Hot off the press! Travel: in tandem with God’s heart (IVP UK)

It’s here!  From October 18th (today!), Travel: in Tandem with God’s Heart is available on:

The Publisher’s Website (*ebook and paperback)

Amazon

The Evangelical Bookshop (*cheapest, and includes free postage to UK)

Unbound Cork (*10% off when you enter “welcome” as giftcode when paying)

All good local bookshops

TRAVEL flyer frontTRAVEL Flyer Back

Advertisements

#TravelinTandem Introduction: Extra Material

[This is extra material to go alongside the Introduction to “Travel: in Tandem with God’s Heart” (IVP UK, October 2018).  Video content, photos, questions, blog posts and responses will be continually added over time.  The introductory chapter is short, and so I include a special video with a short lunchtime talk I recently gave at a university.]

Image intro

The golden Atlantic shores of Western Morocco where we sat, 4 travellers together.

BLOG POSTS that engage with this chapter:

What Augustine never said

 

20170529_193247

Sunset by the crashing waves

Some tangential thoughts loosely to do with the chapter:

  1. Know any female missionary friends in settings where single females aren’t accepted so much?  Perhaps you could ask them whether they want company on holiday somewhere?  Often it’s the only chance they’ll get.
18763329_1888620494751527_1308638272_n

One of several dinner-selling friends we made that day

A video made for students wanting to know why they should explore more:

20170529_185742

Can we please not just enjoy our holiday?

Responsibility is so often seen as the deadener of desire.  Like pouring cold water on burning embers.  But yet we all agree that some responsibility is good, some constraint to freedom.

Gravity limits us, but this is largely a good thing, no?

Living so that we don’t harm others is generally accepted as the way to go.

But what about when our harm affects people indirectly?  What about our environmental impact on the next generation and the world they live in?  What about our unsustainable travelling that doesn’t longterm benefit the local communities we visit?

20181030_094832

Taking a 16 hour bus journey to London was quite the experience, but not one I wanted to repeat on the way home!

Well so many of these things I’m still exploring, so here’s a few starters for people who like to learn in different ways:

AUDIO: General discussion on the topic on Radio 4’s “The Moral Maze”

ACADEMIC PAPER:

The International Centre for Responsible Tourism produce an annual journal with interesting articles.  Here’s a link to one edition with articles on airline impact.  Their Irish website is here.

Most of these centres, businesses or communities function on the basis that climate change is real, and that global warming is true.  If you’re not (for whatever reason) yet convinced by these premises, then do check out these two websites who collate peer-reviewed research on such things:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research  (Tyndall being a good Irishman!)

In particular the BBC article here, links to two research papers.

INTERACTIVE COURSE MATERIAL: the Future Learn website which has free courses like this one which may help you study in more interactive ways.

Here’s a link to one carbon-offsetting business, who take your money and invest it in sustainable projects across the world that take carbon out of the environment in various ways: Carbon calculator

Many of us will find in the early days of exploring this, that cutting flights and other high-carbon use things out of our lives is too hard to completely do it immediately, but may hide temporarily behind carbon off-setting as a means by which to transport ourselves into a more environmentally friendly life.  Answers to hard questions about that, can also be found on the website link above.

And of course, my preferred level of exploration: a fun book at a popular level which got me thinking far more: How bad are bananas?

20181030_092404

The Welsh Coastline last week from my plane home.

So are responsibilities like this going to deaden our desire for travel?

Well, I could imagine they’ll start reshaping our desires slightly as we grasp such benefits and reap the longterm rewards of responsibility.  And so ultimately we’ll leave more fulfilled than before, but only after going through the frustration of holding back somewhat while we learn this way of living of re-channelling desire.  I’ve learnt to excite myself with a different way of travel, not to travel less.

And if you decide unfettered freedom is better?

I think you’ll find it to be a cruel master that will still leave you craving for more, and yet remain unsatisfied.  If it’s anything like the sexual “liberation” that we’ve encountered in the west, and that many still push for, the results of it have left us having less sex and not enjoying it as much.  Or at least that’s according to Esther Perel and her famous TED talk.  And not only depriving ourselves of joy, but harming others too.

