When I think about the impact that traveling has had in my life, it’s fair to say it was pivotal: it converted me to Catholicism. Certainly not in a dramatic, St. Paul way, but rather in a progressive, subtle but still very real way. I was born in the city of Alicante, located in south-eastern Spain, right on the coast line of the Mediterranean Sea. To Americans, that may sound exotic but to me that has always been the usual: just home.
As a child, I remember being extremely curious, as all children are at heart. My mom tells me I would never stop asking her questions to which she had limited answers, making her go crazy more often than not. Her best answers were always met with another “Why?” but despite all her efforts. I always felt unsatisfied. I wanted to know the reasons and inner-workings of things, but no answer offered ever seemed like it fit the reality I experienced. There was something about that initial wonder that God took and guided towards Himself, and that has most certainly fulfilled in every way my longing to know the ultimate why.
My traveling began at the age of thirteen, when I left home for the first time and spent July in England. I had such a wonderful time learning English from what I am convinced was the best host family (shout out to Lyn and Tom Bluck!) and here was no doubt in my mind that I would return the following year. So I did. My love of the English language grew tremendously, and I was told my accent was shifting from Spanish-American to British, which I was so happy to hear!
The summer before I turned sixteen, I packed some clothes and my guitar and flew to Watertown, NY for a full year abroad in the United States. After all, why not? I was going into 11th grade. Initially I just wanted to leave for a year because I was absolutely in love with English. My heart desired to know it, to live it, to speak it every single day and make it part of who I was. The trouble was, a year felt like a second. And so, I decided to stay for another year and finish high school in the States.
Providentially, a new religion teacher came to our small Catholic school my second year: Mr. Conklin. At this point I should mention that my life until this point was never “religious.” I was a cradle Catholic, but I knew nothing about God, nothing about the Church to which I belonged. To explain it briefly, I was “spiritual but not religious,” and generally against anything and everything the Church taught, did, said, etc. However, Conklin, who was a recent DeSales University graduate, was a kind of Catholic I had never experienced before. He was real, he was joyful, he was devout. I mean really devout. He wasn’t legalistic, or fake, yet he still held to the Church’s teachings, and I found he had good reasons! I think that was what surprised me most: the teachings were full of faith, but also full of reason. I didn’t have to shut my brain down to believe: I had to awaken it. I had to learn to think, not the other way around. Very slowly I started awakening to the “almost too good to be true” truth of the Catholic faith, thanks to Seth, who helped me to see in Christ everything I had sought and longed for since childhood. Christ had the ultimate answers I wanted and needed.
There is so much I had to leave out of this story, but the bottom line is that traveling was not only going to fulfill my conscious desire to know another language, but also my deepest desires: the desire to know and love Him, and to be known and loved by Him. What a gift and vessel of blessing traveling has been for me! Traveling, and thus experiencing different cultures, peoples and food truly is not another way to be self-centered, but rather a vessel for us to know God’s beauty, a chance to trust in providence and in a very beautiful way to be Catholic. I could have never guessed that God had a plan and pursued me then in ways I could have never imagined, in ways that I still can’t begin to comprehend. The best part is that the real journey has just begun!
P.S.: As I’m sure you have already guessed by the story, I no longer have a British accent, but I am the happiest of clams with an American one!
Maria del Carmen Ferri Marti | Lover of music, poetry, and all edible things. Aspiring theologian.