Top Tips for Travellers


Thinking of travelling any time soon?

My first overseas trip was when I was 9 years old and my family visited the USA. I love travel and enjoy the whole experience (well, most of it!) - airports, airplanes, visiting other countries, and meeting new people.  

As an experienced traveller, here are a few tips that you might find helpful for your next trip:

1. Preparation. I always read ahead about the places I am visiting, learning aspects such as weather, culture and the local religious environment (Operation World is a good guide for this). 

2. Clothing. When I travel, I usually wear a track suit with slip-on shoes. That way I am not wasting time taking off belts and jewelry or untying shoelaces at the security check. I always travel with a light jacket as it can get quite cold on the plane. 

3. Packing. I travel light but always allow enough clothes so I don't have to do a wash while away. I check the local weather ahead of time. I have a packing list which I keep on my phone, so I don't forget anything.

4. Seating. I usually travel Economy, unless the people who invite me cover a Business Class airfare, which is always nice, or I use my frequent flier points to upgrade. In Economy, I always try for an exit row, since I am so tall. For a long flight, I go for the window seat (it's easier to lean against the window when you want to sleep) and for a short flight, I like an aisle seat. Check out which is an excellent site that rates every seat on every plane.

5. Travel Documents. I have a special wallet for travel that holds my passport, tickets, cash (I exchange some Aussie money for foreign cash ahead of time), boarding passes, credit cards and frequent flier cards.

6. Check in. I always check in online so I can choose my seats and print my boarding pass ahead of time. Most airlines allow you to do this within 24 hours of flying. This saves a lot of time at the airport. 

7. Sleeping. If I want to sleep, I use some eye covers and earplugs and take a sleeping pill (I use Restavit, which you can purchase at your local Chemist). I try not to eat or drink too much before hand, so I don't have to get up and use the toilet.

8. While Flying. I always take reading material - newspapers, magazines and some books, with my Kindle for iPad fully loaded. I sometimes listen to music too or watch a movie. Before flying, I ensure all of my devices are fully charged and synced.

On a long flight, I get up and walk around frequently and stretch my legs out while seated. I also take an aspirin the day before flying to ensure adequate blood circulation. 

9. Food and drink. I eat relatively healthy all the time but especially when travelling. I avoid too many carbs and sugars. 

10. Time Zone changes. I try to immediately get into sync with the new time zone once I arrive. I go to bed in the new time zone, taking a sleeping pill the first 1-2 nights, just to help me get a good, long sleep. I do the same when I return home.

11. Electricity. I take a multi-country A/C adaptor with me plus an Australian power board, so I can charge my multiple devices simultaneously. 

12. Travel Apps. My iPhone has some excellent travel apps. My favourites are: World Clock, World Weather, FlightBoard, World Atlas and any kind of Travel Guide like Frommers.

13. Communications. While away, my primary communication back home is via email and Skype. I plan ahead and find free Wi-Fi spots.

Happy flying!

How's Your Cultural Intelligence?


The apostle Paul worked hard to relate to a wide variety of people. Have a read of this from his letter to the church at Corinth in the first century:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose–living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized––whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ––but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God–saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it. Message Bible

As followers of Christ, we are to the same. This means learning to relate to people of different personalities, background, educational level, religious belief, age, gender and race. When it comes to race and nationality, we now live in a truly 'global village'. Yet people living in different localities still have their unique manners and customs.

Over the last month, for the purpose of both holidays and ministry, I have had the privilege of travelling to Russia (St Petersburg and Moscow), Sweden (Uppsala), Poland, Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi). What a whirlwind it has been yet what an enjoyable experience visiting different places and meeting different people.

Cultural differences include (noted by David Livermore):

  • Individualistic versus Collectivist.
  • Low verses High Power Distance.
  • Cooperative verses Competitive.
  • Punctuality verses Relationships.
  • Direct verses Indirect.
  • Being verses Doing. 
  • Particularist verses Universalist.
  • Neutral verses Affective.
  • Tight verses Loose.

