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Seeking God Abroad: The Deeper 'Why' of Christian Travel

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

When it comes to Christian travel there is often this misconception that the only way it is okay for us to travel, is if it is for a "mission trip" or other specific Christian travel experiences. If you are like me though, you love traveling just to travel! There is something spiritually enriching about traveling for God, but that only happens if we take the time to look at our heart's intentions before we go. I have heard quite an array of reasons for traveling, but here are a few:

Some common reasons why Christians choose to travel:

  1. Trying to figure out who you really are

  2. Take a break from the stresses of one's daily life

  3. Prove that you are free-spirited and independent

  4. It makes us happy and joyful

  5. Have the money and time.. so why not?

These are very common reasons to travel and have been some of my motivation for traveling, but have you ever stopped to ask what God thinks of those reasons for traveling? I turned to Scripture to see what He says about these travel motives.

Christians Are Called To Go

God's response to those travel motives:

Trying to figure out who you really are

When we travel there is definitely a lot of freedom to try new things and learn things about yourself, but 1 Peter 2:9 says,

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

In short, we don't have to travel to know who we are. God gives us our identity as His children. So, if you are wrestling with this travel motive, ask the Lord to help you reframe your perspective. Maybe He is calling you to rest in your true identity instead of the one the world has to offer.

Take a break from the stresses of one's daily life

We experience stress every day- at work, at home, with friends and family - and travel can be a chance to be renewed and strengthened to face some of those obstacles. John 14:27, ESV, reads:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

If we are looking to travel as the source of our peace rather than to God, then we may experience temporary peace but not the abundance of overflowing peace that God promises to us. If this perspective of travel becomes a stumbling block for you, it can easily spill into other areas of your life - where you forget to turn to God first and foremost. To reframe this, consider what you are giving your attention during your travels and turn your thoughts to glorifying God in your travels instead.

Prove that you are free-spirited and independent

Who doesn't love showing off their travel photos? Or traveling to prove to those around us that we have the courage and strength to concur things they would never attempt? The problem comes when our travel is focused on the approval of others rather than God's approval. As Christians our motive to travel lies in following God's guidance rather than mans.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10, ESV

If you find yourself trying to show off through your travels or make the travels focused on you and your accomplishments, look for ways to express God's handiwork in your travels. Can the social media post talk about how God interrupted your trip so you could make a new friend? Can the post-trip conversations focus on how God got you home safe and sound? Rewording your travel stories is a great way to testify to who God is in your travels!

It makes us happy and joyful

There are numerous reasons why we become apathetic to our daily lives. Maybe we aren't where we thought we would be at this stage of life, or we are tired of the established routines of life, etc. God encourages us to embrace the trials rather than run away because He grows us in those trials.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

When you are tempted to run away from your trails to Hawaii - before you buy that ticket, take your fears and worries to the Lord with thanksgiving. Studies show that our mental health changes drastically when we speak Thanksgiving aloud. I believe that is how God wired us and in the beginning (before the fall), this would have been so easy and natural for us. So, if you do end up booking that flight - set aside dedicated time in your trip to thank the Lord for the struggles back home, so you can be prepared to reenter the fray.

christian traveler on train, looking out window, reflecting on trip

Have the money and time.. so why not?

It is a blessing to have money and time, but if we aren't being good stewards of those blessings and are just spending them willy-nilly without looking to God for guidance, then what good are those blessings? And if we don't involve God in the choice of how we spend our time- where is the trust in His guidance?

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty [definition: arrogant/superior], nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

We are called on to spend our money and time on things that are God-pleasing. We are not to use those blessings to run from how God is calling us to currently serve. The next time you want to book that trip, ask the Lord if that is His will or your will. He might very well say yes, but he also might say wait, because He wants to use your finances for something even better than you can imagine! (Here is a free Christian Travel Budget Planner to help with this area too!)

Please note: I don't say all of this to discourage you from traveling, but to encourage you to examine the motivation you have for traveling before looking at what God says about travel.

What does God say about traveling?

After reflecting on our hearts, it's important to also look at what God's heart says about these matters. To do so, I want to share a few different passages with you where God indirectly commissions us to travel. He calls us to "Go." Go take care of the earth, go multiply the earth (within marriage), go to all nations and share the Gospel, go teach your children who the Creator is in everything you do. It can be rather tempting to just focus on the "Go" and use that as an excuse to travel, but we can't take it out of the context of what Scripture is telling us.

