I’ve started many travel blogs but finished few. I’ve put my hands to the keyboard trying so hard to articulate what I want to say. However, most of my experiences are still living in my head years later.
Looking back on my completed writings and journals I love the detail that I incorporated and the memories I’m able to draw. Although more often than not I found it hard to soak in and reflect on moments, experiences, or days because each sunrise brought a new moment, experience, and day. Which has led to many memories never being captured in writing and only a few of those moments able to bring me back with such detail.
I started traveling when I was a freshman in college. My first time taking a flight that would lead me internationally was to Belize. I went on a Spring Break mission trip with an organization called Praying Pelican. Those eight days sparked something inside of me. A connection with this planet that I knew would need to be explored. Since then I’ve visited fourteen countries, sometimes twice. In a couple days I will land in my fifteenth country, Costa Rica.
In 2020, I embarked on what I anticipated being a year long journey. I was going to eleven countries in eleven months to share the gospel in some of the most unreached places in the world. The World Race turned into The World Sprint and I completed three countries in three months.
I have the privilege of going to Costa Rica because of leftover funds that I had from The World Race. I am so grateful that I get to steward these funds wisely as I know the heart in which they were originally given. It will be the first time in two years I’ve left the country.
However, it’s been on my heart that so many people supporting & following my adventure were left with a cliffhanger…What happened out there? She never finished her stories. What happened when she came home?
Even when I did my Semester at Sea program I wanted so badly to document every country and I only journaled through the first couple.
Whether I’ve been on the road for missions, studying, or touring it makes me sad when I think about the small moments that will eventually slip away entirely.
The names and faces of people who impacted me, the small moments of encountering Jesus in a sunrise, the laughter of teammates.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’ve climbed the Great Wall of China, stuck my toes into pink beaches, swam off the coast of Australia, pretended to pet a living Komodo Dragon. Or when I cantered through South African terrain via horseback and crossed the Sahara Desert to camp under the stars via camel. I try to envision re-tasting some of the incredible ethnic foods for the first time.
I also find it hard to believe that I’ve walked for miles in a foreign city sweating uncontrollably because I was lost; or that I rode a bus for six hours and wasn’t entirely sure that the driver understood where I wanted to be taken. Or the times when experiencing food has led to poisoning so bad I thought I might never stop throwing up.
I’ve often worried about the image that I will portray when sharing photos of my time in foreign lands. I desire to post the beautiful landscapes and breathtaking views but I didn’t want my supporters to think I was taking a luxury vacation. However, if I posted the photos of trash in the city streets and half built homes falling over with children playing in the front yard, it would give the impression that I was unsafe. I long to share the precious faces that I’ve captured but I worry about exploiting them.
Looking back on these moments that only seem to live in my personal memory box, I can honestly say that one thing I’ve learned in this life is that regardless of where you are, you can make a difference. You can encounter the Lord and see his miracles. You can be a witness to life-giving change. Whether you’re across the world or home, you’ll have those breathtaking experiences and you’ll also have days of trial.
If you’re active on social media it’s easy to follow that I met the love of my life, moved home, got married, and bought a house back in Northern, WI where I grew up.
This is my full time mission field now. I go to work at my normal 8-5 job, I enjoy time with my husband and family, and we find community at our local church and businesses. This lifestyle is no less impactful. The opportunity to be going to Costa Rica and hosting conferences to show women the love of Jesus is great and I’m so excited to go. But I’ll be just as excited to come home.
In the future, I hope to use this platform to share local travel opportunities and help further the mission of encouraging people to geek out in the Northwoods. However, I thank you for giving me the space to fill in the blanks of this journey. If you’ve supported me in the past financially and spiritually, know that it wasn’t lost. So many incredible moments and memories were made and will continue to be made. If this is the first time you’ve heard my story, welcome. I’m glad you’re here!
In conclusion, I have many untold stories. But I’ve come to realize that’s okay. There's still many more stories to come.
- Claire Hessel