20181023_194617

A local Christian professor give the latest inventions that help to reduce the affects of global warming.

Pastoral authority in a travelling world

“All my congregation are travelling.  The older generation visit their children and grandchildren.  And the younger generation for work and just about everything from music gigs to sport to pleasure travel in and of itself. What should I say to my travelling congregation?  That’s what you should write on next.”

It’s what I’ve been told or asked several times in the last week or two.  So what’s my response?

20181026_174242

Travelling for the bank holiday weekend in Ireland: I made sure I went with other church family, and with the goal of mixing and mingling Christians with non-Christians too.

Well, although I didn’t write the book primarily for the church pastor, I hope that what I say can still be very helpful at demonstrating how to speak to someone with their heart set on travel.  In chapter two of the book, I touch on a [borrowed] metaphor for humanity that my blog name actually derives from – beautiful ruins.  Everyone on earth is beautiful but broken.  Everything on earth is beautiful but also fallen, to some degree on another.  But it creates life hard for us all.  Because it’s far easier to see the extremes of the spectrum in anything.  To brand people, things or viewpoints as entirely bad or wonderfully good.  And so pastors who have travelling congregations could quite easily do the same.  They’re looking for a quick fix to tell people to stop travelling and start committing to church.

“…quick fixes aren’t available in the Christian spiritual world.”

But I wryly smile, because quick fixes aren’t available in the Christian spiritual world.  Convictions of what church is, and other such things are taught and caught over years of pastoral ministry.  Even if I did think it was the answer to tell people to sit down and stop travelling (which I don’t, primarily), a book that told everyone to do precisely that, wouldn’t exactly be a best seller to travelling people.

But because there’s far more to travel that just “is it good or is it bad?”, I write to help people think for themselves and see both the potential and the harmful sides of travel in their life and the lives of others around them.

So the way I identify with my fellow travel-lovers, the language I use about it all, the emphasis I take and much more, will hopefully be an example or a sharpening to those who teach and those who lead churches, in how they can do similar.  A book about that, would only end up exampling and repeating so much of the same things again.

But a final note to pastors or those who are frustrated at the amount of travel their congregation or certain individuals do:

If I can boldly say so, I think in saying this, you’ve often been steeped in the same individualism as your young travelling congregation have.  Pleasure travel has thrived in the extreme individualism of the western world.  But so has pastoring-from-a-distance.  It’s amazing how we have churches now where everyone drives in from miles around, and never sees each other from Sunday to Sunday (or occasionally at the midweek).  Living out the tens of “one another” commands in Scripture (love one another, forgive one another, confess to one another etc) which seem to dominate the discipleship patterns of every letter in the New Testament, seem virtually impossible without seeing people from one week to the next!  Relationships will never thrive and sin can always be hidden from each other in such contexts.  Conversations will always be shallow after church on Sunday, if we don’t know each other better than that.

“So how was your week?”

“Oh, alright thanks.  I had a cold on Tuesday and work has been busy but good apart from that.  Did you see the football on Saturday?”

“Oh sorry to hear!  Yes, great game, wasn’t it?”

Etc.

But many of the younger generation won’t go to this type of church – they want real community.

20181027_134621

“They want real community”

And so as a pastor/elder, gone are the days where you can get away with saying “I’ll meet with you if you have a problem or if you’re new, but apart from that, I’ll focus on other things” (if you ever could say that).  I’ve heard it numerous times from students, that the student finds it impossible to get to know their elders or feel like they’re accountable to them, because they’re not known by them.  It’s led many of my students to find their church leaders authoritarian (because rebuke comes outside the context of deep relationship), or for them to not respect local church at all (just leaning towards a worldwide church and taking “elders” to be those who they respect across the city/world, because they actually feel understood and known by these people).

Now of course it’s a two-way thing.  And to willingly forsake a regular Sunday local meeting of God’s people around His Words and His sacraments, is just silly.  But I’ve rarely found young travelling people to be away so much when there is genuine connection and community.  It excites people, despite the messiness of true community being with people who aren’t like us.

