Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letter to a Young Traveller: 10 Reasons *not* to travel.

This is the Second Last Post called: "Letter to a Young Traveller".

There is a final one, called: "Letter to a Young Traveller: Ten Reasons to Travel."

You can read them all by clicking HERE, and scrolling down.

I'm not dissing on travel per se. I married an American and so I travel. I'm just offering some weaknesses in the reasons we Christians give for travel. And if we have weak reasons, perhaps a moment of pause is worth taking. There may be 10 reasons to travel. It's worth thinking what those reasons are, and owning them before your good God.

Here are my top 10 reasons not to give for travel:

1. “I’m going to 'find myself' In France”.

You find yourself in God, not Paris.

2. “I want to be free from responsibility for a while”.

Freedom from responsibility almost always brings about selfishness. [Doesn’t it have to?] God is kind, and already gives us Sabbaths and Holydays, which is why we get 4 weeks holiday a year (2 in the US), and a Sunday each week. To go away for more than that is, to quote an old minister of mine: 'A long time without accountability'.

3. “I don’t like ‘X’, and a plane trip away is my ticket out”.

Where 'X' is something you hate: work, a relationship, life, debt etc. The trip is a means of escape. The problem is that you always take you with you. 'Escape' is not the answer. Trust in God is.

4. “I just want to see if I can rely on God on my own”.

The Bible doesn't endorse lone pilgrimage as a means to growth. On the contrary, it says to trust where you are. What you presently do it the key to spiritual growth. 1 Cor 7:17-23:
Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
There was a time [during period of the Roman persecutions], where to stay in community despite persecutions and serve the Body of Christ in a spirit of sacrifice was the only means to grow. Now [in a period of spiritual lethargy], we think that the only way to grow is to Go?

5. “My girlfriend/boyfriend is traveling, and I want to join Him/Her”.

Traveling with just your partner [or even in a small group] is a married activity and it belongs in marriage. I have thoughts in this related to Genesis 2:24. It was worth hearing the argument. Get married, rather than travel with just your mate. People often say: but its OK, we won't be tempted. My answer: Then why are you dating? But my biggest concern is what it signals to younger and less mature Christians.

6. “I need to see Europe before I die etc”.

This may not be true. It is worth pondering what you think the New Heavens and the New Earth will be. I think that this may be a statement of mistrust. I will explore the ‘Riviera’ God has planned in the age to come. The only reason to say this is that deep down you do not believe that you God's Heaven will be good. C.S Lewis in The Weight of Glory:
‘Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.’
7. “I have already booked, so I have to go.”

If it isn’t right for you to go, do not assume that simply because you have a ticket that you should go. Don’t blow your life on $3000. That’s like parents of a bride saying to a young bride who knows its not right: "you have to get married; you have the reception booked."

8. I've saved up $10,000 for Travel. I have to go.

See Point 7. Money cannot be the driver of your decisions.

9. Americans know how to do things better than us.


10. “My experience of life is too limited. Exotic Travel is something I therefore have to do”.

Certainly, there is value in seeing more. St Augustine famously said: "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." However, I think that this is and will always be true of each of us, all the time. It will even be true of you after you come back from your European Vacation. You probably ought not to see travel as the answer to this. Isn’t the BIG experience of life found in knowing God? Isn’t that exotic?


Pic on Flickr by moandia.


Mike said...

What about pointing out how selfish travel may be?

Whilst of course you don't want to condemn travel outrightly - in dealing with reasons to remain, or go, it feels like the underlying problem is one of sheer selfishness. Perhaps that needs to be dealt with head on. (Which is of course me suggesting that it doesn't feel like you've dealt with it appropriately).

Sam said...

great post Justin. too many of us think it is a right we are entitled to.

James 4:

13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

luke said...

While I appreciate the sentiment of your post, I don't think it's helpful or necessary to pass judgement on those who choose to travel and have a clear conscience about it.

We all make sacrifices to buy / do / experience those things that we enjoy, and to say that enjoying travel for what it is doesn't belong on the list of legitimate recreational activities for godly, responsible, generous people is awfully small-minded.

Sure, there might be a place for challenging those who think it's a good idea to spend endless months romping indulgently around the planet with no particular purpose, but your post seems to take aim at a larger group of people, and even though I'm not a globe-trotter myself, I find it sickeningly judgemental.

