main menu

March 04, 2013

why you don't need to travel

At breakfast, an acquaintance asked me how many countries I've visited, and I had to stop to count. It was a new situation, that of not knowing how many countries I've visited. At the end of 2011, I had only been to 3 countries, but by the end of 2012, the count was at 11. Sounds like 2012 was a fascinating year, right? The stuff of many daydreams.

There were crunchy macaroons, famous historical sites, entertaining moments and encouraging conversations. There was light from The Good Book. My life was enriched and deepened by the knowledge I acquired and the people I met. But to be realistic, travelling also meant diarrhea for over a week, rain and cold, the re-wearing unwashed socks...and the regular weight of being a sinner living in a dark world. In many ways, travelling was not so different than everyday life. 

I hope that last sentence didn't just ruin your life.

It's just that my perspective on travel has been gradually shifting.

North American culture teaches that travel is all that. It's the cool thing, to take a gap year to save turtles on a beach in Costa Rica and to sail around Caribbean. I had a coworker who told me that she “lives to travel.” (I couldn't help but pity her, because that means she only “lives” one or two weeks out of the year.) I don't need to tell you that travel can be an idol for many.

As a TCK, I have perceived travel as all that in a different sense. I often have thought that people who've never travelled need to get out more in order to gain the Father's heart (and to be more interesting dinner companions). Need to get on a plane and discover a place where the apples aren't polished and the tap water isn't potable. I could relate to Mark Twain, who stated that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

We all have this idea that travel changes things. 

But the truth is, the Father changes things. Not travel. Travel can have positive effects, but the moving of your body to another corner of the earth doesn't necessarily mean the moving and transforming of your heart to better reflect Him.

This was aptly illustrated by this post from an American living in Asia. For two years, she has been a first-hand witness to her neighbours' suffering and deception. Yet she still finds herself listening to a friend talk about how her husband is beating her, and then being upset because her internet is slow. (What is slow internet after spousal abuse?) She gets so frustrated with disruption of her neighbours chanting to idols in the night, that her heart fails to grieve for the blindness around her. She reminded me that a change of heart is the work of G0d. Not the work of travel. If it were the work of travel, she wouldn't be struggling with wrong attitudes anymore.

It is good that we would hold lightly to our physical location and tightly to the One who cradles the earth in His hands.


This photo was taken by my travelling buddy, Christie.

Our tour of Paris was led by a Bulgarian in a beret. She guided us between gold-covered monuments while we munched on baguettes and soft goat cheese. I had no expectation of what the Louvre would look like, but when I saw it, I was impressed. It surprised me when my travelling buddy was notably unimpressed. I questioned her reaction. She surveyed the structure rising from the cobbled courtyard and said, “It's just that the things of man cannot compare to the things of G0d.”

I think her reference was to how grey stone buildings and glass pyramids couldn't begin to compare to the endless spread of the Yukon territory. How the sparkling Eiffel Tower could never rival the a sky showcasing the Northern Lights. How all the most elegant bridges in Paris could not offer competition to the formations of the Giant's Causeway. She was right.

"The works of man cannot compare to the works of G0d." That sentence spoke truth on various levels. Travel will never finally change the world. Travel can't answer the world's problems. Travel won't heal the ache of the soul. If you're discontent, bored, jealous or selfish, travel is not the solution. What I'm saying is, you don't need to travel. Carrying a valid passport doesn't hurt. Getting it stamped multiple times can be fun, challenging, and perspective-broadening. If you have the opportunity to travel, I recommend it; you can tell me your stories at dinner.  

But what you need, my friend, is J'esus. Only He can answer problems, heal aches, and transform the human heart. Only He can cure "prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness" once and for all. Let's keep that straight.

7 comments:

  1. "It is good that we would hold lightly to our physical location and tightly to the One who cradles the earth in His hands"

    What a good reminder to me, Julie. Since we've moved back to my hometown last year, I've had to battle some discontentment. Of course, I am thankful that God provided for us in the way He did, and I do trust He led us here, but I had the idea for a long while that we would raise our family in a bigger city...of course we don't know what the future holds, but I am encouraged today to know He is God and He is wise and I can be content in whatever physical location He has me in, today.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stephanie, it's neat how truth can be applied across such a broad range of situations. I could definitely relate to the struggle to live in a small town when you were looking forward to the city. May He grow contentment in you no matter where you find yourself! He has a purpose in it all :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. "It is good that we would hold lightly to our physical location and tightly to the One who cradles the earth in His hands."

    I also love this!
    I also live very far from home, from 1st-world comforts, and from familiarity of culture.
    An aquaintance once commented that they could never do what I have- leave family and friends behind to live somewhere so far away.
    It's not as if my reason for leaving was to leave my most loved ones behind. Rather, I felt the calling of a Saviour, and decided to follow. I am often reminded that it's not this world that I'm living for: some day distances, time zones and borders will no longer exist. One day, I believe we'll get the opportunity to see even more amazing places than we could here on this world, and for all-fulfilling eternity.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Steph, thank you for your reminder of how we can live with joy even far from family, far from "home" - because we are looking for "a more lasting city", as did Abraham. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey sis, I just read this now and thought it was really good. I really wish I could travel more (like you and Moke :)) but this is a good reminder that it isn't the most important thing. I loved the Mark Twain quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

    ReplyDelete