The Golden Assumptions of (western) Travel?

Everywhere I go in the world, I meet western travellers who will be living under certain travel assumptions. I am sure there are many assumptions we share, but here are two that immediately come to mind. Firstly, many assume we are all the same, right across the world. Secondly, many assume that education would solve most of the world’s problems.

As travel plans are put on hold in many parts of the world, and the travel industry watches with bated breath to see how long this will last for, it soon becomes apparent which of these is true, and to what extent.

Are we the same, right across the world?

In many ways, yes. The corona virus reminds us that we’re all humans – only here for a short time on earth. It doesn’t really matter where in the world we are, we can never transcend this, and while fitter humans battle on with no health worries, many of those in the travel industry are still paralysed by economic worry, or will soon be. Flybe have already gone bust, and airlines, travel companies and those in the tourism industry will soon find it hard to make ends meet, should this continue.

Will education solve our problems here?

If we all acted perfectly – would Coronavirus be contained and economies still continue? I’m not sure it would. Perhaps if we all hand-washed perfectly and stayed at home for weeks, the virus may stop. But then so might many businesses – permanently. If we continued on normal lives with no fear at all (whilst still handwashing etc), I’m sure the opposite may happen, and the virus would spread rapidly, as many may carry it without realising. And if we think there is a perfect combination of this, and that many of our governments are simply getting it wrong, I might suggest that it shows our mistrust in depending on our best minds to be trained to solve problems. As humans, we are not that perfectly rational. Not able to predict the future. Education may help, but its not our saviour for the travel industry or for any other.

So what can we do?

I was out working at a large sporting gathering yesterday, where we were forbidden to shake hands with the players and officials. What humoured us as officials, was that the victorious players were hugging, kissing, throwing themselves into the crowd, and piling on top of each other in a heap! An understandable reaction when you’ve won a cup! And not one which a handshake would have made much of a difference too.

  1. Accept our humanity

    Perhaps in coming to terms with our humanity, we’ll not try and be the saviours with all the answers. Watching another YouTube video or news bulletin will most likely not change anything. And in accepting our humanity, we won’t expect our governments to get it perfect – it’s a complex thing to understand, and hard thing to legislate. And we’ll admit that even the best business leader or fittest person on earth, will still be limited by our humanity. You can think you’ve done everything right, and yet still your business may go under, or your health may be taken from you (perhaps not by this virus, but on any given day, by anything).
    Yet this is one of the hardest things as a human who loves to push boundaries and develop myself, that I struggle to accept. It is so obvious yet I rail against it every day I wake up. Being diagnosed with a long-term illness helped me come to terms with this a bit, or at least revealed how much I crave independence as a world traveller!
  2. Confess our need of each other

    In fear and panic, it’s fascinating that one of the first things humans seem to do, is to look after themselves. Northern Ireland has gone relatively untouched so far by the virus, yet when I went to the shops yesterday at 10am, all toilet rolls (re-stocked at 7.30am) were nearly gone, and other food stuffs were dwindling. Instead of panicking, I wonder how many will look around to serve the needs of others today. To look to the needs of an elderly neighbour who is more at risk if they went out. To think of those in worse-affected areas and to support them.
  3. Look upwards

    Ultimately these two previous things will start to happen more and more as we look upwards to the One who is in control. The One who gave us our humanity. The One who made travel. The One who made us to be in relationship with each other, but also with Him. For those atheist travellers amongst us, perhaps your worldview may give you the first point (we’re all the same), but by what grounds ought it motivate you to care for the least in society? (Please note what I’m not saying – many of you will be the most marvelously caring in society, more than religious people.)

    I don’t say this glibly, as it’s not easy to do or to understand God’s way of working in this world. I have a wedding planned for July which I can’t get insurance for with this crisis – will it go ahead? Will family be able to fly in? I have friends who own travel firms who’ll be ruined by everyone pulling out from their holiday plans. I myself wonder about the risk of booking a honeymoon, or anything in the next six months. I have family who also (like me) are perhaps more vulnerable health-wise than many others in society. And I have friends, in some of the worst affected areas of the world.

    But evidence in history points me to One who’s dealt with far more turmoil across the nations than this. One who uses even the evil in this world, to bring about His purposes. One who stepped in to save us, when our own education, society and fitness could not suffice. It is His good care of all who He has made, which I turn to look towards at times like these.

So, as we wake up each morning, may we look upwards, remember others worse off, and confess our humanity. And perhaps if we are still craving adventure and think it wise, you can consider a micro-adventure and discover the rich diversity of life right on your doorstep – wherever you live! In the meantime on this blog, we’ll be trying to support some businesses who specialise in the faith and travel market, in the days ahead.

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