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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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]

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Not all those who wander are lost?

[Guest Post: Alex is a small-town extrovert who loves to travel and meet people with the hope of building genuine relationships to the glory of God. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA with his wife, daughter, and son, where he drinks coffee, makes too many references to Middle Earth and Hyrule, and prays for a future ministry of equipping redeemed repenters for the ministry of the saints throughout the world. 

If you would like to Guest Post, I’d love to hear from you.  We take all sorts of angles on faith and travel, as long as they stay within the rough ethos of the blog (you don’t need to agree with me on everything!!)]


When I was attending university, I noticed a trend in social media and popular culture where people who loved to travel or experience the great outdoors were posting, tweeting, or even wearing the phrase, “Not all those who wander are lost.” At first I was excited, thinking that I had suddenly discovered a host of kindred spirits who shared my affinity for High Elf culture. I was disappointed to find, however, that most of them did not realize the egregious error they were making (to my eyes) in taking that passage woefully out of its original context in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The full excerpt is actually:


All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.

The Lord of the Rings, p. 170 (emphasis mine)

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Photo (C) mine.  Carlingford Lough, February 2018

What popular culture was using to exalt an often self-seeking version of wanderlust was actually a poem about a man whose family and kingdom were stripped from him yet spent his days patrolling and “wandering” the land in order to protect people who didn’t even recognize their own fealty to him, all because this man believed in a prophetic poem, a poem that promised he would one day sit on the throne that was rightfully his and dispel the shadows that oppressed his domain. This excerpt is not an advertisement for hiking in your local park but is a phrase about trust and perseverance being rewarded with a rightful inheritance. In fact, it reminds me of another passage about a man and a promise:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Hebrews 11:8-10 (CSB)

Abraham, too, was a man who wandered, “even though he did not know where he was going.” He did this because God told him to leave the land of his fathers for a land where he would become the father of “a great nation” and he would receive blessings from the Holy Creator God — in fact, “all the peoples on earth” were going to be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). He left the comforts and joys of his homeland because he faithfully believed in the goodness and mercy of God, not even dwelling within permanent buildings or walls because he was looking forward to the City that only God can design and build. His wandering was one of obedience and service because he not only followed God’s command to sojourn in a foreign land, but he also blessed people along the way by his sheer proximity. Sure, his travelling blessed people financially, but every time someone joined his household they were brought into the spiritual blessings of God (Genesis 17).

Like Abraham, we ought to travel while recognizing that we are only able to do so because we have been blessed financially and spiritually by God. Without the providence and provision of God Almighty we would not have the means to leave our front doors, let alone our countries. Every cent in our bank accounts is there purely by the grace of God. On top of that, He has blessed us spiritually so that now we are free from any self-seeking desires to “escape” the hum-drum rigor of daily life in pursuit of romanticized greener lands. We can enjoy our travels through the lens of Christ, knowing that all those who confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead are now foreigners in the world, citizens of a Kingdom still to come, and are being upheld by the promises of Jesus to be with us always, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). We can enjoy and appreciate the gifts of grace found in meeting new people, trying new foods, and the countless “sub-creations” (to borrow a term from Tolkien) of image-bearers of the Creator without becoming enslaved to those things. What’s more, we can share that same freeing message of the gospel with people in other countries.

I am not arguing that your salvation or sanctification and growth in godliness is directly proportional to the amount of travel miles you have stored on your credit card. While I do encourage others to travel and experience new cultures and countries, I recognize that it is simply not feasible for some to take time off from work or dip into their savings accounts to travel the world in pursuit of broader horizons. And I am not suggesting that we should “sanctify” our holidays abroad by making them into evangelistic events (Peter wrote a post addressing that kind of mindset here).

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Photo (C) mine.  Belfast Bible College, February 2018

I would like to suggest, however, that we broaden our definition of travelling: instead of relegating the word only to transatlantic trips or cross-continental excursions, we can view travel as any means of moving from one place to another. Since this world is not truly home for Christians, we are effectively spending our lives at a hostel called Earth, which means that we too are constantly travelling and living in temporary housing like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before us. We do not have to leave our towns in order to possess a theology of travel because those same truths are evident to us wherever we lay our heads. But once we do have a theology of travel, then every trip that we take to the store, every holiday we take to Spain, and every Saturday we spend at home with the family becomes a part of our mission to genuinely love and serve the people around us. When our love is sincere, then making disciples of all nations is not a spiritual checklist for clergymen but a natural, authentic, and long-term outpouring of our hearts, wherever we may find ourselves that day.