These differences can be seen across a wide range of cultures, including Anglo, Germanic, Easter European, Asian (with many differences between regions), Latin American, African, and Arab ... just to name a few.

A simple example is my recent experience with Indigenous Australians. When two men from Western descent greet each other, after exchanging names, their next question is always something like, "So what do you do?" We derive our primary identity from our work - our doing. In contrast, when two indigenous men meet, after exchanging names, their next question is more likely to be "Who's your mob?" In other words, tell me about your family. In their culture, your family and tribe are the source of your identity - your being. What a difference this makes in how people from these two different go about their daily lives!

Not everyone will travel, like I have had the opportunity to do, but people from different cultures are everywhere around us - in our neighbourhoods, our schools, our workplaces and our churches. Everyone of us should seek to understand people who are different, so we can better love and appreciate them, do life together with them with appreciation, and share the love of Jesus with them in meaningful ways.

Every time I travel to a new place, I do a few things to prepare myself:

1. Read as much as I can about the history, demographics, and local culture. Wikipedia as well as various travel guides are a good source of up-to-date information.

2. Learn about the people - their values, language, interests, education and well-being.

3. Study various maps to understand the geographical area and it proximity to other places.

4. Read about the state of Christian faith in a particular area, as well as the other local religious beliefs. Operation World is an excellent resource for this.

I am always enriched the more I know and understand about the people I am visiting and connecting with. 

Here's some recommended further reading for those who are interested in learning more:



I admire the many Christian mission workers around the world. Many of them work in some of the poorest, least evangelised and most persecuted countries in the world. 

Personally, I believe everyone should have a passport. We encourage everyone in our church to go on a short-term team to another nation sometime in their life time. It opens your eyes, enriches your faith, and makes you grateful for all we have been blessed with. Ever heard of 'first world problems'??

Here are a few quotes about travel that I love:

  • “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine
  • “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley
  • “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou
  • “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” Andrew Zimmern
  • "Go into all the world and preach the gospel." Jesus
  • "You will be my witnesses ... even to the ends of the earth." Jesus

Once you start to pack your bags, here are 13 travel tips.

Up up and away ...

Unknown-8 Ever since I was kid, I have loved to travel. I remember as a 9 year old taking my first flight from Australia to America with my parents. I remember the feeling of looking down from the airplane and seeing the city looking smaller and smaller - like a model of tiny roads, cars and buildings. Rising above the clouds was also a surreal feeling. They looked like a sea of cotton wool. I've been travelling regularly ever since.

A certain amount of travel is good for a church leader. It lifts you out of your context and helps you see what God is doing in other places and cultures. There is so much to learn from seeing things in a different way and from a different perspective. It is also a great honour to be able to serve and input to others. Of course, there is a danger in travelling too much where too much pressure is created for the local leadership team because the senior leader is away so much. Outside ministry can become a distraction if you allow it too.

For many years now I have limited my travel (other than family holidays) to five weekends a year. That is because my priority is leading and ministering in our local church where I am the senior minister. I also endeavour to choose strategic invitations where my time is well invested. This usually includes at least one mission trip a year.

Last year I visited the USA, Sweden, Singapore and Indonesia. This year I have been to Singapore, Moscow, and I have a trip to Africa coming up. Next year, I already have plans to visit Korea and the USA. Over a few decades of ministry now, I have been able to visit and minister in many other nations too, including China, Czech, England, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand and Uganda.

It's a big world out there and God is at work in every place. We can't all go (although we should at least consider it!), but we can pray and get behind mission ministry in our local churches. Together we really can impact nations for the kingdom of God.


Masada Another place we visited on our tour of Israel earlier this year was Masada. It is a stunning section of isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea.The cliffs on the steepest side are over 400 metres high. However, the top of the site is easily reached today via a cable car (although you can hike up the Snake Path, if you are keen).

