Originally published in James Travis’ blog on July 29, 2023.
Living in Bahrain means that travel is an accepted part of life. We travel to see friends and family, we travel on vacation, we travel to renew visas, and we travel because living here puts us close to many other wonderful places (Europe, Asia, and Africa are all reachable in around three hours). People often say that “travel is good for the soul.” The philosopher Seneca (reportedly) said that “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”
How does this all look in the life of the believer?
Is travel really good for the soul?
Here, in no particular order, are some reasons why travelling is one of a great many good and perfect Divine gifts (James 1.17).
Travel interrupts and disrupts our well-worn rhythms and routines (but without penalty).
We’re not made to be at work twenty-four seven. We’re not created to be reachable and questionable all hours of all days. Being out of reach, offline, and unavailable has a huge impact on our mental and physical health.1 We’re forced to be still, be present, and just be.
Even those who love and thrive on routines need a break from them now and again. We see this as early as Genesis 2.1-3wherein God Himself rests from work and established patterns. People need rest (Exodus 20.8-11), and ultimately this work/break rhythm points us to Jesus in His fulfilment of the Sabbath (Hebrews 4.9-11). We rest knowing that our status before God will not suffer and our regular rhythms and routines can freely be paused without penalty. There is now no mental angst from removing yourself from your regular rhythms and routines because those routines are not earning you anything before God. Rest, recharge, and trust that this doesn’t remove any of God’s favour from you.
Travel gives new and renewed perspective.
What’s truly important, and what’s not.
Where we’re investing time, energy, and emotion, and where we shouldn’t be.
What we own, and what is beginning to own us.
What we truly need in our lives, and what we don’t.
These are just some of the contrasts we begin to see in increasing clarity when we move away from our comfort zones and all of the ‘stuff’ therein.
Matthew 6.19-21 teaches us very clearly that where our treasure is, so too is our heart and affection. We are counselled to love God with all that we are (Matthew 22.36-40) and this cannot be done whilst also glorying in our possessions.
Travel, wonderfully, removes us from most of our personal possessions and puts us out there in the Kingdom with little more than a suitcase. Less around us, more to see.
Travel gives new (visual) perspectives.
Seeing the sun rise or set over a new landscape renews your sense of awe and wonder in the process. Watching the same sun that sets over your house set over a mountain range in a different land is (somehow) a much more interesting process.
Seeing vastly different visuals challenges us to imagine a life that’s different from the one we are living and the one we are so used to seeing.
We begin to see that our little corner of the world is just that: little.
We begin to see that we are so small and insignificant in the face of the spectacular created world around us.
In Psalm 8.3-4 we read:
When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place,
Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them?
Seeing more also urges us to think things like;
Could there be more for me?
Could God fulfil me in a different location just as much as He does now?
If you never go (even for a short time), you’ll never know.
Simply, travel is fun and brings joy.
New places, new spaces, new faces.
There is joy in discovering more of creation than you have ever experienced before. Joy is an essential part of the Christian experience and one that I am convinced many are lacking. It’s a defining part of the born-again life.
As part of the fruit of the Spirit presented in Galatians 5 we read:
“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
So, is travel good for the soul? It seems that it is, yes.
It doesn’t have to be an epically-long international odyssey, but going somewhere new to do something new is a gift from God: enjoy it!