Tools for Turning Your Travels into Pilgrimages

By Becky Garrison 11-13-2009

In my ongoing quest to turn my travels into pilgrimages, I keep discovering resources that help me along the way. Here are a few of my recent finds that I thought might be of interest to fellow pilgrims.

Bicycle Diaries. In the 1980s, David Byrne began biking around New York City and taking a folding bike with him during his global travels. While peddling throughout cities as diverse as London, Los Angeles, and Istanbul, he shares his reflections on a range of topics including music, sustainable living, history, fashion, and globalization. I had been rethinking my carbon footprint for some time but I realized in reading this book that I still viewed cycling as form of recreation, not a means of sustainable transportation. Thanks to this Talking Head who walks the walk, I'm starting to see bicycles in a new light.

The Cave Arts & Crafts Center (Al-Kahf). I picked up a silver olive leaf cross from this Bethlehem-based organization, which I wear when I travel. For those countries where wearing a cross is not appropriate, I picked up a necklace in Petra from a craftsman affiliated with the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation. Also, Kurt Neilson, author of Urban Iona: Celtic Hospitality in the City, suggested that I carry a small rosary with me. These items help keep me grounded and centered during my travels when I find myself in a situation where I'm feeling somewhat anxious and alone.

Pimsleur Language Programs. While I don't feel equipped to travel to a country without someone who knows the local language, these programs give me the rudimentary skills to communicate on a very basic level with those I meet.

Tall Skinny Kiwi. I connected with missiologist and blogger Andrew Jones online through UK worship pioneer Jonny Baker, and finally got to met him in person at Greenbelt Festival and Slot Art Festival. Currently, Andrew is on the road with his family and a few friends in a converted truck named Maggie. To date he has traveled to about a dozen countries visiting missional entrepreneurs in Europe and the UK, with plans to visit about thirty countries by the close of 2010. Along the way, he shares his philanthropic insights about how to create sustainable ministries given the realities of the current economy and connects missional entrepreneurs who by and large operate under the radar away from the glare of the missional media spotlight. Andrew's keen insights, gentle guidance, and simple hospitality have really helped shape my thinking about cross cultural mission. Thanks to him, I try to travel as a writer looking to tell the stories of the practitioners working at the fringes of the faith instead of following the author/speaker model so prevalent in American Christianity that elevates a select group of missional males to the role of religious rock stars.

Travel as a Political Act. I picked up this book after reading LaVonne Neff's review on this blog. Travel writer Rick Steves explains how during his travels to countries as diverse as France, El Salvador and Croatia, he's learned to depart from the tourist traps and interact with the local culture. As he reflects, "I believe the most powerful things an individual American can do to fight terrorism are to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home with a new perspective, and then work to help our country fit more comfortable and less fearfully into this planet."

Walking the Bible (DVD). Author Bruce Fielder takes the viewer on a physical trek to all the biblical sites mentioned in the Pentateuch. Toward the end of his journey, Fielder reflects on how he started out on a journey looking for scientific and archeological data, but ended up on a spiritual quest. This shift in his thinking reminded me that while I have an agenda in mind when I start my travels, I need to remain open to whatever discoveries I might find along the way.

portrait-becky-garrisonThose interested in keeping up with Becky Garrison's forthcoming travels can follow her via Twitter @JesusDied4This.

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