Justin said...

Luke - judgemental? You're joking, right??

I've traveled the Pacific Ocean 10+ times in 10years. I'm a traveller. And I believe what I wrote!

Anonymous said...


I think your lack of globe trotting here may be why you are sickened. From someone who has done it; I think Justin is basically encouraging people to take every thought captive and that is a helpful thing. I'm sure people will still travel but having read these tips, they will hopefully do so with a different mindset.

Anonymous said...

Justin - if you have travelled ten times in ten years, aren't you being hypocritical by telling others not to travel? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I have learnt so much about my relationship with God due to all my travels

I agree that people should examine their motives in all things - but unfotunately the reality is that prohibtive talk can be counter productive.

I would hate to see you write a post about:

10 reasons to not go out to dinner


Justin said...

Hi all,

Thanks for commenting.

@Mike -- Not sure what you mean when you say: Which is of course me suggesting that it doesn't feel like you've dealt with it appropriately. Do you mean that you don't think I've been hard line enough on selfishness. My intention (when I wrote this 4 years ago) was to address lots of different reasons for travel that I thought weren't appropriate. I think that there are appropriate reasons. But these 10, I'm suggesting, aren't particularly good ones.

@Luke -- read my post again. I think you haven't understood it. I'm not dissing on travel. Did you read the other 5 posts on travel?? Think before you write, friend.

@Anon 1 -- Thanks. You did read it carefully. A different mindset. Thank you.

@Anon 2 -- Thanks for your question. I haven't told people not to travel. Have another read of the post. I travel all the time. Just not for the reasons I've said.

@Anon 3 -- I could think of 10 reasons not to go out for dinner: A. It will satisfy you forever;
B. To escape the family dinner table;
C. To satisfy gluttony;
D. To find happiness
E. To spend my inheritance in a week of eating.
F. Etc Etc.

I could also think of 10 reasons to go out for dinner. But you don't need me to tell you that.

Interesting how some of you have not read or understood the post.

But thanks for commenting.

Mike said...

Hey Justin

Yep - that's what I meant:
Do you mean that you don't think I've been hard line enough on selfishness.

Whilst all the things you've written (in all the previous posts too - which I have been following) have all been helpful, and I think on the money.

However, at the end of all your (helpful) posts - I don't feel you dealt with selfishness head on, which, at times, seems to be a major problem of the traveller - and thus worth dealing with.

Justin said...

Mike -- thanks for responding. Do we know each other?

Its very hard to identify motives in people -- and write about it on a Blog. That is, it's is hard to say: "Most of you are going for selfish reasons". How do we know that? Only God knows that.

I guess I could write a post: 'don't go for selfish reasons'. But that would not be a long post! :)

Do you have a Blog? Write the post you think I ought to have written. Or write some thoughts here. I'll post it if its biblical, well argued and insightful.


luke said...

I'm sorry, but I stand by my original comment.

It's not possible to say what you've said about travelling for its own enjoyment (points 6 and 10, roughly) without passing judgement on those who do it for no more than that.

Yes, I read your other posts on this topic. And even within the greater context of the type of travel you've been writing about (multi-month trips, presumably), I still find this latest post offensive.

Why should I need to satisfy anyone with a list of Good Christian Excuses for Travel? Your post implies that I should at least have a convincing list stowed away in my backpack (definitely a lot more convincing than these 10).

And please, don't patronise me as if I didn't read what you wrote. I did. I've now read it several times, and while there might have been nothing wrong with what you were trying to say, what actually came out was, unsurprisingly, "10 reasons not to travel".

Here's what I get from your dissertations on this topic so far:

1.) travel is an indulgence
2.) you can tame it with lots of godliness; here are some boxes to tick
3.) it can also be ok if you have family overseas
4.) but really, travel is an indulgence

For what it's worth, none of this is very new. I read a Briefing article ages ago that tackled this subject matter in a similar fashion. While I don't disagree that travel can be indulgent and sinful, posts like this can't easily escape casting a judgemental shadow over Christians who travel for undisclosed reasons without the convenient excuse of "overseas family" or "short-term mission".

Perhaps assertions about why people do what they do should be left where they belong ... one-on-one discipleship scenarios. Alternatively, write another post to balance this one in the minds of your readers.

"10 reasons travel can be a great idea"

It might counter the thought that travel is usually bad, which is the picture you've painted so far. Seriously.

Justin said...

Hey Luke -- Thanks for responding.

You keep standing by your comment. All for you doing that.

But in the same way that you do not want me to patronize you, I want you to know that I am not being judgmental.

I would prefer it if people said: "Actually, I just want to go"; than give pious reasons.

And no, I don't believe that these things should be left to only 1-1 discipleship. I think that's a great place to talk, but why can't challenges exist in broad terms in a way that mature people can sift through? The Epistle of James is full of unfiltered challenges. The Epistle of James, this post ain't. But people can sort out what they think.

Thanks for your suggestion to balance out the post. That was not my intention.

Anonymous said...

This whole subject has definately helped me, I don't feel judged, just wiser
Anon 1

Justin said...

Anon 1 -- thanks for the encouragement. Should you be travelling in the future, I pray that you will take joy in it, and live each day for the Glory of Christ and in the service of others.


mandy said...

what's all the fuss about????????

(correct me if I'm wrong) but what I think Justin might be saying, is that if we follow Jesus we no longer make decisions on our own for simply our own sake anymore. This is what we did before we were "in Christ".

today i was reading a story about a new believer in Jesus who was asked by some unbelieving friends to do something he could no longer justify because of his new alliegence.

He said to them "I'm sorry, but I can't join in, because I haven't brought my hands with me." They were confused and asked him what on earth he meant. He replied, "This pair of hands do not belong to me" and then proceeded to explain the transfer of ownership that had occured in his life.

I too like the fact that you brought up the dinner argument Luke! Because that's exactly what it's like. As someone who is redeemed, life is no longer about me anymore.

This isn't a post about travel decisions (I too have travelled a fair bit by the way!) This is a post about life. Dinner decisions. Work decisions. Relationship decisions. Money decisions. Decisions about what occupies our thoughts. Decisions about what words come out of our mouths. etc etc etc.

So, I think Justin is reminding us that we dance to the beat of a different drum now. We are grafted to him. We are in HIm and He is in us!

Watchman Nee says "May we always be possessed by the consiousness that we are not our own."

mandy said...

sorry, that was anon that brought up the dinner thing. sorry luke

Justin said...

Good thoughts Mandy. And I don't know anyone your age who has traveled as much as you...


Never Left The Country said...

This is one of the reasons I stopped going to church.
"BOOYA, I'm holier than you! I zoomed out to the next level so that now YOU'RE the shallow one! I'm going to weasel my way into some low-level ministry position so I can take advantage of that hot, young chick in youth group who has just become legal and wants only to be married off to a godly young man."
Nine other reasons I stopped going to church follow: just kidding.
But, seriously, grow up and start trying to do something right instead of just not doing anything wrong.

Mike said...

Yep - you do know me Justin - but from the distant past. (And sorry - I didn't realise my last name wasn't attached to my username)

Nope - I don't have a blog, don't plan to have one, and don't really plan to write something major up for yours. I only meant to suggest you deal with selfishness head on.

It seems one of the issues behind travelling is self indulgence - and I think you agree. Several of your reasons touch on it. Here - I would hesitantly agree with Luke.

So why not deal with it head on?

I don't think it's a case of assuming motives, or condemning all travel, but as you say:

why can't challenges exist in broad terms in a way that mature people can sift through?

Why not put in one point in directly challenging possible selfish motives? Calling a spade a spade?

However - we've spent way to long conversing on this one minor point. A point that was only meant to be a minor suggestion.

And in this long converse - it may have been missed that I agree with what you've written. Your points - both positive and negative - have been helpful. So thanks.

Mike Doyle

Justin said...

@Luke -- Brother, I've had a sleep and come back to this post. My apologies if I've been patronizing and condescending.

Forgive me.

I've changed some things in the post and the next (about dinner) that have that tone.

You'll probably still not find this satisfying. That is, the 10 reasons not to give for travel are still there!

And I will ponder your suggestion of writing 10 reasons to travel. It won't be as controversial, since people don't really need reasons. But I will put my mind to it when I get a chance.

Thanks for commenting.

Justin said...

@Never left the country:

Wow. I'm sorry to hear that this was your picture of your church. And now I've contributed to it!

