[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.
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…
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.
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!