Why Traveling Can Be A Critical Aspect Of A Healthy Spiritual Life

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Can traveling be a critical aspect of a healthy spiritual life?

Can traveling be a Christian act of worship?

Yes, I think so. In fact, few things have impacted my life and my heart the way traveling has.

I got my start traveling when I was just 14 and still a freshman in high school. My father (an archeologist at the time) took me to Central America for ten days that included snorkeling off the coral reefs of Belize, hiking along the western coast of Costa Rica, and scaling the great Mayan temples of Tikal, Guatemala.

I haven’t been the same since– and I’ve never stopped traveling. I’ve been to somewhere around 40 countries and spent close to eight years of my life overseas.

In fact, I grew to love and value diverse cultures so much, that I even when on to become a Doctor of Intercultural Studies.

I’ve now reached the age where I have an adult child, and my youngest is beyond the age I was when my journey first began. This has made me realize that, as my father did before me, it is time to begin instilling a love and appreciation for travel into those who will live on after I’m gone.

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High Place of Sacrifice, Petra, Jordan. Photo by Matthew Paul Turner

In the weeks and months to come, you’ll begin to notice on my blog and social media handles that I’m going to begin sharing more travel related content (I’ve begun sharing past travel photos on my Instagram, which you can follow here), and expanding the types of issues I discuss. My hope in adding this to the platform of typical content I already cover is that I might begin to spark the imagination of someone, somewhere, to continue this tradition of learning to see and love the world around us.

As I look back on my experiences traveling the globe, living abroad, and experiencing a diversity of cultures, I am growing more and more convinced that traveling is or can be a critical aspect of a healthy spiritual life, and can even be an act of worship. Here’s a few reasons why:

Traveling exposes us to the fullness of God’s creation, and gives us a deeper appreciation for what God has made.

I can count so many moments on my journey where traveling left me in awe of God’s creation. Whether standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, experiencing the sun rise over the Australian landscape from a hot air balloon, watching creatures of the sea through my snorkel mask in the Philippine Sea, or camping in Europe’s magnificent Alps, I have learned in those moments that something draws us closer to the heart of God if we allow it. The planet is a magnificent creation, and experiencing it in fullness and appreciation, can be an act of worship toward the creator.

Traveling can expand the capacity of our hearts to love others– and that’s the goal of the Christian life.

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When we expose ourselves to different cultures, we expose ourselves to people who are infinitely loved and valued by the heart of God. Traveling teaches us that while we are all different in many ways, we are all part of the one humanity reconciled through Christ. Through traveling, we learn to appreciate our commonalities while also learning to celebrate our differences.

Traveling has a way of confronting our biases, stereotypes, and even bigotry that we didn’t even realize existed in our hearts. It has a way of revealing our privilege, our sheltered bubbles, and our tendency to see our way as the way.  And that confrontation can give birth to love, as we realize there are other ways of seeing, experiencing, and doing life on this planet.

As we realize and experience the reality of “they may live differently, but differently isn’t wrongly” and come to see our common humanity, we find our sheltered hearts begin to change into hearts of humility, appreciation, and love for others– especially others who are different.

When we learn to more deeply love others, we learn to more deeply love God– and there is no greater act of worship than this.

I am convinced that traveling– even if it is just an exploration that is slightly beyond the boundaries and culture you typically find yourself in, has a way of enhancing one’s spiritual life and drawing us closer to the heart of God.

As I look back, I am grateful that I have been able to have so many experiences in life where I stood in wonder of God’s creation. I am grateful for the vast exposure to people who are different than I am, grateful to have developed empathy for those who struggle more or differently, and grateful to have grown to appreciate and celebrate our commonalities and differences alike.

Some say that traveling is the greatest form of education, and I heartily agree with that. But traveling is also one of the greatest avenues to grow in your love for what God has created, and to expand the capacity of your heart to love your fellow image-bearers.

This love for expanding one’s horizons, growing the capacity of our hearts to see and love others, and the value of travel as a spiritual act of worship, is something I deeply long to pass on to the next generation– which is why in the future you’ll begin to see me talk a lot more about this.

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