My post is about people growing up vis-a-vis the decisions they make. And if you read my Blog, most things are positive and 'doing the right thing', rather than simply not doing the wrong thing. Tell me if you don't think that's true.

Email me if you want to meet and talk about it. Could be fun. My shout.

mike said...

Hi Justin,
I know of a minister who took six months off before college to travel the world, meeting up with different churches about the place to look at the different ways they do things. Have to say it has enriched his ministry greatly.
(thought I'd put up at least one good pious reason)
Mike Wells

Sam said...

Hey mate.

sorry bout the trouble i caused by linking this post to my facebook. it's strange our defensive people get when their assumptions re: their right to travel are challenged in what i thought was a helpful fashion. keep blogging Justin!

Never Left The Country said...

Aww, you tried to placate me with your words!

Your post isn't about people growing up vis a vis their decisions, it's a list of reasons for travelling that aren't good enough for you personally. You can't just take one thing and then call it something else.

The sanctimonious, world-wise tone of your post has already copped a bit of a pounding, but the gaping holes in your reasoning are another thing you might want to look at. "Travelling with just your partner is a married activity and it belongs in marriage." Says who? You, because you're a minister? The passage in Genesis that you link to, although commonly used as propaganda to discourage premarital sex, doesn't in the slightest FORBID premarital sex, let alone forbid TRAVEL. If your church has a "party line" on certain issues, just say so; don't bastardise the Bible just to create the appearance of legitimacy.

Mike said...

Hey Justin

You're drawing a fair bit of heat here - I don't want you to hear it coming from me. So let me distance myself from those who are quite agro that you dare to suggest we think through the godliness of travel.

Good on you for doing it - and it's good to be challenged in this way.

If you want to chat further about my earlier criticisms, happy to do so over email (michaelrdoyle at gmail dot you know the rest). But only if you want to - I feel no need to discuss it further.

Mike Doyle


Justin said...

Hey Mike.

I'm not drawing a fair bit of heat (or copping a pounding). I've just two people who disagree with me - Luke and a person who is anonymous. Thats not heat. It's a clash of values.

Thanks foe your interaction mate. I will email you.

Does anyone care to comment pm Genesis 2? What does it mean?

Bruce Yabsley said...

Justin I'm glad I persevered with the comment threads to these posts, because in reply to luke you wrote

`I would prefer it if people said: "Actually, I just want to go"; than give pious reasons.'

I'd been waiting for something like this the whole time, and getting very frustrated at it not arriving. (I commute by bus, so I am familiar with the feeling.) If I might reflect on this:

In the implied world of this series, the practice of (pious) reason-giving, and of a rather earnest self-consciousness and public deliberation about one's Christian journey, is taken for granted. You've set yourself the task of criticising young-Christians'-cant about travel within this framework ... which, from the outside, looks at least eccentric. Shouldn't the wider practice of pious reason-giving be the thing criticised here?

"I thought it'd be fun to bum around Europe with some friends" is, as far as it goes, a perfectly good reason for doing something. If one of the ten "reasons" you've lampooned are being offered instead, isn't the prior problem the felt need to offer this kind of justification, rather than the detail of the reason offered?

A related comment could be made about the set-up, noting that people "spoke only of their itinerary, rather than a plan to grow as a Christian and as a person". For it's at least paradoxical to be making deliberate plans for one's own growth. I don't claim that there's no place for this kind of talk --- I am a very earnest sort of person as you know, albeit in a different style --- but such talk just has limited application. And if that caveat isn't made up-front, I think you do court reaction.

Nigel Thornberry said...

Hold on to your passports people...NO ONE IS GOING ANYWHERE. Now, shall we all just take a deep breath, relax, and slowly, I mean s.l.o.w.l.y retract our fingertips from our respective keyboards?

There, that's better. Now, shall we all take a trip together and talk things over??

Suggested destinations?

Anonymous said...

Maybe if the title was changed to
"10 motives to watch ouit for when considering travel"...
Anon 1

luke said...


I appreciate the changes you've made, and owe you an apology for jumping too hard on the tone and slant of your post rather than indulging them for the sake of your not-entirely-clear-but-still-clear-enough intent.

So, I'm sorry too.

Sam, I think your apology is unnecessary ... is there anything wrong with engaging when we come across material we disagree with? I've found this discussion constructive, personally. I hope I'm not the only one.

Anonymous said...

