. I hear the young blonde sitting next to me shout, “JWoww and Snooki are coming!” In an instant, the two divas from MTV’s Jersey Shore burst through the terminal doors with a swarm of paparazzi chasing them. Each photographer fights with the one next to him for a
better angle, 1,000 lights flash in mere seconds and the two celebrities simply ignore it all. The terminal becomes chaos.
The irony is not lost on me. Before embarking on a journey to the poorest corners of the world, I have a layover at the center of posh, materialistic American culture. I look around and see Burberry advertisements, Starbucks logos, billboards with picture-perfect models—the images that have kept me focused on me and my desires for years. The noise around me seems to grow until I can hardly stand it. This is when I first recognize The World Race is not a great sacrifice. It’s an opportunity to seek God like I never have before, a chance to abandon my selfishness and get lost in what He is doing around the world. The Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Rwanda, Kenya, India, Romania—these countries and more will soon become memories of love and adventure. I long for this year to be a turning point for my entire life.
“Flight number 618 now boarding,” the intercom says. I grab my pack and walk toward the boarding gate.