06 May 2006

The agonies of travel, and the joys of coming home

posted by Phil Johnson

A postcard from Rome

Better late than never:

Darlene and I returned home from Italy late Friday night. The journey home was a 24-hour ordeal, including a four-hour layover in New York. The in-flight movies were deplorable, so I spent the entire 8-hour flight from Rome to New York listening to my iPod, and by the time we arrived on this side of the Atlantic, the iPod battery was nearly gone.

On top of that, I had stupidly left my computer in standby mode, so its battery was depleted, too. And compounding the stupidity, I had packed my power cords in the checked luggage. So the layover was not only long; it was profoundly dull, too.

New York was hot, and the air-conditioning (if such a thing exists at JFK) was not working in any of the three buildings we had to traverse to make our connection. By the time we got on the plane to Los Angeles, I was suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, and the cramped 6.5-hour flight from New York to LAX was miserable.

People in my great-grandparents' generation would be amazed to hear me complain of such "inconveniences." The thought of traveling from Rome to Los Angeles so easily in a single day would never have occurred to them. They would be shocked and appalled to hear me complain about such petty annoyances, which are by no means real hardships.

Which brings us to. . .

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

Complaining about traveling reminded me of this letter Spurgeon once wrote during a hard journey home from Italy. In the later years of his ministry, at his doctors' insistence, he traveled annually to warmer climates. Unfortunately, Mrs. Spurgeon was a semi-invalid and was usually unable to travel with him. Spurgeon kept her in his mind and heart by sending letters about places he visited and things he saw.

His travel journals were by no means upbeat and cheery. Travel for him was no pleasure, and you get a sense of that from his description of this journey home:

One last letter from Paris

In the hope that one more letter may reach you before I come personally, I give myself the delight of writing it. The telegram will have told you that, at the very prudent advice of the doctor, I left Cannes at 3.15 on Tuesday in a coupé-lit to travel direct to Paris. It has proved a very wise step.

A lady lent her Bath-chair to take me to the station, and porters lifted me into the carriage. There I had a nice sofa-bed and every convenience. I lay there with great comfort till we reached Marseilles; then came the night, and I had hoped to sleep, but the extreme oscillation of the train quite prevented that. Once only I dozed for a few minutes, yet I was kept restful till six o'clock, when my dear friends got me some warm soup, and I had a refreshing wash. Then, all day long, I was at peace till 6 p.m.

From Lyons, the country is flooded all along the road; we seemed to ride through a vast river. I naturally felt the chill of this, and my knees complained. Near Paris it rained hard, and at Paris heavily.

After much stress and difficulty, I was put into a cab, and we drove to this hotel. I went to bed immediately, and slept on, on, on, till eight o'clock the next morning, awaking then refreshed, and, happily, none the worse for the long journey.

I meant to stay in bed all day, and sent my friends out, so that I might not always be a drag upon them; but, at about noon, I rose and dressed, and when they came in, I had flown,—to a sitting-room and a sofa by a cozy fire! I can walk now a little, and hope to be all right for Sunday. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and may He bless thee, too, my dear heart of love! I hope to have a coupe, and to-morrow lie down again while travelling, and so home to my tender wifely.

Who could hope to escape rheumatic pains when all the world is wet through to the center? It must not grieve you that I suffer, but you must rejoice that I escaped so long. Why, even rocks might feel this marvelous, long-continued wetting! I am indeed grateful to God for His goodness; still, "there's no place like home." This brings great loads of love all flaming. God bless thee ever!

Carriage at Victoria at 5.45, Friday!

C. H. Spurgeon

Notice that Spurgeon was unable to walk and needed to be carried. The cold and damp of the season enflamed his gout and left him almost completely incapacitated. The pain was so intense that every motion of the train was sheer agony, and he was unable to sleep. Yet he valiantly fought for rest, because he intended to preach that very weekend.

Kind of puts the discomfort of "Restless Leg Syndrome" and the inconveniences of depleted batteries and substandard air-conditioning in perspective, doesn't it?

But I can still fully relate to Spurgeon's eagerness to get home. It's good to be back.

If you sent me an e-mail while I was gone, it might be awhile before I get to it. Send it again if it's urgent. But I'll continue to be scarce at the blog until I get my book project finished.

Phil's signature


Pastor Rod said...


I sympathize with you. It sounds like my last trip back from Italy. I leave Tuesday for Sicily myself. I'm going to the other side of the island near Palermo.


Jeremy Weaver said...

O. K. TeamPyro...Straighten up! The man's back in town! No more of this comedy or comic book posts. This is about God and His truth.

Welcome back, Cotter.

Kim said...

Glad you and Darlene made it safely back. You have my admiration for enduring traveling at all. It's very tiring.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Glad you're back safe, Phil.

Colin Maxwell said...

Did you meet the Pope while you were in Rome and have forgot to tell us about it?

Cindy Swanson said...

I used to love to fly...and I still find it much more appealing than the 20 hours it takes to DRIVE to visit loved one in Texas.

But thanks to things like enduring inevitable flight delays...being sandwiched, uncomfortably and intimately, between perfect strangers...the growing stinginess of airlines when it comes to providing refreshment (leading to the appalling messiness of people who are forced to bring their own food)...fighting off claustrophobia, nervousness about turbulence, and the dim but genuine fear of terrorism (none of which plagued me in my younger years)...and people who take FOREVER to get their luggage out of the overhead bins (why don't they let people who don't have stuff in the overhead bins exit FIRST???)...well...flying is no longer fun.

However, none of that stops me from being envious of you for getting to go to Italy, Phil! :)

Jim Bublitz said...


You gotta get the iPod booster pack that runs the thing off of AA batteries after you've exhausted the main battery. Must have! Must have!