What this means for city centre churches in big cities, or for churches that aren’t made up of geographically proximal people, is hard to see.  I think we have to be more creative than to tell people that they must just go back to the old way of life of living and spending time with all our physical neighbours (chapter seven of my book touches on why I think this).  But in other ways, I’m increasingly convicted there has to be more geographical proximity than we currently have in most churches in Ireland.  We must preach the gospel to ourselves and to each other regularly.  It’s partly why I believe Christian Unions see so many coming to faith, because of the beautiful [geographically proximal] community that models the good news for onlooking people.

(It’s also why, although I’ve been away from my Cork church two Sundays in a row launching this book, I’m quite content that I’m not forsaking the gathering of God’s people.  Not only am I visiting my sending church, and at a friend’s church on those Sundays, but I’m also intensely involved in the lives of my Cork church family during the week, often spending whole days with some of them (partly due to the flexibility of my job, admittedly) in ways that I can be vulnerable even with my elders).

20181027_085027

So in short?

Elders, please do be involved in your congregation’s lives and seek to know them and “one another” them regularly.

Travelling friends, please do seek to get to make yourself and your schedule open to rubbing shoulders with your elders and sharing your life with them.

It’s a two way thing.  The fault is rarely just in those we point the finger towards.

Further thoughts or advice?  Get in touch or comment below.

Work travel: not as glamorous as it seems?

As I travel around Ireland, the UK and beyond launching my book and speaking in various universities, churches, and bookstores (see this page for more info), my mind wanders to travelling for work.

I remember the first hotel I got to stay in on work expenses away from home.  What an excitement as a young graduate, to be chosen for this project.  Everyone asked where I was away to, and I told many people of the adventure of the project.  But when I got there, expectation didn’t meet reality.  The fun of staying in hotels on company expenses, isn’t as glamorous as it may seem, particularly if you don’t have time to explore a new place after working hours or with additional days to your trip, or if, like me, you’re often on your own for such trips.

But for those of you like me who are often on the road for work, the Headington Institute have produced an interesting piece of research and free document (which leads on to persuading you to do their online course) on stress and travel, with some questions to help you think of how you can live in a healthier way, as you travel.

I’ve found it useful to read through, as well as some of their other free resources online.  It comes with the disclaimer that I know nothing about who they are at all!

Here’s a few snippets:

For humanitarian workers, traveling can be exhilarating and enriching. However, frequent travel can also be stressful. Some of the most common reasons for this stress include:

1. The cumulative impact of constant change: Experiencing constant change in your work routine, living environment, and professional and social networks, can be stimulating, but it can also be exhausting.  While many humanitarian workers thrive on novelty and challenge, constant change is stressful and will eventually take a toll if efforts are not made to compensate.

2. The dynamics of traveling: Traveling is tiring even if you’re not battling crowded airports, long flights, cross-cultural differences, and the difficulties of crossing multiple time zones. Packing and getting organized to be away, being in unfamiliar environments, and playing catch-up when you get back, all take extra attention and energy.

3. Dramatic changes in purpose, intensity, and “status”: “On the field” humanitarian workers can get used to being different, being noticed, dealing with intense and life-changing issues, and making important decisions. “At home” they are usually not a “special” person, living in a special place, doing special work. In comparison to the intensity and purpose that can be associated with life on the road, life at home can come to seem mundane and less meaningful.

4. Personal changes that occur in you as a result of the work: Humanitarian work impacts your attitudes and values. Even a short-term mission will result in some change. Some of these changes are permanent- being exposed to different ways of thinking and doing things can alter your perspective for good.
Often, however, people at home have not changed the same way you have. The more you are away from home, the more likely your attitudes and values are to change, and the more likely you are to feel like you no longer belong where you once did.

5. Difficulty maintaining important personal relationships: What you have experienced, the ways in which you may have changed, and the important events you have missed in other people’s lives – these can all combine to make it more difficult to relate to people back home after you have been away.

DSC_0789

Shortly before being pursued by a gunman.  You can read the story in my book “Travel: in tandem with God’s Heart”.  One of my more stressful encounters!

DSC_1003

Getting used to different cultural ways of dealing with problems can be stressful!  No room on the boat?  Don’t worry, we’ll find room for your car!

