Monday, August 18, 2008

Tourist or Traveler?

A tourist, IMHO, is one who is on tour, who gets off the tour bus, goes and sees the sights listed in the guide book, gets back on the tour bus (or cruise ship as the case may be), talks with other people who look like him/her, gets off again and sees the sights. A traveler is one who goes to the country, reads the guide book, explores, talks to the locals (as best one can without knowing the language), reads the local paper, tries to get a feel for what the country is like. A real traveler would know the language, or at least a smattering, stay for a while, try to make friends, visit the local coffee shops or pubs, try to engage people. A traveler is changed in some way by the experience: new understandings of the country or self.

What I think was dissatisfying to me about the trip to Mongolia was that I was more tourist and almost not a traveler (not that I am ever fully traveler).

I wonder thought about my congregation. How many are tourists and how many are travelers? How many come to church and go home unchanged? How many come because this is what they learned to do 75 years ago? How many come expecting to engage in some way with the Holy? How many come expecting in some way to be changed by the experience?