The Future of Travel

Moving to Dublin, changing jobs and being in a 5km lockdown until recently has made for another year of reflecting on travel, and travelling locally, rather than internationally. And during lockdown there is much that has been predicted about travel post-Covid which is sheer speculation and wishful thinking. Of course that isn’t a surprise, as predicting the future is hard to do! And it is very hard to untangle our wishes for the future, our worldview, and what is driven by what we observe around us.

Walks in my 5k

But, sparked on by a competition I entered, I added to the pile of speculations and wishful thinking with this poem about the future of travel post-Covid and my journey shaped by my faith.

Bucket list ticks.
Where next?
What now?

Ticks the watch.
More next!
Everything now!

Watches the world.

Breaks.

Slow...now.

World of diversity,
Community next,
Environment now.

Diversity uniting,
Humility next,
Generosity now.

Uniting in journey,
Curiosity next,
What now?

Journey into unknown
What next?
Changes me now.

(What I suggest of course, is simply wishful thinking, unless there is something in our worldview that will empower us to live in what I propose is a fairly selfless way described above. Right thinking alone will not produce the fuel of love in our hearts to look beyond ourselves.)

Sights that have been long forgotten (Dublin airport)

But I’d love to know your thoughts or predictions about the future of travel, particularly in relation to faith or your worldview. So if you have any ideas, do drop me a line and I might even be up for a guest post soon!

And as much as I can say, I’m confident it won’t be as long until the next post! 6 months of creative juices await!

2021 travel goals

My travel goals are already looking unlikely for this year. About as soon as I’d drawn them up, they were in part decimated by new government restrictions limiting us to 5km from our home for all of the month of January. But with a vaccine being rolled out across the globe (or at least to the bits which can afford it), it looks likely that 2021 may still allow some travel at some stage. At least more than 2020 did!

But although 2020 may have gone down as your least favourite year of your life so far (at least for those of us who haven’t lived through wars, epidemics, famines or natural disasters yet in our lives), could I (perhaps bizarrely) suggest that the Christian traveller could have a different perspective?

Let me explain.

A flying 2019
You see September – November 2019 looked MAD for me with my travels.

  • 2 trips to Edinburgh to help a new bookshop start up
  • 1 trip to Oxford as part of an IFES cross-cultural network I’m part of
  • 1 trip to Glasgow with the same network
  • 1 week to Inverness to help my sister’s family redecorate their home before they moved back to Africa.
  • 2 trips back to my old stomping ground in Munster with work projects
  • 3 or 4 trips to Dublin to visit my (at the time) soon-to-be fiancée
  • 2 house moves (including one change of country)

By December my housemate had realised that the maximum amount of consecutive nights I’d been sleeping at home was 4! All of that while being present every Sunday at my local church, helping serve on 3 teams in the church, and building friendships with local non-church people too. With all of this, even a travel-lover like me was exhausted and so I cancelled my travel plans for another couple of work trips that month.

Little did I know that it was going to be my last ‘proper’ travel until 2021

Down to earth with a bang
Doubtless even if 2020 wasn’t so bad and you managed a fair bit of travelling (I take my hat off to you for being able to dodge the government lockdowns, travel bans and border closures!), or if this year is looking more optimistic for you, I wouldn’t let your year’s expectations ride on your travel goals, regardless how good a year it may be for them. And I’ve said that on a normal year. We as Christian travellers can enjoy a more free-ing perspective.

Undefeatable 2021 plans
You see, much as I find it fun to travel, and much as many good things can be achieved through travel (as none of my 2019 travel listed above was purely ‘pleasure travel’ per se), Jesus would have us know that we would be fools to stake our worth in whether we will get to travel this year. Why not instead root our year in the God who made travel? Why not find our satisfaction in Him even when we don’t get to travel? The questions he asks us are completely different ones (aren’t they always!) to what we might naturally ask of 2021. And each one leads to consequences in the next.

01


Desire

What will you yearn for most this year in your heart? It is probably a glimpse of what you worship. Is that the God who made travel, or is that your travel plans with god in your pocket?

02


Design

Will you let this year primarily be shaped by scriptural convictions – by God and his good plans and gentle heart? Or by your other desires, justifiable as they may be? They care nothing for you and will be harsh task-masters if you let them shape your year.

03


Success

What will you measure success by this year? Travel destinations ticked off your bucket list? Or growth in godliness in your response to whatever this year has in store for us? One will give you contentedness in all circumstances and a purpose that will never be frustrated.

04


Grow

Are you committed to investing in a local church community and having others invest in you this year? It will mean sticking around somewhere long enough to be known by them, and to know even the people you don’t really want to know or spend time with. This is where growth in Godliness will occur.

Enlarging your joy
Unsure of what your year would look like differently? Not sure whether it sounds so appetising to do this? Well if you want to have more space to think about it this year, why not grab my e-book Travel: in Tandem with God’s Heart” for £0.99 (available at this price until the end of January) and read it with a friend? It’s an easy blend of travel stories, bits of stuff from Jesus’ words in the Bible, questions to help you think and things that might help you respond. And I pray that it might help you see that far from robbing you of your 2021 travel joys, having the God who made travel at the helm of your life will be like arriving at a destination in real life compared to only having experienced it through the brochure and Instagram pictures of it.

The old travel brochures that enticed us have long been replaced by Instagram and the internet. Above: 1948-1949 Quality Courts United travel brochure Photo credit: Choice Hotels International, Inc.

