How Traveling Is Teaching Me About Life

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

Are you a traveler or tourist?

I love to see the world. Any part of it, any time. In fact, two years ago I found an opportunity for my mom, husband and myself to go on a week long hurricane recovery mission trip. The only catch – we had to leave in 36 hours.


So, when my husband graduated with his Master’s degree I felt a trip was in order, obviously! (Y’all he’s been in college our entire relationship.) The almost six months we dated and the four and a half years we’ve been married. I am a bargain shopper, so I “researched” this trip for years. Read: stay up late on the computer and randomly wake him up at 1am with questions like, “Iceland or Germany? Road trip or flying? How well do you speak Spanish?”

You know all of the normal stuff.

Finally, we settled on a cruise to the Caribbean in February. It was delightful! But I realized something. Not everyone was having a good time. They were stuck in their home problems and attitudes while traveling.

On one of our tours, our guide, Juan, made a statement that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “My goal today is to make you a traveler, not a tourist.” That just blew me over! What is the difference, really? A traveler wants to know the people and the land of where they visit. A traveler wants depth not number. A traveler wants to know a place, to be somewhere instead of doing a city. A tourist wants prestige.

Just like life! So I came up with five general rules of thumb for doing life (and vacation) as a traveler and not a tourist.

Know the basics

  • In travel, you need to know the basic geography, topography, and culture. Do they speak my language? How hot/cold is it? Flat or mountainous? This dictates when you visit a location and how prepared you are.
  • In your spiritual life, you need to know your basics. What is your bottom line? Is the Bible infallible? Is God sovereign? Did Jesus truly rise again? While this can be tough, it is the balance sheet that all else is held against. So take some time, read a statement of faith from several denominations and churches (or the Nicene Creed), then work on your own.

Have a guidebook

  • In travel, this is very helpful. Trip advisor, Yelp and other websites are great, but something tangible in your hand with all of the explanations and descriptions becomes a life saver. Remember WIFI access is not everywhere.
  • In your spiritual life, your Bible is your guidebook. The infallible Word of the Lord, and as such it holds standard of truth for all things. Remember Bible studies, devotionals, and books on the Bible are a great help, but only the Bible is pure truth.

Have a guide

  • In travel, hiring a guide offers you the unique opportunity to see your destination from an insider’s view. This doesn’t have to be for your whole visit. In fact, just a consultation is amazingly helpful. I suggest the tourism bureau or a local university.
  • In your spiritual life, this is your mentor. When in college, I learned about the trucker’s hug. One in the front and one behind. Having accountability with one person more spiritually mature than you and for you to being that for another. Guidance and accountability helped me through many tough and tricky times.

Be willing to stop and listen

  • In travel, you encounter locals. If you speak the language make sure you listen when they talk with you. I am not saying listen to every sales pitch, but listen when they share the history of a location or object. This is when you find the best information. Stop and listen to nature. See an overlook? Pull over. And listen to how the wind rushes over the land. Beauliful flowers? Pull over! Unless you need to catch your flight or ship home, there is time.
  • In spiritual life, be ready to stop and listen. God sends you moments and opportunities to minister. If you walk past the elderly person struggling to put groceries in the car, or the mom trying to return the buggy but not leave her kids alone, or anyone else God puts in front of your eyes. Then you are missing some of the greatest moments to be real community and love people like Jesus. So when your friend says she’s fine, but you know better. Take the moment to call, text or smoke signal.

Being present is more important than being documented

  • In travel, PET PEEVE ALERT!!! Sure you took 65 pictures of you and your crew in front of ______ (fill in the blank). But were you present in the moment? Did you make memories there or did you take pictures there? Pictures are great. Believe me, I love them, but make sure that you look up from the camera too. Experience your surroundings and be present.
  • In your spiritual life, this is difficult at times. Yes, you went to church, but were YOU there? Did you put up your wall and only show the “church” side? Did you really listen to the sermon and gain strength and encouragement? That devotional, yes you read it, but did it pierce your soul? We can make our spiritual life about checking boxes and making appearances, but it actually means something when we make it about a relationship with Jesus.
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Heather Banks

Heather Banks

Heather Banks is a born and bred Georgia girl that loves traveling as much as coming home. Wife, expectant adoptive mom, sewist and photographer. She believes in Jesus, laughing, sweet tea, showing love with food, and being available!
Heather Banks

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About Heather Banks

Heather Banks is a born and bred Georgia girl that loves traveling as much as coming home. Wife, expectant adoptive mom, sewist and photographer. She believes in Jesus, laughing, sweet tea, showing love with food, and being available!