Travelling from Home (with kids)

TRAVEL WITH KIDS

Travel can seem so hard with kids, especially when they’re small and just getting their shoes on can seem like you’re trying to wrangle an octopus hyped up on biscuits and juice, let alone organizing your gear for a week long adventure. But travel and learning about the world doesn’t have to be hard (or involve manic eight-legged beasts); and it can be fun and take place in the comfort of your own home or classroom.

BlogPics-01

HOW IT STARTED

From what to wear when it’s cold outside and adding numbers together when buying food, to cooking and baking in the kitchen and reading or writing, little people living in a big world have so much to learn. This is where the idea for Little Learning Adventures : Adventure Packs and Gear Packs all started. Combining the basic knowledge of life like maths, science, social studies, reading, etc. with the exciting parts of travelling, the Packs engage your little people in a fun, hands on learning adventure about the world we live in. The Packs are a fun differentiated mini curriculum subscription box filled with hands on learning activities and games.

BlogPics-02

HOW IT WORKS

Begin with your STARTER PACK filled with all your reusable Gear and one Adventure Pack. Use the two together to complete your adventure and learn about a country, place, or moment in time. Then, receive your next ADVENTURE PACK and reuse your gear from your STARTER PACK to learn more maths, sports, reading, and writing through the engaging activities filled with play! From Ireland or Morocco to China or Italy, the adventures are endless.

BlogPics-03

Each ADVENTURE PACK includes local map puzzle activities, a recipe card with a dish or dessert to try, vocabulary and landmark games with bright pictures to learn about the culture being explored, local musical and sports expeditions with videos to watch and online games to play, and so many more exciting activities. Each activity is differentiated, meaning it has 3 levels of learning, making it perfect for classrooms and home schooling families and works great for kids aged 4-10.

BlogPics-04

WHAT’S INCLUDED

The STARTER PACK and ADVENTURE PACK boxes are filled with all the printed and laminated Gear and Adventure Pack activities ready for you to cut out and begin your learning adventure. Also included is a detailed instructions booklet with pictures and activity directions and any additional ideas needed to aid in the learning adventure. Both the STARTER PACKS and ADVENTURE PACKS are available for printable downloads in the Etsy shop for a lower price (see link below).

BlogPics-05.png

1| Collect badges and fill in your passport 2| Learn map skills 3| Navigate your way to learn about directions and transports 4| Understand calendar concepts 5| Pack your bags and learn about the weather 6| Bake a new recipe, learn about money and maths while exploring the local market 7| Go sightseeing with a fun matching game 8| explore the culture through  local vocabulary 9| Learn about local music and instruments 10| Find native animals in a fun lotto game 11| Eat Healthy and learn about how sport athletes stay fit 12| Play local themed educational games 13| Learn the local lingo and greetings in new languages

BlogPics-06ABOUT THE DESIGNER
Living in the country as a child, I’ve always loved to create and go on adventures in my backyard forest. My mother taught us to be creative and find fascination with the world around us. My mother soon became a teacher of little people and I soon went to college to study architecture and begin my own adventure, including the pursuit of knowing the One who made all things. While studying abroad, I met my husband and within three years of being married, we had three energetic kids of our own (who are nothing short of three lively octopi). Going on hikes and finding leaves or animal tracks as a child sparked a desire to instil that sense of wonder of the world, and the One who made it, in my children. So I began to create, and with the help of my patient mother and our Creator, the packs started to take form. As I saw the joy that filled my children’s eyes as they played through the Little Learning Adventures, the desire to share them with other parents, teachers and little people began to grow. Let’s be adventurers together.

BlogPics-07

Find out more: http://bit.ly/LittleLearningAdventures
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ImmeasurablyMoreDesigns/
Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/ie/shop/ImmeasurablyMoreDsns
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/immeasurablymoredesigns/

[This is a guest post by Stephanie.  You’ll be able to find all her amazing resources for children and the family at my travel roadshow events in the coming months.  And more will be released each month ahead, so why not connect yourself to her social media (or mine) to know when they’re released!  In the meantime you can order your copy of my book here and there’s free UK postage.  Irish orders soon available from here]

Photography, Travel and Ethics

[This is a guest post written by Savannah Dodd.  If you would like to write a guest post in future, we’d love to hear from you.]