Whether we leave our homes or stay where we are, we should remember that e are still sojourners in a foreign land, working and waiting for our King to return and fulfill his promise to take us to our true Home. If we hope and trust in the return of the Light to chase away the shadows in this world and in our souls, we too can wander and not be lost.

Travelling in light of eternity

Marie-Louise Disant writes her final post in her series on a female perspective of faith and travel.  You can find the rest here.


“But why are you so bothered about it, if you believe in eternity?”, asked my “Workaway mum”.

She was right too. I was sweating the small stuff. In light of all that is yet to come, and who I will be, it was not all that important; and yet, it was taking up more space in my mind than it should have.

Belief dictates action

Knowing that I was created for an eternity with my Creator changes things. It changes what I do, how I do it, where I do it etc.

As a daughter of Christ, I’m sent to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). He sends me in the name of the most powerful ‘trio’ ever to exist (verse 19). Though travel isn’t necessarily a fulfilment of this mission – increasingly, the nations are coming to us – this is a big part of why I travel. But my Jesus doesn’t just give me a mission to fulfil, He walks it out with me, standing right by my side every step of the way (v20).

As I walk out this plan that He has for my life, sent in His name and accompanied by Him, I also need some basic guidance to help me do so. If I decide to accept His good gifts and live my life for Him, instead of just for myself, His Word is the best place to figure out how.

Sometimes, we are the Pharisees.

In the days of Jesus earthly ministry, there was a strict Jewish religious sect called the Pharisees. They were completely obsessed with living ‘perfect’ lives according to the Law of Moses. They became so focused on obeying these laws that their hearts grew cold for God. They longed for public recognition of their piety instead of God’s grace and mercy.

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Fota Botanical Gardens, Ireland 2016 © Marie-Louise Disant

One day, one of them, a lawyer, asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of all was. His goal in asking this question was to determine who had ‘right’ interpretation of the Law – the Pharisees, or the Sadducees whom they despised. Jesus told them that first, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and second “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of an outwardly-looking ‘perfect’ life, we forget about what really matters. Sometimes, we are Pharisees. We become so focused on living a life that looks organised, beautiful, productive, moral and ‘successful’, that we forget why we live at all.

You may ask, “but Marie-Louise, why bother living a life like that? I have faith in Jesus as my saviour, then that’s enough (Ephesians 2:8), right?” My dear friend, you and I are not saved by some stroke of good fortune, or by our own intelligence, but by God’s gracious gift of his Son (Ephesians 2:9) in order that we would then go on to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). True faith in Jesus results in good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) out of love for the One who loves us first and best. Why? So that all people will know that we are His disciples, by the love we have for one another (John 13:35).

Even though the expression of my love for Jesus is often quite faulty and marred by sin, I still want those around me to know about him. What’s the best way for those around me to know about him? By loving them. Unfortunately, that’s not what my life proclaims to those who know me best. Those who are closest to me, see my faults, my brokenness, and choose to love me anyway. What a beautiful proclamation, and a wonderful example of Christ’s love for us!

Love is…

“But Marie-Louise! Love is just an emotion, you love pizza, family and life with the same word!” Perhaps! … but only if we believe what our society tells us about love.

The bible, in yet another countercultural plot twist, tells us something a little different:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” – 1Corinthians 13:4-8

Love, in new testament scripture, is usually translated from the Greek word “agapé”. This term refers to benevolent actions toward another person, rather than just to feelings for another person, as is evidenced in the passage above. We can love like this, only because He showed us his love first. Christ’s sacrificial example of servant leadership and love, is the best example of all-encompassing love that I can think of and the only one I would strive to replicate in my own life. Every other example that comes to mind, falls short. Though I will never be perfect in this life, I would much rather follow a perfect role model, than an imperfect one.

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Umbria, Italy 2016 © Marie-Louise Disant

Scandalous grace + unending love

“But Marie-Louise!” (What? More protest? Gosh – you are one hard reader to please!) “That’s a ridiculously tall order! I can’t be perfect, and neither can you, you just said so! I certainly can’t love perfectly either!”