In the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. Genesis 1:28, ESV

To Noah after the Flood:

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it. Genesis 9:7, ESV

Christians Are Called To Travel

As Jesus Ascended into Heaven:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Moses speaking to Israel:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Deuteronomy 6:4-12 ESV

These verses help us understand that God does encourage us to travel. He knows that as we explore the world we grow in awe and reverence for Him. But they also tell us that travel is not an exclusive experience just for ourselves. It's a journey with Him! There is a purpose to our travel and it glorifies Him and keeps Him at the forefront during the whole journey. This raises a new question, how do we do that?

How do we keep God the focus of our travels?

Set Aside Time To Worship

When we get away from our regular routines it can be rather tempting to not go to church, not spend time in God's Word, etc. We have a long list of things we want to go see and do, but Scripture tells us:

Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be held in awe above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. 1 Chronicles 16:23-27 ESV

When we don't prioritize God while traveling, we send the message that He is just a part of our work to-do list and once on vacation He gets thrown to the side, along with all our other mundane agendas.

Here are some tips/ideas to keep Him at the forefront:

  • Attend worship, even if it is is at a church you don't know. They will appreciate that you took the time to be with them and you will be fed (even if it is in another language).

  • Find a Christian community to do Bible Studies with. Even if you go once or twice, you may make some new friends! Another group you can join is our Facebook group- we pray for each other and share weekly travel devotions, etc.

  • Set aside time to be in God's Word. Vacations can be relaxing/hectic. Either way having designation time in the Scriptures puts God first.

Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People

When traveling you will encounter a lot of people. Each of them are cherished and loved by God, but if their travel goals and intentions don't align with Scripture (they are getting drunk every night, sleeping around, etc.) and they are influencing your/pressuring you to join... then they likely aren't the best community to be a part of. We can certainly still love on them, but we must first find people who will fill us up spiritually.

1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV tells us, Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals. "

Although a simple verse, it reminds us that those around us do have influence on us spiritually, emotionally, and physically, etc. And we are to travel in a God pleasing way.

Here are some tips or ideas to address this:

  • Pick housing arrangements wisely. Choose hostels that offer gender specific dorms and aren't known for parties, pick Workaways that mention Christian households, etc. Read the reviews to double check that what they say is what people actually walk away saying they experienced.

  • If you are planning a trip with others, set ground rules ahead of time. If you find out that they don't want to travel with a Christian perspective, reconsider traveling with them or see if there is a way that you can travel without burdening each other with different intentions.

  • Connect with believers on our Christian Travelers Network platform. Not only may you find a travel buddy, but they may have other resources to enhance your travels!

Be Generous

When traveling you will encounter people who will be overly generous with their talents and then expect money in return and others who you will bargain with and they may jack up the price because you are a tourist. It is important to remember that God still calls us to be good stewards of our money. To remember that these people also need to have an income at the end of the day, but that throwing money at them in overly generous amounts doesn't necessarily help them either.

1 Timothy 6: 17-19 says As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Here are some ways that we can be generous when traveling:

  • Give a little more than the asking price when individuals show signs of need, have been kind & generous, etc. Just be wise about it - not being too eager to give in abundance without understanding the full circumstances. Are you helping or hurting?

  • Rather than offering your time, see if there is another need you can fulfill. Can you offer a meal, a conversation, help with a particular skill, etc.?

  • Give of your time. Don't be in such a hurry that you dismiss opportunities to help because you are in a hurry.

Be Slow to Judge

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2 ESV

One of the gifts of travel is encountering different cultures and communities. It can be tempting to judge them for having habits and beliefs different than your own. Yet, God calls us to pause and reflect on why people behave the way they do. After all, we are all seeking our purpose in this life and the context in which they were raised plays a large part in that.

Here are some ideas:

  • Research the history of the community before you go. What are significant events in their history, how has religion played a role in these events, etc.

  • Learn some of the community's traditions. Just like you, traditions play a large role in their community, etc.

  • Research some of their customs and cultural etiquette. How do they show they appreciate a meal? What is the custom when you visit someone's house? How do you address a stranger or a friend? Learning some of these things ahead of time allows you to be more open-minded and understanding when you encounter the unexpected.

  • -What are the demographics of the region? Are they primarily Christian? Are they primarily an older or younger society? Do they have big or small families? Etc.

A few tools that could help with your research include our free podcast where we are going alphabetically through every country to help you save time on the research and learn about the amazing places God created around the world. Another tool our members can access is our directory, full of itineraries and travel guides with information about these countries!

With these things in mind, it is a lot easier to begin your travels in a way that involves God through the whole journey. Safe travels and God Bless!

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