Travelling to run or running to travel?

I’m not someone who runs to get to things often (I arrive far too inappropriately sweaty for that – sorry if you didn’t need to know that!).  In fact nearly all of my running is escapism to get away from thinking!  When I’m pounding pavements, springing off trail runs or gliding along golden sands, I feel free!

It’s one of those bizarre things.  Freedom despite or even because of disciplined training and regime.  Not many my age would vouch such words could even fit together – it runs against the grain of culture today which shouts “get me more and give me it now”.  Long distance running “success” can’t be given now.  The keys lie in getting out there.  And that’s why more of my friends who run are often also disciplined in other areas of life, including developing their thinking and worldview.  But before I get too philosophical…

I love that some of my best friends are runners too.  I rarely travel in order to run, but I do love the fact that my friends and my work take me to stunning places to lace up my shoes and get out, often with no fear or time constraint – just running for the sake of running!  So why don’t you join me or suggest other possible things?  Check out the list of things below or add new ones yourself!

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Running at Maharees this morning with friends from church “homegroup” (photo (c) mine)

November 18th – Glendalough Trail Run – one of Ireland’s best locations to get running off the beaten track, up the Wicklow Mountains.

December 9th  – Clonakilty Waterfront Half Marathon – it’s a bit of a home run for me, or at least as close to a scenic home run as one can get without trundling round cities.  And although I’m only doing the half, a few friends are going for the full thing.

December 24th – 30th Belfast and NI (various locations)

January 1-5 England (various locations)

January 6-7 Fes Half Marathon

January 8-12 near Nice, France (various locations)

March 9-11 Berlin (Travel Festival) or if not, I’ll be running this, which must be one of Ireland’s most experiential runs!

April 9-12 Running in Poland (various locations)

May 7 – Belfast Marathon – because I fancy doing a marathon with home support!

June – December 2018 European Ultramarathons (undecided which as of yet)

So there we have it!  Fancy joining me for any of them, or seeing about running elsewhere – drop me a line!  Or if you aren’t much of a runner, you can give towards my work or (shortly) towards Diabetes Ireland as I train and run over 1000 miles in the next 9 months.

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Aljabr interviews: a visually impaired traveller

Robert’s story is an incredible one of life persevering through adversity with a great spirit.  You’ll hear him speak of when he lost his sight, key moments in his life, his career as a trad musician and studying music, and the most fascinating bit of all: synesthesia.  This is how Robert sees colour through sound, and hence travels by it as well!  Enjoy!

Confessions of a travel writer…

I guess the book review that I wrote yesterday comes with a bit of a caveat.  As I was sending my final manuscript of my book to the senior editor of the publishing company, a few friends very helpfully sent me a link to this newly published book.  Not knowing the implications of what that meant for the book that I was working on, I gulped, ordered my copy, and prayed that God would help me hold lightly to my aspirations of writing a book.

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Kilcrea Friary, Co Cork, late September.  The beautiful ruins on every street corner in Ireland remind me of the state of my own heart and thinking.  Made beautiful, but badly ruined, even as a regenerate believer. (c) my own

I mean, technically that was always my prayer, ever since the publishing company approached me and asked me whether I would consider such a book.  But I think this is one of the few times I’ve had to really consider whether I meant it.

Am I writing for the glory of Peter, or for the glory of God?

Do I delight that God is raising up others (in this case more qualified than me theologically) to write on this timely topic?

Will I speak positively of this book, and keep the main thing the main thing, or will I knit-pick and point out all the perceived flaws in it?

I technically know what all the answers should be to that.  Just like any moral situation.  But my heart doesn’t always find it easy to persuade my hands of the truth of the matter.

I love disguising the glory of Peter behind glory of God language.

I love praising others, while at the same time making my thoughts known about them.

I find it easy to drop positive reviews while insinuating far more negative to the astute reader.

Life is messy.  The blacks and whites of truth seem to mould and shift into greys as soon as they hit my life.  Anyone else?

Thankfully family and friends who I’ve been able to confess these things to, have helpfully reminded me of truths from the good news that are far better than the good news that I may or may not receive from the publishing house boardroom on Tuesday, when my contract is discussed.

