I never expected to travel—not overseas, anyway. Growing up, family holidays were local affairs: five-in-a-station-wagon Aussie odysseys involving tents, air mattresses and a portable stove. International destinations seemed unattainably exotic. Yet one evening, aged 20, I sat in a plane on the tarmac at Sydney preparing to take off for London. I was ecstatic.
Earlier I had farewelled family and friends in the departures hall. It was a poignant moment—until then my longest stretch away from home had been two weeks, and here I was moving hemispheres for almost half a year! My main reason for travelling was to play a season of cricket in London. Many people were praying for me, including my parents and friends from the fellowship group I attended. The senior minister at my church had also given me the details of two good churches in London.
Five months later I returned to Australia a different person. Not only had I turned 21, but my Christian life had pushed on in leaps and bounds. Being away from home and out of my comfort zone had made me more consciously reliant on God. Long periods of time alone, away from my regular commitments, had provided ample time for Bible study, prayer and reflection. I’d read Christian books, listened to Christian music, met other believers, and joined one of the churches my minister had recommended.
I’d also made good friends at the cricket club in London. I’d put my Christian faith on the table early on, provoking everything from bemusement to genuine interest, and people noticed my different behaviour. In between Christian meetings and cricket games I explored England, Scotland, Wales and Europe. I felt incredible gratitude to God for the opportunities he’d given me.
Since then, through the judicious use of budget travel, holidays, work trips and ministry trips, I’ve visited over thirty countries. While it is far from being the most important thing in my life, I do love spending time in foreign lands. For me, travelling and living overseas have been a great positive for my Christian life.
But for all the potential benefits of going abroad, I am very aware of its perils for the Christian. In thinking about whether to go, and in planning our travels, there is a real danger that we will think and act in accordance with the world’s agenda instead of God’s. Important questions can go unaddressed: Is the trip a wise use of money and time? How will going away impact my relationships, church and ministry? Being separated from home, church and normal routines for an extended period can sometimes play havoc with one’s Christian life. You may know people whose faith has been shipwrecked on foreign shores.
With air fares increasingly affordable, overseas travel is becoming increasingly common. For many young people it is almost seen as a rite of passage; for older folk it can be a compulsory component of retirement. This is true in general society, but also within the church. Unfortunately, going abroad must be one of the most widely practised but least considered activities in which Christians participate. Very little is written on the topic.
So—based on the Scriptures, my own experiences and insights, and those of other believers—let me suggest some travel tips you are unlikely to find on Trip Advisor or in any Lonely Planet guides.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (Ps 139:9-10)
This is an amended version of a piece that originally appeared in Eternity Magazine in October 2017, and has been republished with permission.