I've been reflecting on overseas travel lately- prompted by the readings we've had in church about the Sabbath- which made me think of holidays- and the number of people from church away overseas these days- plus times of feeling uneasy with people telling their overseas holiday stories in front of people who could never afford it, unease about the behaviour of Australians in places like Bali, and the whole environmental thing of flying and pumping all that carbon straight into the atmosphere.
I was also prompted by our holiday to Sri Lanka earlier this year- that it does us good to read the scriptures from a third world perspective. How would they see us Western Christians? Mark Twain said: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness. Yet it seems many travellers fly in, look around and leave with photos and are not changed at all.
I wondered if there’s a godly way to do holidays?
Travel and spirituality have a long association
- Travel is a constant in the bible- from Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden, to Abraham and Sarah called to move to a new land God would show them, to the journeys of the people of Israel, to Jesus' ministry to the apostles' journeys
- Christianity and other religions have a long history of people going on Pilgrimages
- The church has a long history of people travelling to different countries on Mission work
- Many Christians and people of other faiths have had to leave their country fleeing from persecution
I recently read a book 'Faith on the Road: a short theology of Travel and Justice' by Joerg Rieger which I’ve enjoyed reading. The main thing I hadn’t thought of much before was the place of power. Locals have to adapt to tourists expectations and ideals which tourists hardly notice. Tourism may support a third world economy but it reinforces the power imbalance between rich and poor nations, and spreads Western capitalist consumerist culture, undermining local culture.
So should we not travel? I believe we can make travel a good thing if we do it thoughtfully. Here are things to consider carefully for guilt free travel: