Sabbatical Notes from Pastor Stephen: Travel Groups

I’m always a little worried when I do a group travel experience. What the group will be like? Will we get along? Will someone really annoy me? Will I really annoy everyone else? Will the group actually spoil the experience? I have these fears, but each time I’ve travelled with groups of strangers I come away from the experience with new friends. Every group I’ve been with has worked well together and actually added to my trip, not taken away from it.

I’ve been thinking about why that’s the case. Perhaps I have just been lucky. I’ve heard horror stories of bad groups and people on trips who just don’t get along very well. There is often perhaps one person you may clash with, but there are enough other people to balance that out. My mother has been on more trips than me, and has had similar experiences with her groups. She still connects with people from trips she went on long ago.

On this trip we had young couples, an adult family of four, and single people.  We had ages ranging from late twenties to early 70s. We had people from the US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and England.  We all had diverse jobs and travel experiences, but we really came together as a group and enjoyed each other. Having such a diverse group made the trip more enjoyable. It was fun to experience these once-in-a-lifetime things with strangers who have become friends.

Perhaps travel brings out the best in people. We all want a great trip and are full of excitement. But then again, travel can also be stressful. Maybe it’s because we are in a low stakes environment.  We aren’t competing for limited resources and our interactions won’t have long-term consequences. Maybe it’s because we feel free to disengage from the contentious political issues of the day; We aren’t paying attention to the latest election news and don’t feel the need to discuss it. Maybe we all feel less stressed, so we are our best selves when together. There are many possible reasons and factors, but it reminds me that we can live better together. It is possible.

In all likelihood I will never see any of these people again, but they will forever be part of one of the best experiences of my life. I’m glad each of them were a part of it. For a short while we were a community that cared for one another, helped one another, and celebrated with each other. It reminds me that we have more in common than we sometimes think. We have so many common goals and dreams and we often let a few issues, though important, divide us and keep us from community together.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I choose to believe that if we put some of the stress, competition, and contentious issues behind us then we could be a good and beautiful community with almost anyone.  I know we can’t live in a world where there is no stress, competition, or contentious issues, but perhaps when we believe and learn it is possible for us to be a loving community together we can do it despite and even with those challenges. Traveling with groups gives me that hope and experience. It’s not easy to replicate at home, but maybe that’s because we don’t try as hard as we could. We stay in our bubbles and assume the worst about each other. Maybe we just need a chance to be forced out of our bubbles with others for a while and experience the good and beautiful community diversity offers and affords.




District Six


Langa Township

Johannesburg and Soweto

Robben Island

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Hagia Sophia

Instanbul: Old City