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Herod the Great built a refuge for himself here (between 37-31 BC) in the event of a revolt. After the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, a number of families from a Jewish sect fled here. It became the site of an infamous siege in AD 72 with the Roman governor surrounding the refuge for 2-3 months. During this time, the Romans built a rampart that eventually enabled a battering ram to break through the outer wall of the fortress. 

When they entered the fortress the Romans discovered, to their surprise, that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide rather than face certain capture, defeat, slavery or execution by their enemies. The story of the siege was communicated to Josephus by two women who survived.

The fortress is now a World Heritage Site. In 2007, a museum was opened on location with a theater that tells the story of the siege. It is quite moving and is a motivation for Jewish nationalism still today. 

Slavery or death - what would you choose?

The Dead Sea

Dead Sea During our tour of Israel earlier this year, we visited the Dead Sea. It is an amazing body of water. It is 67 x 18 kilometres in size at it widest points, and it is over 400 metres below sea level. The reason it is called 'dead' is because there is inflow but no outflow. As a result, there is no life in this sea - no fish and no plants (except bacteria). What an interesting metaphor for our lives. We all need infloJosiah - Dead Seaw - God's life flowing into us day by day - but also need outflow - giving, serving and helping others. When we don't have this balance in our lives, we become stagnant and, as it where, 'dead' on this inside, bringing no life to others.


The Dead Sea is comprised of one third salt (maybe a little left over the from the judgment of Sodom nearby back in Abraham's time?).  That's a lot of salt (8.6 times more salty than the average sea). As a result, you can virtually float on the top of the water with little or no effort. What is fun, is to cover yourself with some black mud from the shore area (full of minerals), then soak in the water util it all washes off. it is quite an experience.


To the right is a picture of our oldest son, Josiah - with mud all over ... about to go for a Dead Sea float!

Reflections on Israel

Israel I have just spent ten days touring the land of Israel - my first trip. It was a very enjoyable and insightful time. We based in Jerusalem for half the time, visiting many sites around the city and also venturing out to visit Masada, En Gedi, the Valley of Elah (where David fought Goliath) and Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered). The rest of the time we stayed in Tiberius right on the Sea of Galilee. From there we visited Capernaum, Nazareth (loved the Nazareth Village display), Cana, Mt Carmel (where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal) and Ceaserea. We also visited ancient Joppa where Jonah boarded a ship headed away from God's call and where Peter had a vision about God's call for him to reach the Gentiles.

I saw a quote on a tour guide book while in Israel: "Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and one you will find in the land they call holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you." I think there is a lot of truth to that statement.

In many ways, visiting Israel turns your Bible from black and white into colour. The cultural and geographical contexts comes alive. Suddenly you know what it feels like  to "go up to Jerusalem" which is high up in the mountains and to "go down to Jericho" which is down by the Dead Sea, many hundred of metres below sea level.

Of course, there is a lot of religiosity too. There are two supposed sites where Jesus was transfigured. In Cana there are two different churches each claiming to have the jars that Jesus used to turn water into wine. There are two different locations where he was supposed to have been crucified and then buried. No one knows for certain. After all, there were many hundreds of years after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 before Jews or Christians came back into the city and started to re-trace some of these locations. In fact, it was Emperor Constantine's mother, after his supposed conversion to Christianity in the 4th century, who officially tried to establish some of these holy sites In Jerusalem. Since that time, thousands of people have come to the holy land on some sort of pilgrimage - out of interest or looking for an extra blessing. We saw people kissing stones and relics, buying crosses and making sure that they touched various so-called holy places. Superstition is alive and well in Israel.

One thing we know for sure is that we as believers in Jesus are now his temple, his dwelling place. God is now at work in all the world and every place where he is at work is sacred. Visiting Israel can enhance our understanding of the biblical world and what God did in past times ... but we don't worship the past. We appreciate it, we learn from it ... and we move on ... seeking to live each moment with an awareness of God and what he is doing .. right here ... right now ... wherever we are.