Two years ago, I was walking by the harbour in Hoi An when I saw a tourist taking a photograph of a Vietnamese rower in her boat. The man with the camera kept trying to signal to the rower how he wanted her to pose. The rower kept trying to wave him off and turn away from the camera. Unable to speak either of their languages and embarrassed by the situation, I turned away and left them to figure it out.

SD1

Hoi An Harbour, Photo (c) Savannah Dodd

At the time, I was furious with the tourist because he was being pushy by not respecting her wish to be left alone. But now when I think back on their interaction, I wonder if he just wasn’t reading the signs. I still believe that he was in the wrong, but I don’t think it was necessarily intentional. I think he just completely lacked ethical awareness.

A lot of the examples we see of “bad ethics” in photography come from a lack of ethical awareness, rather than from malice or sheer disrespect. Broadly speaking, when people come to understand that their actions are unacceptable or unethical, they stop acting in that way. This is good news because it means that increasing ethical awareness can have a real impact toward a more ethical photography practice.

This has been my mission for the past two years: to raise awareness about photography ethics in order to catalyse a shift toward a more ethical practice across the photography industry and around the world. That’s why I founded the Photography Ethics Centre.

SD3

Like any new venture, the Photography Ethics Centre started as an idea and went through many iterations. In fact, it didn’t even start as a “thing” but as a topic of discussion; whenever I found myself in the same room as another photographer, I would jump headfirst into ethical questions. Soon, I realized that this was not the best way to make friends, so I decided to take a more formal approach by organizing workshops to talk about ethics with other photographers. In those early days, before we even had a name, I facilitated two workshops in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Hanoi, Vietnam.

The discussions that took place at those early workshops were stimulating. People spoke about ethics with such passion, yet it was clear that there was a very real gap in how to apply personal ethics to photographic practice. I was excited, but daunted, to tackle this issue. I knew that I was biting off more than I could chew. How could I tackle such a pervasive and global problem? I knew that I would never be able to cover enough ground to even make a dent in it.

The solution, I decided, is online training.

So, last December I founded the Photography Ethics Centre and I set to work writing a curriculum in photography ethics. Nine months later, I’m thrilled to unveil our very first online training programme: The Photographer’s Ethical Toolkit.

SD4

This course is designed to be a first step in understanding photography ethics. It provides a broad overview of key ethical principles, and applies to anyone who regularly takes or shares photographs. Best of all, we are offering it free to everyone, worldwide.

Of course, online training alone cannot replicate the kind of learning that happens in a classroom. This was something I realized very early on in those first workshops. Discussion is the key element that makes this training work. That is why we are complimenting it with discussion forums, live video chats, and peer-to-peer interaction.

Our first live video chat will take place on Friday, October 12th. It will be hosted on Facebook by the Thomson Foundation, and it will be open for anyone to join to learn more about photography ethics.

Now, you might be asking yourself: “I’m not a photographer, so what does this have to do with me?” Inspired by Peter’s forthcoming book, you might decide to book a trip! And what will your whole family say? “Take pictures!”

Travel photography is an amazing way to share your journey with friends and family, but it has its own set of ethical considerations. How can you ask permission to photograph someone when you don’t speak the same language? How can you gauge when it is not culturally appropriate to photograph someone or something?

When we are photographing people from other backgrounds and cultures, we find that ethics isn’t always as straightforward as applying the “Golden Rule” – just because I might be comfortable having my picture taken doesn’t mean that everyone is. There are many factors that we might need to consider, including socio-cultural differences and historical context.

Our basic training does not get into all of the ins and outs of ethics in travel photography, but it’s a good start toward increased understanding of how to apply core ethical beliefs to photographic practice.

My greatest act of teenage rebellion

Age 13, Buying a metal album of my (then) favourite band The Lost Prophets (much to my parents’ displeasure)?
Age 16, Sitting in the school changing rooms for a full period, having said to the teacher we were off playing with a school sports team?
Age 18, trying to out-sell an uncopyrighted product that my schoolmates had worked for months to make?

Yes, I’ve had quite a sheltered childhood.  While one teenager who attended my church youth group was off killing someone in the local area, others were trying drugs.  While many friends had rebelled with alcohol, wild hair colour, skipping school, or abandoning their conservative upbringing, I was happily enjoying a quiet life.  But there was still one thing I was told I was being rebellious in….

I did. not. read. books!

And before you roll your eyes too much, let me put it in context for you.  I grew up in a house of books.  One could have been forgiven for thinking that it was actually built from books, such were the stacks of books and walls lined with bookcases that surrounded most rooms of our house.  My father was a bookshop manager of a Christian bookshop in Belfast and my family were bookworms.  Many a Sunday afternoon was spent pouring over theological books.  And many an evening, my sister and family would be found curled up in a ball on the sofa, indulging themselves in every and any genre of book – fantasy, murder mystery, history, ornithology, biography, medicine, mathematics – their love for God overflowed into a love for learning about all aspects of this world.

In this household, I was the black sheep.

I’d read adventure books and biographies but apart from that, very little.  That was, until someone in the family passed me Philip Yancey’s “What’s so amazing about grace?“.  It set my heart alight with astounding stories of the grace (unmerited favour) of Jesus that far more clearly dawned on me than ever before.  Not long after that, AW Pink’s tiny book “The Attributes of God” helped me see that books weren’t just to tell me what I should be doing with my life.  Instead, Pink gave a couple of pages on each attribute of God, packed full of scriptural references in every sentence, and caused me to marvel afresh at who God is, and meditate on his character with awe.

20180919_163318

Seeing God like that freed me to read.  And read, and read and read.  From not seeing reading as exciting at all, compared to other things I did, I suddenly realised the impact reading good Christian literature could have on my character and life.  It would be naive to put it only down to those few books: the upbringing of being bathed in the good news of Jesus at home, and amongst church community was combined with my awareness of how little I knew in the world, as United Beach Missions exposed me to so many people who knew far more than me (both Christian and not).

“How do you read so much?” I often get asked.

Without wanting to lose a heart for being real with people in the world, it was in Sundays, summer months, bus journeys and other random moments that I would pick up a book or two and read a chapter.  The intense hockey regime with trips across the island, the musical concerts and exams, the attempted diligence in work and love for those who didn’t know Jesus continued at just the same rate.  Because reading could easily just be fitted in, during five minute gaps.  A book, soon demolished chapter by chapter at that rate.

“But I’m not a reader” people normally say to me.

Soon, bookcases were filling up and I was getting a reputation for being a reader, as I spent hours mining the second hand section of the Evangelical Bookshop Belfast to find cheap reads.  I still chuckle within.  “A reader” is not how I feel.  I read because it warms my heart.  I read because it opens my mind to the Scriptures more.  I read because it works.  Perhaps not always immediate benefit, but arriving into university, my grounding in theology and the scriptures from my local church and my reading, was huge, as I sat in Islamic Society meetings and Secular Society gatherings week by week.

Knowledge puffs up

Of course there were dangers of arrogance (of which sadly my schoolmates could tell you I was prone to); dangers of delighting in knowledge for knowledge’s sake; dangers in not being able to relate to my youth club mates back in inner city Belfast; dangers of reading rubbish or of reading other things at the expense of the Bible.

And so why have I been moved to write a book, despite the dangers and the thousands of books already out there?

Well, I hope that it’s not a book that tells you how to live your life (primarily).  But one that persuades you more about who God is, in unusual ways, and leaves you with questions that you hunger to have answered as we travel and explore this world together.  I would love it if this book was the start of your reading journey.  Not because I think we need to generate middle-class readers who have their heads stuck in the sand.

But because Christianity is primarily a religion that doesn’t want you to cast away your mind, and that calls us to be transformed through the renewing of our minds, regardless of whether we’re the visually impaired student I audibly study the Bible with, the homeless beggar who I sit down beside on MacCurtain Street in Cork each week, or the person who has no written language in an unreached people group I recently visited this summer.  The biggest readers, are often the biggest players in the Christian scene internationally, and locally.  Action and change, will flow from us being slowly changed, bit by bit.