I shan't lie - Truth be told, this post really upsets me. What happened to finding yourself in God, in Paris? Why are the two mutually exclusive? Travel brings with it more responsibility, not less - one's responsibility to the culture into which one is thrown; one's responsibility to oneself and to those with whom one is traveling; one's responsibility to staying in touch with those one cares about, wherever they may be around the globe. Yes, reading "more than one page" lands you back at ignorance all over again... but better to have tried for fluency than to have never tried at all. We are privileged to be able to travel, and it is not a privilege to be taken lightly and discarded as an act of ungodly selfishness. The singularly most important event of my Life to date is trekking into Burma. It involved travel - the event that brought me back closest to God happened in a foreign country. God does not hide from airports and wanderers.

Justin said...

Michael- thanks for your honest and thoughful comment. Do we know each other? You appear to have come from NYU, which makes me think we have met. Email me if prefer: jmoff at hotmail dot com

Quick response (it's early here) - finding yourself in Paris? Of course, they are not mutually exclusive. People find God (or rather are found by him) all over the world. Jonah was found by God on his way to Tarshish. And in being found by God, he found himself (well, hopefully). But can that be a reason for travel? Can it be a motivation? Surely God finds us and remakes us in the mundane as well. Surely we exclude the poor when we say this. I'm glad you were blessed to go to Burma. But if you were not so privileged, would God have been able to find you?

Michael - did you read my 10 tips for the young traveller as context?


Justin said...

Travel brings with it more responsibility...

Also, is that true always? Don't you mean to say that travel may bring with it more responsibility? I've seen some pretty irresponsible travelers.

What you are saying, Michael, is that you have found good reasons to travel.

Brilliant. That is what my post is about.

Steve Carlisle said...

I am ofetn guilty of not reading closely enough, but as others have said travel brings responsibility...

Surely the Christian has the responsibilty to think about things BEFORE they go? Like, how can I use the time well, how can I use the money well, how can I make opportunities well?

Are we really capitulating to the culture saying that travel is all about me?

I would love to get a tattoo, but I cant justify the cost for my own ingulgence, and thats only $250.

Now, if you are going to visit a friend, serve in a church, visit family, gain experience for a specific purpose in the kingdom, thats all fine. Surely Justin is saying just be intentional if you are going to go, think about why, and how you will do so, and check your motives before you go......

Anonymous said...

just getting to the bottom of this list of comments involved travel!

Justin said...

If you commented here, you may like to read this new post: Ten Reasons to travel (a collaborative effort).

Ali said...

Can I just say, I think the post is great and I would have benefited from reading it some years ago. I am one of those who once did drop my bundle and go overseas for four months and spend what could have been (back then maybe) a house deposit (not that I think buying a house is necessarily a more godly thing to do, but that’s another topic). And in all honesty I did perhaps go for escapist reasons. And absolutely nobody ever talked to me about it. And I still sometimes wish I’d done things differently. So if it at least makes people think, which I think is what your aim in writing it was, then that’s a good thing.

(All that said, I did put a small amount of thought into it and went to L’Abri in Switzerland, which was fantastic (as well as some intensive study, in which I learnt quite a lot, you have to do chores about the place), and then Capernwray in Sweden, which was less fantastic, but hey, I had to read the whole NT in eight weeks and report on each book, among other projects, and use a queer machine to pull the moss out of people’s lawns, so it wasn’t all bad.)

Anonymous said...

you seemed to have left off the most important and relevant reason not to travel- climate change and subsequent Carbon footprints!

my husband and I live and work long-term O.S but we try and limit our travel out of the 3rd world country we live in for this vey reason- environmental stewardship- as we belive no amount of offsetting is going to cahnge a culture that belives it's cool to see something for the sake of saying you've seen it despite the amount of environmental damge you ae causing!

I agree wholeharetedly that one needs some pretty damn good reasons to travel but there is an environmental crisis looming that gives us a chrsitians a perogative to be better environmnatl stewards of this world we have been bestowed.


SeaPea said...

this is an excellent post, justin! i just forwarded to my entire SG (you know me, quick fingers). i too have felt the "need" to "get away" and have spent some time fantasizing about it, but it's true - that's irresponsible. i love traveling but it does come with responsibility.

John said...

Finding good rubber mulch is safe and good for the environment.