My dear, dear friend: our weakness is the point.

No matter our struggle, whether it is to love or to let go, to work or to relax, to overcome addiction or to find structure; our inability to do so is the point. We are not called to live this life alone, struggling to measure up to some immeasurable self-imposed standard. We are created to glorify our Creator and enjoy a relationship with Him! Like every relationship, it’s not always going to be a perfect, happy one. But unlike every other relationship we have or will ever have, this relationship is with the One who embodies perfection itself.

He embodies Love, and patience, and kindness. His love does not envy, or boast; His love is not arrogant or rude. His love does not insist on its own way; His love is not irritable or resentful; His love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. His love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. His love never ends.

We are offered scandalous amounts of grace, in order to enjoy a relationship with our perfect Creator. Our Jesus doesn’t give us all these commandments to follow and then leave us alone in that struggle. He does it all Himself first, showing us how. Then, hands held out towards us, he offers to walk it out with us, if only we’ll accept His gift.

Our God doesn’t give us all these commandments without a) fulfilling them Himself first and b) walking them out with us, every step of the way.

Travel in light of His calling, His gift, and our acceptance

In travel, just like in life, how I behave reflects what I believe: about myself, about others, and more importantly, about my God.

He has called me to love Him first, and then my neighbour. He has offered relationship and love, and showed me how to do both.

He has shown me that without the hope I have in Him, I am lost.

I no longer need to travel to find out who I am or who He is. Now, I can just travel out of love; love for those I travel with and to and love for the One whose message I carry.

No matter where or when I will chose to travel to next, I know that I am not alone.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

But where there is my God, there is infinite possibility.

“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

― James Hudson Taylor

Travelling Beyond Tourism

Marie-Louise Disant writes her penultimate post in her series on female travel.  You can find the rest here.  Thanks for reading!


“Will you remember me?”

Those four words hit me like a freight train.

No language barrier could confuse it; her eyes overflowed with hope in a brighter future, love for the One who would give her it and peace in the assurance of it all. “P” and I had met only a few minutes earlier. She was sowing together a beautiful formal top, to go with a matching skirt. Here we were, in her native country, hours from her hometown, yet hidden away. She was studying sowing in a fish-farm/sowing-school moonlighting as an educational facility for Christians who, in this country, were widely persecuted.

With her basic English and my even more basic knowledge of her mother tongue, we had managed to communicate to one another that I worked as a nurse and couldn’t sow half as well as she could, and that after her education here, she would go back to her village and hopefully earn a living to support herself and her family. She told me she was progressing well and nearing the end of her first and final trimester of training. “Will you remember me?” she asked, as our conversation neared it’s end. I looked back at her quizzically. She repeated her question, “will you remember me?”

In reality, it’s not just travel that changes us, but life, and the people we encounter throughout.

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What catches your eye first; the signs for guided tours of a city, or the people of the city?
Here, what catches your eye first; what’s on the outside, the attractive, luscious greenery or what’s on the inside, the marks of a laborious but fruitful education?
South-East Asia, 2017 © Marie-Louise Disant

Rocking the boat

When we let the Lord into our lives, we see life and all that it encompasses, in a whole new light. In the eloquent, wise words of C.S. Lewis,

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. 

If we allow those we meet on our travels to broaden our views, question our opinions and observe our traditions through a fresh lens of inquiry, we might just learn a thing or two. When we allow God to rock the boat, He makes the ordinary Extraordinary.

Those whom I’ve met on my travels, like “P”, or travelled with, like “M”, have shown me this in a very practical sense; sharing a beautiful meal with me when they had little to share themselves, or opening their home to me at a very unpractical time for them.

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A glimpse into a South-East Asian fish farming setup…
What greater purpose can our small businesses and workplaces serve? How can we glorify the Lord and serve Him and His people in our respective, secular jobs?
This fish-farm trains persecuted pastors and their families to ensure that they might provide a continuous and stable living for themselves. 
Radical, by David Platt, really helped me work through this question.
South-East Asia, 2017 © Marie-Louise Disant

Travelling beyond tourism

Travel isn’t just about tourism. Travel, I believe, is more than just ticking the boxes on our bucket list or fulfilling our lifelong dreams and desires. It’s more than seeing the sights, tasting the local cuisine and wandering the walks.

