On the wings of the dawn: Top tips for travel

  • Stephen Liggins
  • 25 March 2019

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.

  1. Consider before you commit: Pray and consult with a few wise Christians before deciding whether going overseas is a good idea or not.
  2. Resolve to have your quiet times: If you do venture abroad, determine to have daily quiet times while away. You may be leaving home, but you are not leaving God. Remain in him (John 15:5)—he is by far your best travel companion and guide.
  3. Pray this prayer: When overseas, I often pray that God will lead me to Christians to encourage and non-believers willing to chat about spiritual things. This prayer has been answered in many encouraging ways.
  4. Join a church: If you are in one place for a reasonable period of time, join a church and get involved (Hebrews 10:25). My five months with the church I joined in London has proved to be seminal in my life.
  5. Prepare spiritually: Don’t just think about where you will go and what to pack: prepare spiritually. Learn how to answer people who ask what you believe and why you believe it (1 Peter 3:15). People are often open to deeper discussions when away from home.
  6. Get support: Organise people to pray for you while you are gone, and ask a few trusted Christians to keep you accountable in areas such as your quiet times, behaviour, and whether you are seeking Christian fellowship.
  7. Remember you are not alone: However far you are from home, God is there with you.
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.

Travelling the World as Citizens of Heaven