After sitting with me in my worries and tongue-in-cheek suggesting that I negatively review the book in every evangelical magazine and paper in this part of the world, they point me to greater realities of where my identity lies; that there’s nothing in me that “ought” to get a book contract; that we rejoice in worldwide partnership in the gospel, not competition in the gospel; and that actually, this might free me to better get people thinking about the topic, without being seen to be out to sell merchandise.

It’s at moments like these that I am thankful for Church community.  And for all the same questions that I apply to my life about “why write?”, I guess we could apply similar to our hearts about “why travel?”, which is what the concluding chapter of Stephen Liggins’ book does so well.

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My mind sadly works over-time, long after everyone has gone home to relax.  Justifying myself and then reminding myself I’ve been justified already by One who has done a better job at it than I could ever do. (Photo here at Cork Institute of Technology 05/10/17 (c) )

 

“You can’t do that, you’re a girl!”

“Are you serious? But what if you get robbed?”

“You can’t do that, you’re a girl!”

“Let’s just change the topic. We disagree, and you’re not going to change your mind, so let’s talk about something else.”


These are just a few examples of the kinds of responses I get from well-meaning
friends and family before I embark on any kind of adventure, be it up the country,
or at the other side of the world – especially when I go solo.

Because I am a woman, I cannot be afforded the same luxuries and privileges as a
man can.

Or at least that’s what the world tries to tell me. Society tells us that sure, you can
get a good job, vote, make your own decisions, but please, do not try to travel on
your own for more than a day. You never know, you might sprain your ankle or get
shot or something. The Bible, I have found, says something a little different.

When I was 18, I went on my first 100% solo adventure. No friends or family to
pick me up at the airport, in fact no flights at all this time, and no friends or family
at the destination either (wherever that would be). Fast forward to today, tell me
I’m not [insert adjective here] enough to do something, and you can bet I’ll be
doing just that the next time we meet.

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Where to next?
(Prague metro station deco is often worth a look!)

A 5000(ish) person festival in Germany, followed by an impromptu adventure exploring bits of France, Germany and the Czech Republic. The plan was just that: elusive and undefined. I vaguely planned the towns I more or less wanted to see, but even this “plan” was fluid enough to change about 3 times. Coming from a family where my mother had always seen to every last detail before we ever set foot in the car (and this does have it’s
advantages, as I would soon learn), I wanted to break the mould a little. This kind of improvised travel was very new to me, which explained it’s very appeal in the
first place.

So that’s a little bit about how I got to where I am now, not literally, but you get
the idea. Right now, literally, it’s 21:40, and I’m sitting in what I understand to be
a Spanish equivalent of Starbucks. It’s quite nice, but I just ran out of wifi and the
AC is getting a little chilly for my taste; I actually prefer a thin, permanent layer of
sweat and pollution to cover my skin while in Barcelona (be sure to pronounce
that “c” correctly for full effect).

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Where’s Wally? Some of the people I met at the beginning of that adventure during the summer of 2015; who encouraged me to pursue my travels in light of the theology we had studied together that week:

This time, I’m not travelling solo as I often would (apart from a couple of hours of
airport travels), but have decided to embark upon a shorter, more planned
adventure with my lovely, albeit very orthodox, grandmother. She’s an early riser
and likes to tell me when to go to bed. I like to defy her well-meaning orders just
as much as she likes to give them.

Over the next while, I’d like to explore a little more one side of the theology of travel that Peter cannot: the theology of female, Christian travel, in various contexts:

  • travelling solo
  • travelling with non-Christians (friends, family, strangers…)
  • travelling beyond tourism
  • travelling in light of eternity

Oops, my grandmother is telling me to go to bed; so I guess 4 posts is all you’ll
get!


 

Marie-Louise is a nurse here in Cork, Ireland, and can be found in her free time volunteering at Cork International Student Cafe, crossing cultures, and helping people think through their environmental impact on the world.  She is strangely not visible online (and so I can say what I wish here).

Book Review: Travelling the World as Citizens of Heaven (Liggins, Matthias Media)

Hallelujah!  It’s here.

Finally a Christian who thinks travel is a topic that merits some thought and wants to help us engage in the global phenomenon that has struck our wandering millennials (myself included).

And Stephen Liggins (an Aussie pastor/Sydney Missionary Bible College lecturer) didn’t disappoint.  Although I gulped a little at the “why I wrote this book”, and wondered whether we were going to have a tirade against travel, my early fears were relaxed as soon as I got stuck into to story after story from round the world.  Here was something who agreed with me that the Bible thinks travel is good!

