In today’s post, we get to sit down with one of the newest members of the Multiply Vineyard team, Justin Juntunen. As the team talked about the upcoming Cause Conference, we discovered that Justin had some pretty great stories and ideas to share about road trips and the value of a good journey. Not sure if you want to make the trip to Cape Coral yet? Maybe Justin can convince you. Read on:
MV: So Justin, we’ve been talking a lot about road trips and the how getting there is a big part of travel. And I know you, personally, really love a good road trip. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Well I’ve spent a lot of time on the road travelling and journeying, mostly while I was in college. My freshman year, my good friend Luke and I decided, “we want to go explore and hit the road.” We were young, it was our first year in college, we didn’t want to be tied down, and it didn’t sound very exciting to us to go sit on a beach somewhere for all of spring break.
And so what we did is we didn’t have a plan. We just got in the car and left, and by the time we got home we had been to 13 states. From Minneapolis we went straight down to Texas, all the way over to California, up through the Rockies, and had a wonderfully life-changing experience simply by seeing the country. We were sort of surveying it—we spent tons of time in the car, hours and hours on the road. But all that driving time was full of good, deep, meaningful conversation with my good friend. And each day our one commitment was, “let’s try to eat at a local place every night for dinner.” One good meal. Most of the rest of the time we were having were pop-tarts and pb&j in the car—definitely road-trip food—but we wanted to have some type of good, local fare at every point along the way. So that was what we did—everything from your local mom and pop greasy-spoon diner to great seafood and fish tacos right on the coast in California to great tex-mex down in Texas.
I think there’s something to seeing culture when you’re actually there. And we got to do that, even if it was only little bits along the way. And that sort of seasoned our conversations as we travelled together. We had a sense of, “wow, this country’s big, and here we are, journeying across it.”
So we made tons of memories, and after that trip, every spring break we did more trips like it. At the end of our college experience, Luke and I had driven to 49 states—everywhere we could have. There was no bridge to Hawaii, so we didn’t drive there, but we made it all the way up to Alaska. A lot of miles on the road.
MV: What kind of expectations did you have for those trips? Did they change as you went along?
When we got in the car, we generally had a direction we were going, and any trip or journey is kind of like that. So when you start on a journey, you’re heading in a certain direction, but the fun and the spontaneity of the journey is that you don’t always know how to get there.
And I think we plan out our journeys in life like that, too. God may show us a direction or destination, and then we want to jump in and say, “hey, here’s exactly how I’m going to get from point A to point B.” But oftentimes we find ourselves on a different route than we planned. There are different ways. Our paths are crooked and winding.
And so the fun is in the times like when we stopped off on a side road and met some people there, or we had coffee with Bob the homeless man in New York City, and we were blown away by how much money coffee was in New York, but it was wonderful anyway, and it was this great time that we never could have planned. It happens just by walking by and talking to people and having space for that kind of detour.
And I think as we have journeys in life, it’s good to have a destination in mind, and some kind of direction, but we need to keep holding that open-handedly. We need to be ready for the getting there to be a little different than we expected.
MV: What was in that first trip that made you want to do it three more times?
Well, what we found was there was such a sweetness and value to the way it deepened our friendship. Even though we spent between four and twelve hours in the car each day, and some days our butts were sore from all the sitting, it was really worth it to be challenged by each other. We would ask each other good questions, and have really long, deep conversations.
Our lives are so busy and fast-paced that relationships can sometimes take a hit. But I think when you have enough time with people, you can really go deep. For Luke and I, every trip had a distinct conversation woven into it. Whether we were wrestling with our purpose as college students, or what we were going to do after college, or if we were going to marry the girl we were dating, we spent hours together pondering those things.
Or sometimes we discussed big issues, like aspects of social justice that were breaking our hearts, or trying to figure out how to live a responsible, meaningful, committed life. Without those hours together in the car, I don’t know if I would ever have had those conversations, because I don’t know if I would have made space for them.
MV: I bet that if I gave you the time, you could tell me a hundred different stories of sights and sounds and people and jokes of the road—which sounds really fun—but that is probably beyond the scope of our conversation today. So instead, can you tell me a little bit about how travel formed you spiritually? What was the spiritual journey that you were going on?
I think that we as people are fully spiritual and fully human and fully physical, and it’s all tied together for us. But for me, part of the spiritual development was seeing the world bigger than what I had known at home. And I think that did two things: it helped me to get this itch for travel, and at the same time, every time I came home, I appreciated it so much more.
And when I look back on those trips and others, I see that I invested a lot in my life to go other places, because it made me appreciate and value home so much more. And so spiritually, I think we need to have that sense that we are home in God’s kingdom wherever we are geographically. And at the same time as we encounter new things, we need to keep exploring and seeking out new insight into who we are as people and what God is calling us to.
On our road trips, we were both growing as individuals as we travelled, and we were seeing the world that God has created in big and wonderful ways, whether it was thinking “this is creation and beauty” in the everglades and the Florida Keys; or saying to each other in awe, “this is all a gift for us to steward and enjoy,” while driving through the Rockies or driving up the coast to Alaska through British Columbia. That has made a lasting impact on my spiritual growth.
MV: As people are deciding to make the trip to Cape Coral this spring for the Cause Conference, what words of invitation or advice do you have for them?
I feel like the Cause Conference provides a really good opportunity to do what Luke and I did. To say, “Hey, let’s go and have this new, fun, crazy, spontaneous experience! Let’s grab some friends, get in a car together, and go and be challenged. Let’s talk and grapple with tough questions and sing and stop and run circles around the car because we’ve been sitting for hours and hours. Let’s go!”
The Cause Conference is such a worthwhile destination for a trip like that, where you’re intentionally going and investing in your future and purpose in life. Those times are rare if we don’t make space for them. I think sometimes people take more time planning their summer vacations than planning how they’re going to do those big things in life—to live out their purpose. And so I would say it is so worth investing in travelling to the Cause Conference, not just because it will be a meaningful, life-changing event, but also because of the journey there and back.
And the value of the journey is magnified if you do it in community with other people. So if you go, go with others. If you go, invest with others, because you will be connecting what happens at the conference with your life after the fact. Experiencing it together with your friends will make it not just about what happens on spring break in the wonderful beach town of Cape Coral. Experiencing it together with friends makes it part of your life when you get home.
MV: Any other parting thoughts?
Make sure you have a great road-trip soundtrack. Good tunes along the way are a great soundtrack for a lot of those drives. And I have a handful of albums that everytime I hear them I’m transported back to specific spots in the country, or time with Luke in the car. There’s so much emotion tied to those albums, and I love going back and listening to them. So make those memories. Bring some good music (One of my favorite albums for driving across middle America is Wilco’s Yankee Foxtrot Hotel. That album is the sound of the Great Plains to me).
And my only other parting thought is, make the effort. It’s really worth it. And I look forward to seeing you there—make sure you say hello!
Justin shares more about his road trip experiences and excitement about the Cause Conference here: