Rest on the road

Our culture is taking part in what the famous Christian cultural commentator Os Guinness calls the “survival of the fastest”.

One click ordering; cutting sleeping hours; being on our phones sorting other things while we’re doing something else; fast-food and internet pornography to quicken supposed intimacy. Don’t get me wrong – there are many great things about living life at a fast pace!

But many are suffering from the inability to slow down and be present in one place at one time. And even more are struggling with the paralysis of having so many choices, as I noted in chapter two of my book where I quoted from another author. But considering the topic of rest while considering pleasure travel is an unusual one. Isn’t travel already so pleasurable and restful that we ought not worry about this topic?

Well, from talking to other travellers, I think it is still vital to mull over what rest could mean for us, even for those of us who feel so free that we lose track of the days! I remember coming home from holiday and suggesting to my housemates that I need a holiday to recover from my holiday!

Travelling people seem to still feel rushed for several reasons:

  1. Travel has admin. There is always more to book in advance. Weather changes. Hostels are full. You meet someone who tells you about a must-see attraction. You fall in love with a place and want to stay longer there. There are always things to change, and that’s hard, even when you enjoy tasks like admin. Even something like making Instagram pictures can start to weigh in on your mental energy not to mention editing vlogs or keeping in touch with people.
  2. Time is not infinite. Most of us only have a certain amount of time travelling. There are exceptions of those who’ll stomach being away from any friends and community for long enough that they can always be on the road, but even they after a few years often grow weary of constant transitions and lack of depth in relationships. And even for those who can afford years on the road, they only see a fraction of what the world has to offer. Their one Instagram account does not account for every place that millions of other users have been to or seen in a different light. There is often a lust for more that drives us onwards and equates resting with missing out.
  3. The bigger we are in our own worldview, the more we’ll need rest. The more we’re consumed by our own goals, our own problems and our own desires, the more we’ll find life exhausting. Partly because we’ll frustrate ourselves, and partly because all the circumstances around us will frustrate our goals and desires. This is fine if it just means we’ve to find perfect matches of people to travel with, and perhaps cut out the people in our lives who are toxic, so as to avoid stress. But when major illness, relationships going wrong, or difficulty occurs in life, it’s harder to control. This is not to say that the solution I suggest is belittling our own humanity, but finding some way to free ourselves from being consumed by ourself.

So what’s the solution?

In short, there aren’t any easy solutions. Life doesn’t come as easily solved problems, and your life is different to mine. But here’s a few pointers that I’ve been mulling over on all three – why not leave a comment with your thoughts or what you’ve found to work?

  1. Find your rhythms. Humans seem to be built for tradition and rhythm, over chaos. Whether that’s doing all your emails at one point in a day, or only letting internet messages/apps have your attention at certain points, or reading up on your travels weeks/months before you go – find a monthly, weekly and daily rhythm that suits you.
  2. Find something that motivates you, without consuming you. You’ll never sort the problem of being a finite being with finite time and energy. The world is some ways, is not your oyster. A small part of it may be. But nor do we want to just give up on desiring travel, just because we can’t have it all. Somehow we’ll need something in our worldview which will stop us hurting when we don’t see everything, and will so give us perspective, that we’ll not be consumed by our desires, yet will still take great interest in life and the world.
  3. Find something bigger in life. For a secular person, it might be daily reminding yourself of how small you are as a human in history and science, which will lower your expectations that the world should revolve round you and fulfil you in every way – why ought that be the case? For a spiritual person it might be meditating daily on something higher. Neither particularly explain why we feel so bitter and so robbed when major catastrophes strike our lives, but they at least put problems and desire in perspective a bit more.

And how does this look in practice for me?

  • Well, in worshipping an infinite God, I find something bigger to give me perspective. My problems are dwarfed by His big-ness and ability to solve them.
  • In having a personal God who comes close in the person of Jesus and the Spirit of Christ, I find one who honours my humanity, and crafts it uniquely and individually. His big-ness doesn’t lose my humanity.
  • In worshipping a creator God, who calls us to enjoy His creation, I’m given an appetite to roam and enjoy all things (in their place).
  • In living in a world described as broken, that ought to be better, I set my expectations accordingly, for suffering, for being broken, for not always being fulfilled.
  • In being made for an infinite New Heavens and New earth, I know that I don’t have to be consumed by my travels here in the old order.
  • And in being made in God’s likeness, we’ve been given rhythms to heed. Daylight to enjoy. Darkness to rest in. 6 days to work, 1 to rest in.

So today I stop, to meet with God’s people, to enjoy spending time meditating on His character and words, and to do things that I wouldn’t normally do on other days in the week. It’s a rhythm that worked for me in the middle of important exams, when I’ve been most under pressure at work, and even as I travel. It may be counter-intuitive, but it sure is effective, and I’m glad I didn’t need to invent it or keep it in balance myself.

So, how will you enjoy rest on your travels?

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