The author takes us on a journey, seeing that travel is always in the presence of God (chapter 1), is good (chapter 2) and then gets very practical about how to connect with Christians (chapter 3), how to connect with those who aren’t Christian (chapter 4).  In chapter 5, he considers travelling in a suffering world, and then finishes off with practical advice in chapter 6 and some questions to our motivations in chapter 7.

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I love Stephen’s travel tales, that were so relatable in nature, that if you swapped stories, they could have been mine or yours too.  Finding himself in awkward group settings doing things he didn’t really want to be doing.  Finding himself chatting alongside a beautiful female late at night and wondering what he will do.  Wondering whether he should go on that holiday for months on end, or save every penny for other things?  These and so many more positive situations and stories.

This book oozes so much practical advice for on the road, that it would be a great read for someone as they travelled.  And yet for me, what it is most helpful for is learning from Stephen’s personal example and lifestyle.  The conversations he has had.  The way he decides to make choices.  The dilemmas of life.

But sadly two things irked me about this book.

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  1. how gospel truth is communicated

Stephen has a beautiful view of God.  I mean the Bible has a beautiful God, so it would be disappointing if we didn’t communicate this.  But it is clear from His writing that Stephen really thinks this is worth living for.  And he conveys it well, particularly in early chapters about the nature of a God who is with us, and about the nature of this world.

But I found he also rather dominated the book with a list of instructions.  I don’t know whether this is a difference in how Aussies communicate authority or commands, or just an older generation attempting to speak to a younger one, but it seemed to me to be like a parent listing of a list a “do” or “don’t do” things before their child headed off to explore the big, bad world.

Refrains that struck a lot were his thoughts on alcohol, sex, drugs, money etc.  And I’m not sure I would have disagreed with much of what he wrote, but I did wonder whether it needed brought up as much as it did.  They are huge issues while travelling, but I’m not sure the solution is to tell us thrice over about his “two drink” policy, wise as it may be (and caveated as his advice was).

Even the chapter on suffering turned into a comment on sex, drugs and racism (amongst other things).

2. cultural suggestions taking precedence

There were a few points in the book where I just thought Stephen was writing to a very conservative, western audience (socially so, not just theologically).  Socially, I wondered whether he needed to make as big a deal over how to chat to people about Jesus or how to apply some things.

For example, as a “Christian worker”, I can choose one of two ways to take a conversation when asked what I do.  I can make it awkward and tell a very forthright description, or I can give some response that will seem relevant to the listener.  Primarily because I want to be known for being human, before people know me as a Christian, I often do the latter.  And opportunities (through questions I ask), often open up windows of opportunity to say more.  There are other ways of doing things that aren’t his.

Equally, on hammering on about the importance of the evangelical “quiet time”, Stephen could well lose a respect from a traveller who has learnt far more flexibly to commune with God.  Obviously it depends a lot on the traveller and their spirituality, but I could easily imagine the type of person who is on the road, won’t appreciate being forced into such narrow definitions of what it might be to have a healthy communing with Him.

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Despite this, I was comforted that Stephen on his travels obviously was someone greatly used by God and a real person with a love for other humans, no matter who they were.  One doesn’t often get a letter back from a woman who said (pg. 122):

“Hi Stephen,

Lovely to hear from you again.  I can clearly remember that boat trip.  It was a time in my life when I had strayed away from Jesus.  I was fascinated to meet these two guys who were full of the joys of life and liked travelling to discover new places as I did.  I remember being somewhat surprised when you said you were training to be ministers.  This blew my perception of what a strong believing Christian was like, completely out of the water.  You seemed so normal and alive [and] seemed to get on with everyone on the boat….I often thought that meeting the two of you was a pivotal point in my coming back to Christ.”

What marvelous warmth of faith and personality that meant that this was just one of many stories in the book!  And things like that made me confident that regardless of what I disagreed with culturally and in emphasis, that this was a book that I would happily give out to my students and my travelling friends to help them and me as we travel this world together.  Much more could have been put in such a volume, but I’m very thankful that this author has opened the door for far more thinking on this topic at an understandable level!  May the conversation continue…

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“Home” – just one of the topics I was surprised he didn’t touch upon much (if at all), despite the title and the nature of travelling for fulfilment. Photo (c) my own