Travelling beyond tourism, to the people, has taught me much about life, and most importantly, about my God. It has taught me about who He is (His identity), and where He is (everywhere, from the top of Ilha Grande in Brazil to the depths of the Shehy Mountain valley in Ireland) and what He is (His character). The Lord has taught me these things through His word, but also through His people, and those I meet that are not of Him.

In the beauty of His Creation, I see Him.

In the restoration of His fallen, broken people, I see Him.

In His unending grace, travelling mercies and offer of relationship with us, I see Him.

We will all experience travel to some degree, though some more than others. How we experience travel however, may well differ greatly from one person to the next. We will travel for different reasons and in different seasons, but at some point, especially in today’s world, either we will become travellers, or the travellers will come to us.

As others travel more and more, most of us will encounter different cultures and worldviews at some point, even on our very own doorstep.

Are we willing to look past the veneer of obvious but lacklustre tourist attractions, to the people, their worldview, their culture?

“P”, with only four words, had managed to turn me upside down and inside out. Suddenly filled with emotion, I found my entire view of travel challenged. Was I mostly going to remember the fish-farm, the cities and towns, the night markets; or “P”, those I had met in the underground churches and the missionaries that worked with them?

What will you remember from your travels?

Who will you remember?

How will you remember them?

Stepping outside of the Bubble

[Marie-Louise Disant has been helpfully guiding us through a series on travel from a female perspective.  You can find the rest of her posts here.]

As a Christian, it’s so easy to be engulfed into a Christian “bubble”. Although I cherish the moments I get to spend with people I love, it’s very easy to just relax into that context and not question it anymore. Spend a significant amount of time with anyone and just like rolling two different colours of Play-Doh together, you’ll see that the two become harder and harder to distinguish from one another.

Although there most definitely is value in spending time with other Christians, sometimes you need to step outside of the bubble. I would argue there is equal value in spending just as much time with non-Christians, perhaps even travelling with people with a worldview different to our own!

Quality over quantity

After trying the travel-for-the-sake-of-travel, stereotypical backpacker-in-hostel method, I found that I wasn’t really connecting with all or even any of my dorm-mates (bar the odd exception, like that night in Berlin with the bouncer’s dodgy directions and the pretty back-alley garden bar. Or the night with the giant salad and the crazy Brazilian. But those are stories for another day…). Travel can be such a wonderful opportunity to connect with people from such different walks of life, if only you put a little effort and intent into it.

As this didn’t seem to be a good fit, I decided to go for an option that may bring less new friends my way, but rather ones I might really get to know: CouchSurfing! One such rencontre was with my dear friend M.

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Friend at first word

M.’s CouchSurfing profile immediately struck a chord with me. What’s the equivalent to love at first sight for wanting to befriend someone at the first word you read of theirs; friend at first word? She was looking to learn more about food, something I love and know a good deal about. I wanted to learn more about sustainability, something she loves and knows a lot about. It seemed like the perfect match for the seasons we were both in! We exchanged a few messages and before I knew it, I was knocking on a perfect stranger’s door.

Learning transcultural and transcontinental friendship

Fast forward 5 years and we’re still in touch, and have travelled together on two different continents and shared more than I could ever have imagined! Nurturing a long-distance friendship can seem hard, but it’s often just about the little things; a call at important times of the year, a postcard from a place you’d talked of seeing together (actually going together to places you talked of seeing one day), a handwritten letter every now and then…

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M. brought me on my very first “fin de marché” experience. We collected all the unsold fruit and veg at the end of the local farmer’s market and wade ourselves a delicious, zero-waste, local, free meal! 
France, 2015 – © Marie-Louise Disant

I may not always succeed in being the friend she needs, but if you aim for the top rung of the ladder, you’ll at the very least reach the halfway mark. I hope I’m at least a little closer to being the friend she needs than if I didn’t try at all. Travel in any form will bring scores of opportunities to meet new people; young and old, from all cultures and walks of life. It’s then up to us to make the most of those opportunities, and decide with whom we will be more intentional about maintaining a solid friendship long after we first meet.

When opposites attract

M and I may have completely different views and opinions, but it turns out these very differences are what led us to the plethora of wonderful experiences and conversations we have shared so far. What started off as an exchange on our respective eating habits and knowledge on sustainability, progressively lead to an exchange on our unique cultural and spiritual experiences.

