Addicted to travel?

No-one ever admits they’re addicted to things. Just the way that no-one ever publicly admits to being lonely. Socially we don’t do that. I remember once confessing the fact that my heart was sometimes a little racist in some of my reactions in life. There was uproar at such a thought! There appear to be some things we are not allowed to admit. The ultimate sins of the age.

And then there are the things everyone is addicted to, so we don’t even call it addiction. Checking our phone notifications or social media (probably many times per hour for those with iPhones/androids). Sadly for our culture, even watching porn probably comes into this category – many we know in our society would struggle to stop.

But how can we tell if we’re addicted to travel? How do we know if it has gripped our hearts more than Jesus? I was caused to think through this questions by a recent article I read online:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/12/cabin-fever-tickets-for-meal-aboard-singapore-parked-plane-sell-out

People not only paying for flights that don’t go anywhere (return to the same destination as they leave), but paying to eat aeroplane food, on a stationary aeroplane! Now given the fact that most aeroplane food is atrocious, and some might want to pay to not receive it, this bizarre phenomenon must be explained by other reasons. Why would people pay sums of money to eat on a stationary plane?

Well obviously because they miss that aeroplane experience. They are so used to flying, or dreaming of what the conitation of flying evokes in their memories and desires, that being back within the shell of a plane, even if it doesn’t go anywhere, is worth the cost of the food alone. No one pays large sums for plane food by choice. People pay for what their hearts crave for – the feeling of freedom that travel gives – the longing for the ‘normal’ to return.

Now admittedly, in these weird times, one could pay for the novelty of such things, even when one has no attachment to travel at all, but it is unlikely. So is anyone who steps on that plane addicted to travel?

Our trouble with this is that we can justify away anything. Our hearts are fantastic at the “justification game” – making up excuses to justify our behaviour and claim that it is acceptable, even moral. And on the other hand, we also love to point at other people and declare them to be at fault (in this case, addicted to travel) based on our preconceived and cultural notions of what is healthy and what is not.

So I’d want to be careful in my broad brush-stroking everyone who does a certain thing, with an assumed heart motive. But at the same time it got me thinking. What would signify that my heart was addicted to travel?

MONEY

  • when I spend more money on pleasure travel than I give to world mission in a year?
  • when I go into debt or borrow to finance my travels?
  • when I can’t give to some sustainable project in a place I’m visiting because I’ve budgeted every last bit of money to suit my travels/needs?

TIME

  • when my bucket list dominates how I spend my annual leave or my free time?
  • when my friends say they don’t see me much because I’m away travelling all the time?
  • when I turn down helping on a Saturday night rota or Sunday in church because I am hoping to be away weekends?

PERSPECTIVE

  • when my social media feed causes me to long for travel more than praise the God who made travel?
  • when I’m more aware of the travel destinations or tourist attractions in a country than I am aware of the state of God’s people (the Church) in that country, or the great needs of the country?
  • when I seek to justify my travels by using mission, visiting people or short-term volunteer projects as an excuse?

LOVING OTHERS

  • when I don’t act to counter the ethical affects that my travels have on the environment and on the most impoverished in the countries I visit?
  • when I don’t have the energy or heart to regularly serve a local community of believers in some ways each week? (whether formally or informally)
  • when I don’t have the energy or heart to regularly reach out to local unbelieving community each week?

COVID

  • when I think of this period as the ‘waiting time’ before real life returns?
  • when I relish saving lots of money over this period (from not eating out, not travelling, not spending much) because it means I can travel far more for my own pleasure in future?
  • when I long for travel to return more than I long for Jesus’ return?

OTHER

  • when I start paying for meals on stationary planes?!

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a perfect list. You may object to some of my questions and may do so rightly (though I’d be interested to hear from you which ones). You may also think I haven’t touched on some areas which we could ask questions about (please do send your heart-revealing questions in!). But even for those who have started working in the travel industry (as travel bloggers or otherwise), I hope these questions are still fair ones to ask.

This also is not primarily meant to be a list to spiritually beat you up, make you feel bad about your faith and demand you do more good stuff to make up for it. But if you feel really bad, or even feel a bit angry at me writing such a list, I might suggest that perhaps it has touched a sore point in our hearts where we realise we may fall short on an awful lot of these suggested things! We don’t need to be addicted to travel, for us to feel the increasing tug of it on our hearts day by day. Could this be a time to take stock and re-orientate our hearts towards the God who made travel?

The good news, is that the response is better than simply taking a pledge to abstinence. You are not required to sign up to a Travel-holics Anonymous class. You don’t have to bathe in shame for the foreseeable future either.

“If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

(1 John 1:9)

In coming to Jesus as creator of travel and asking him to help us glimpse the his goodness and the One who is transforming it all under His good rule and reign towards a new heavens and earth one day, our hearts can be captured by infinitely better dreams than anything travel could give us.

Now to help us see this, and to help us see Jesus’ good news for our lives as “an easy yoke” and “a light burden”, you may still find it easier to grab a close friend in church and chat through your struggles or questions with them, and let them help you establish perspectives and patterns in your life which help re-orientate your heart to an infinitely bigger and better gospel than the gospel of travel (alone) can ever provide.

And why not do it now, while we have time to think during Covid and when we realise how unsatisfying living for travel is, during this season?

It’s why we need to talk about travel, at the time it seems most silly to talk about travel – when no travel can happen.

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