I grew to love books, through many years of rejecting them.  I hope you’ll see the joy sooner.  And for those of you who are already readers?  Perhaps such storied-packed pages can even be helpful for us, as we learn how to communicate God’s panorama, to an apathetic world, which has been distracted by taking selfies when there’s so much more on offer!

header2

Making the most of your travels…

The call to prayer echoed hauntingly across the tower blocks as minaret after minaret sounded out for the final time that night, far below us.  We stood on the rooftop, watching across the night sky as one by one the lights went out in various apartments.  It was one of the few cool places we could go in the intense heat of the summer, when even at nighttime, it was a balmy 28 degrees.  Sweat was still dripping off my brow as I heard my friend draw his prayer to a conclusion:

“In Jesus name, Amen”

It was all I had heard of the last few minutes as my mind had been captured by the nasal melodies ringing out over the loudspeakers.  He looked over at me.

“How do you feel?”

I wasn’t sure.  I’d never had such stark reminders that this world was not my home, than the “other”ness of the sounds that hit my ears.  But the city before me was little more lost than the familiar bells that tolled in my hometown, reminding me of the empty cathedrals and apathy-filled churches.  Not to mention the “cathedrals” built more recently within a few hundred metres of my doorstep in Ireland, some open 24-7 to shoppers and others just crammed once a week with 70,000 adoring fans.  Although here, I felt like a stranger.  That night a tear fell on my pillow as I rolled over again, trying desperately to sleep.  I wasn’t sure whether my feelings were from spiritual realities that lay in front of me, or just because I was finding normal life utterly different and hard in this heat, or both at the same time.

TRAVEL Pull Quotes6

The next morning we rose early, each muttering prayers nervously under our breath as we packed our belongings and headed off to a secret gathering of believers at an unknown location.

The windows were closed and the singing was meant to be muted, but when the old songs of the native language started being played, the believers grew in passion, unable to contain themselves to the quiet whispers of joy.

“How do you feel?” he asked me again.

I wasn’t sure.  I hadn’t understood a word of anything that had been sung for the last few minutes.  But yet inside of me, something welled up, unable to be controlled by mere linguistic barriers.  I knew I was with family.  Family that I could find in increasing numbers of places in the world, whether in minaret filled cities, under cathedral dominating skylines or beside where modern day cathedrals forced comfort and apathy upon baying fans.  I knew that thousands of miles from my home, I’d found a welcome of far more significance than any other you could expect from meeting people for a first time.  A stranger had found a family.  And I loved it.

TRAVEL Pull Quotes5

It’s funny how it takes a trip away from home to open my eyes to things the Scriptures already have spoken about on my own doorstep, as well as the eternal realities that starkly presented themselves in the “other”ness that I met those days.  Firstly feeling a little lost in a world so different to my own.  Then starting to understand it more.  And further down the line, sadly often becoming numb to the reality around me as it becomes normalised just like my home setting.

There’s something about travel that keeps me in a learning posture, reminding me of my place in this world as one in seven billion people, and helping me to live in light of every person, culture and people I’ve ever walked amongst.  There’s something about travel which helps me see the world as only the Bible describes it: as utterly beautiful but at the same time in ruins – a fraction of the glory it once was.  And there’s something about travel that makes me yearn even more for a restoration to come – a new heavens and a new earth to explore, as time after time even the ecstacy of travel only seems like a passing thrill, earnestly preserved by as many Instagram posts and YouTube videos as I can manage.

TRAVEL Pull Quotes9

There’s so much good in travel that I never realised when I first (rather selfishly) booked that first trip away across the globe.  And looking back at all I learnt about God, His world, His Church, and myself, over those days, I’m not only glad I did book such things, but I now want to stop and think twice before (like in everything in life) I am tempted to tell someone else exactly whether they should or should not be travelling.  What if they could instead, see travel through the same lens that God sees it?  What if they had questions to help them make the most of their travels, and stories of other travellers to encourage and to warn?  What if they could travel, in tandem with God’s heart?


Travel: in tandem with God’s Heart is released on October 18th and can be pre-ordered through the publisher’s website, through my supplier in the UK (free postage to UK) or soon from my supplier in Ireland.  For more details of events near you, please see the events page on this blog, or consider hosting one locally yourself, to help others around you of all faiths and none, think through this key topic.

Travel Front Cover