Sometimes, a little meeting with Ms. or Mr. Different is exactly what we need.

Sometimes, seeing someone else’s viewpoint helps us better understand our own.

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Another adventure M. brought me on, lead us to an island off the coast of Brazil. 
Without her, I may never have gone to South America – a wonderful experience that broadened both my taste buds and my worldview.
Brasil, 2016 – © Marie-Louise Disant

Engaging with M.’s worldview brought me to question mine; why do I believe what I believe, rather than what M. believes? What if her worldview explained life better than mine; what if she had better answers to difficult life questions?

The questions she asked on my worldview lead me to research the historical evidence for Jesus, and the cultural context of the various epochs referred to within the Bible, amongst other topics. They helped me reaffirm my faith in Jesus and who He is (John 3:16), know better why I believe what I believe, and explain more readily why I believe what I believe (1 Peter 3:15).

Our friendship (and others similar to it in diversity) has helped me stand more firmly on my own two feet, regarding my faith, and the reasons for it. She has reminded me of why I follow Jesus and strive to keep Him as Lord over all of my life.

Do you or would you spend time/travel/live with someone with a completely different worldview to your own? Why or why not? In the words of this blog’s author, let’s grab a pint or a cuppa sometime, so you can share your thoughts on this too!

Solo Female Travel (part 2)

[Marie-Louise Disant is doing a 5 part series on female travel.  You can find her first two parts here and here and a video interview with her here.]

I am part of a group of partly solo-travelling, exclusively female and mostly francophone backpackers on the internet. We share tips and warnings, and support one another in times of need. Some time earlier this year, one such woman “K” was travelling in Laos. She stayed in a guesthouse, as many of us do.

In the middle of the night, one of the men running the reception desk downstairs tried to come into her room, clothed in only a towel. She got up, grabbed her pepper spray and confronted him, saying she was calling the police. He returned to his room, the door of which was just in front of her own. She called a friend and posted a message on the aforementioned group. The moderator of the group called the embassy, who allegedly said they could do nothing to help if no harm had come to K.

K stayed in her room until sunrise, on the phone with a friend, and keeping the other women in the group up to date in the comments. The next morning, a group of French folk came to collect her at the guesthouse. She eventually made her way to Thailand where she spent time recovering with some friends.

An opportunity for unparalleled selfishness…should we choose to take it.

There’s nothing quite like living and/or travelling alone to show you where your priorities truly lie. When alone, with no one else to get us up in the morning, or to motivate us to hike up a mountain or trek all around a city all day, what we do each day boils down to what we decide. It’s an opportunity for unparalleled selfishness, to pick up a map and head out, or burn it altogether, should we so desire. With no one else there to direct our desires, what will we decide?

What about when you’re travelling alone, in a city in Laos, and you come across a message like the one above? Over 300 comments were written below this post. She had plenty of support, though not all of these came from within Laos. Someone else will help. Will they? How can we be sure? The moderator of the group could have done nothing but post a short comment of support. The group of travellers who came to collect her at daylight, could have continued on their merry travels and not given her a second thought. Her friend could have told her to go back to sleep and hung up. Distance, travel and the internet bring equal amounts of anonymity, what will we choose to do with it?

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The more touristic side of Luang Prabang, Laos: Buddhist morning alms.
2017 – © Marie-Louise Disant

With only God as our witness, what will we choose to do, who will we choose to be?Surrounded by people who don’t know who we’ve been, our past or anything other than the present we’ve shared with them, there is no “reputation” to live up to, no precedent to follow up on. Without people who know us nearby, will we choose to do the right thing, be the right person and stand up for what we believe in (John 13:34-35)?

In a sea of anonymity so vast that we could easily disappear unnoticed, will we hold ourselves accountable to the Lord (or Whoever or whatever our heart kneels to), or does it take someone else’s comment to keep us on track? Who are we behind closed doors? Who are we when the only person present who knows us and will hold us accountable is God? Is He important enough to us that this would matter (Matthew 16:24-26; 22:37); or are we able to brush past Him, indifferent to His presence.

Where do your limits lie?