Something to sing about
But for now, why don’t I leave us on a positive by saying: of course none of this (committing to Godliness via a local church community) completely limits travel. As we’ve seen plenty of times elsewhere, travel is a great gift of the creator to us. In fact, in recently reading a book that Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote about singing (sadistic I know, given we can’t sing in our church buildings for a few more months until the virus passes – I wanted to find out what we’re missing when we don’t sing), they suggested that one of ten things that would most fuel our kids’ hearts for singing is….travel! Or more precisely:

Cultivate high opinions of all types of art: teach them to be lifelong students of discovery in this amazing creation God built all around us and in us. In the Getty and Lennox households we both benefitted from lively artistic discussions on classical music, books, travel and faith that encouraged curiosity, sincerity and creativity.”

“Sing: How worship transforms your life, family and church” (Getty, B&H Publishing)

Because out of the overflow from the joyful heart, comes worship.

Happy New Year!

And may we enjoy knowing the God who made travel, more and more.


A unique book that blends the author’s travel experiences with a whistle-stop tour through the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. It’s a curious blend of travel writing, theology and personal testimony. I found it strangely gripping and thought provoking. It certainly opens doors for wide discussion on the Christian life, liberty and mission. It’s an easy read that’s both sincerely enjoyable and seriously challenging.
Bob J (Amazon reviewer)

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?

A Christian Traveller’s Bucket List

So what are your dreams for 2017?  What countries do you want to visit?  What things do you want to do?  What will be the events and travels of 2017 that you’ll wake up for in the morning, or go to sleep dreaming of?

What I suggest to answer some of these questions, is writing all the places that you’d love to visit this year down on a piece of paper.  Here’s mine:

20170101_162652

And then tearing it up and putting it in the recycling bin.

20170101_162750

Because your bucket list should not be Lord over your 2017.  And if you’re letting your calendar be primarily dictated by what your bucket list says (and other necessities), well then you’re letting it be Lord, and a rather cruel Lord at that.  You’re worshipping another god by giving it control of the year ahead.

You see to enter 2017 asking where you can legitimately travel as a Christian, is much like asking the question when dating “how far can we go and still be Christian?” or the question on a night out with friends “how many drinks is too many?”.  They just aren’t good questions to start with because they start at the wrong place.

The creator God, for whom all the nations are as a drop in a bucket, is calling us.  The One who made the heights of the Himalayas and the depths of the sea beds.  The One who sustains the waves crashing on the beach shores each hour and each day, by the laws He sets.  The One who has created the intricate designs on the butterfly wing, as it flies through the depths of the Grand Canyon.  If we ever grew weary of Instagramming even the small radius of our everyday lives, we have a whole universe to explore.  And no doubt a device that could soon capture even smell, as well as sights and sounds.

If and when His voice shakes the nations, He has even the most powerful of rulers and businessmen quaking and incapable of acting, if He so chooses.  For their nations are as a drop in the bucket.  A drop in the bucket when vast oceans of buckets could never even reach the magnitude of God.

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A drop of water in my cafetiere.  Notice it?  Didn’t think so.

 

So remind me, you want to shape this year by exploring that drop at the bottom of a bucket?

The thing is, that He’s generous in His gifts and gentle enough with us, that He’s let many a person do this, in order for many of them to realise that our Bucket Lists are cruel Lords to have over our 2017.  He has sadly given us the weak desires of our hearts.  He has let us continue to exchange the glory of immortal God for things made in His image.

But having it as Lord leaves us under bondage to a cruel master.  Our bucket list cares nothing for us.  In fact, if some circumstance comes to pass that means we get little or nothing on our bucket list ticked off, we’ll think it’s a rotten year and it will eat us up inside when we see others trotting the globe.  But if we do get everything done on our list, it is no better.  We’ll still be eaten inside.  As we try to re-live those fleeting memories of travel experience.  As we find our heart growing for even bigger and better things in future.  Because feeding our Bucket List Lord will often lead to us sacrificing more to feed it in future.  And even if we can control our lusting hearts, at what cost will our Bucket List Lord be to those around us?  For with every travel, comes other opportunities we did not take to serve others.

But what about those of us who have a bucket list to God’s glory?

Well to echo Luther’s way of putting it: it is so easy to become a “theologian of glory” and not a “theologian of the cross”.  A theologian of the cross will sacrifice their bucket list on the altar of serving God and serving others, and will delight in doing so.  A theologian of glory will cling to every last bit of list that they can manage (for it is their “right” after all – everyone else travels), and wave their “Jesus” flag and use religious language while they do it.  Travelling to paint an orphanage.  Travelling to do a short-term mission team in a already very Christian context.  Travelling to “find themselves”.  Travelling for Christian conferences.  Travelling that takes them away from their primary community that they worship and serve in.

So instead the questions that I ask at the start of another year are more like:

  • How can I serve God best, through the local expression of church family that He has placed me to serve under and in?
  • How can I serve those whom God has connected me to, via earthly family and those who don’t have earthly family, for whom I am responsible?
  • How can I sacrificially die to self this year, and to my wants and desires, and find myself falling in love with the One who sacrificed everything for me?

And when I start to ask those type of questions, I’ve found far more freeing joy in all I do, and purpose in life.  And I’ve found that He still delights in letting us explore His world as we seek first His Kingdom.  Because He’s not a stingy God.  He just wants what’s best for His children.

And so I’m left wrestling and praying over the consequences of this for my 2017, with my spiritual community around me.  When my sister gets married to a Vanuatuan man, who should go to the ceremony in Vanuatu if Christ is Lord, and not my bucket list?  When my friend who came to faith when living with me at university, wants to catch up on holiday, where should we go and what should we do for true rest?  And when I get free weekends from work, how can I best enjoy this world, whilst staying connected to His purposes and His family?

Questions that are hard ones.  May we enjoy His leading and guiding in 2017, as the Spirit prompts each of our consciences, and those of Godly stature around us point us to Him for whom the nations are only a drop in the bucket.

One more year down.  An eternity to come…

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Sunset on 2016.  Belfast 29/12