I have spent a good portion of my adult life traveling internationally. As summer approaches, many church groups and individuals are hard at work raising money, applying for passports and getting travel visas as they prepare to serve overseas.
Getting everything together is not easy, I know; I have led thousands of students to the four corners of the world. And I have made more mistakes and bloopers on these journeys than most of you have ever considered.
In other words, I have learned a thing or two about international travel that might benefit those who are preparing for a mission trip, and I thought I would share some of them with you. I can guarantee you won’t find these thoughts anywhere but here. Here are “Walker Moore’s Top 12 Plus 2 International Travel Tips.”
1) Do not eat a fiber bar or drink a Big Gulp carbonated beverage before leaving on a 10-hour flight, especially if turbulence is predicted.
2) If you can, avoid the aisle seat next to the airplane restroom—unless you are homesick for the family farm.
3) Please do not try to open the windows after the plane takes off.
4) Don’t tie a yellow or orange piece of yarn around the handle of your suitcase. You may not realize it, but 300 other passengers on your flight did the same thing.
5) If you drool when you sleep, bring along a dry washcloth. On my last flight, the guy next to me used one to get all the drool off his shirt after he woke up. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was the one who drooled on him.
6) No matter how high your hotel is rated, always subtract two stars. Residents of a third-world country would rate Motel 6 as a five-star establishment.
7) Always check to see if your hotel is hosting some type of event during your stay. You might find yourself in the middle of a yodeling or ukulele convention.
8) Calling 911 in a foreign country will only get you room service.
9) If your mission work takes you to a remote place, and you find yourself sleeping in a hammock, make sure you know which is the “enter” and which is the “exit” side. Get them mixed up, and you will find yourself on the ground in a hurry (I learned this tip from Marti Pieper).
10) Always carry your own toilet paper unless the outhouse is a two-holer, in which case you might be able to borrow some.
11) As you enter a country, don’t try to high-five customs agents who are carrying weapons.
12) In an international location, there is no such thing as a soundproof wall. You will hear every cricket chirping and rooster crowing outside, but those don’t compare to Grandma, snoring at the other end of the building.
13) Every souvenir shop in the world buys its merchandise from the same store in China, TrinketsRUs. The best souvenirs are the friendships and the memories.
14) When everything goes wrong, and it will, pray. I hereby grant permission to use my favorite prayer: “Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
If you’re preparing to leave on an international mission trip, let me remind you: Nothing looks like what you’ve seen in the brochure. Mission work is difficult, and many challenges lie ahead. If you don’t believe me, look what happened to the group who used the Apostle Paul Travel Agency:
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Cor. 11:24-27).
Doing real mission work involves embracing the difficulties, the differences and the disappointments. Enduring jet lag, travel sickness, language difficulties, rough roads and customs just to tell one person about Christ—is it worth it? You had better believe it.
I could give you many more tips about traveling and living internationally, but the best tip is to make sure you are prayed up, your pride is in check and your heart is right before God. He will take you and make you a light on a hill so others can see His glory.