Left to your own devices, you begin to see not only your priorities come to light, but also your strengths and weaknesses. Similar to your true priorities appearing when no one else is around to define them for you, your true strengths and weaknesses will often make a front row appearance. With no one nearby to pull us up from the depths of our weakness, or to lean on without having to use our own strengths, who will we lean on? With no trustworthy friend or knowledgeable family in sight, who will we go to in times of need?
What if we weren’t really alone? What if the One family member closest to us, the One who knows us better than our entire family put together were within earshot of the quietest whisper? What if after all that “soul-searching travel”, the one with the answers to all those questions, the one with the capacity to fulfil all our needs (even those we never knew we had), were with us no matter where we are?

Perhaps we don’t need as much “soul-searching travel” as we think.

 

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The lesser touristic, more “real” side of Luang Prabang, Laos: miners on their daily commute across the Mekong.
2017 – © Marie-Louise Disant

The Ultimate Lesson

If travelling alone has taught me one thing, it’s that we are not built for a life alone. By this, I don’t mean that we must all find that mythological soul-mate to live life with and finally “feel complete”. I refer to something much greater, much holier than our mere relationship status.

Created by a triune God, in His image, by design we reflect some of His traits. “He is Love”, because He is relational. The very fact that He is and has always been three and yet one at the same time, teach us that relationship is at the very core of who He is; it’s part of His Identity, as it is part of ours.

This relationality, if you will, is part of our identity too. It will look different for everyone, and within different seasons of life: for some it will be most obvious within their community relationships, for others it will be through marriage, or family relationships, or friendships; but perhaps the answers we are looking for, aren’t necessarily where
we first think.

We’re all travellers: a view from a solo female traveller

[Guest post 2 in a series started here by Marie-Louise Disant]

We’re all travellers.

No matter your worldview, no matter your past or present, I think we can all agree on one truth concerning our respective, earthly futures: they’re finite. We’re all passers-by here, travellers present for a fleeting blip in time. After that, our beliefs may diverge; some will believe that we all get multiple blips in time until we reach nirvana, or that this blip is all we get, and some believe that this blip is only a taster of that which is yet to come. I personally hold to the latter.

The Bible overflows with accounts of travellers in all kinds of walks of life: travelling for civic duty (Genesis 41:45-57; Luke 2:1-5), for safety (Exodus 6ff), for obedience (Genesis 12:1ff, Acts 13:1-14:28), for pleasure, and Peter has already written about many of these. When you look at the various people travelling the world today, we’re not all that different from one another.

We’re rarely truly alone

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A well deserved rest after a night-hike to the top at 2am; From this angle, you might think I was all alone…
Pico do Papagaio – 2016 © Marie-Louise Disant

There seems to be quite a stigma put on doing things alone: dining out alone, living alone, travelling alone… Truth be told however, travelling solo rarely leaves us truly alone, and travelling alone is not synonymous with loneliness (an all too familiar companion for many, but more or less present in all seasons of life – not just travel, but also career, marriage, grief, motherhood and more).

Whether it’s sharing a dorm room with other travellers (some solo, some not), or meeting other travellers on a walking tour with a fascinating and encouraging guide (if you ever go to Munich, look for the Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours andask for Austin!), Couchsurfing, or a random conversation with the person sitting next to you … You are rarely alone physically-speaking; and should you subscribe to a Biblical worldview (amongst others), turns out you’re never alone in any sense of the word!

As a woman, this has repercussions in many areas relating to travel. This sense of being alone but not alone, can lead to a culture of solidarity amongst women, both travelling and not-so. Between “adoption”, in a sense, by locals, because they fearfor the solo travelling woman’s safety; “adoption” by other solo female travellers, for safety and companionship; and “adoption” by an omnipresent Father (Ephesians 1:5); I and many solo female travellers have felt safer and more cocooned in a sense, on travels in foreign cultures, than in our own homes sometimes. Safety is no longer reserved to the life of a home-bird.

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But it was quite the opposite I assure you; the view is quite different from another perspective, is it not?
Pico do Papagaio – 2016 © Marie-Louise Disant

Are we ready to let go of our own bias?

Maybe solo travel doesn’t have to be all that scary after all… Maybe, it might even
teach us a thing or two that we wouldn’t learn from travelling with others; about
God, about ourselves, and about others…

Maybe we don’t really have to listen to everything the world tells us after all…

 

“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:

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


 

Marie-Louise practices as 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).