have God, will travel: keeping faith while living abroad

Being away from what’s familiar can really throw you off kilter. Travel, as fun and exciting as it is, can quickly turn draining. This is especially true of our spiritual health and the struggle of keeping faith while living abroad.
Maybe you’ve established a routine for yourself to stay connected to God, or a church family at home helps keep you grounded. Traveling, whether it’s one week or fifty, fills us with external stimulation galore, but it might not necessarily refill your spirit.

Living abroad this past month, I’ve felt pretty distant from my faith. Despite American Samoan culture’s dependence upon Christianity, I still haven’t found my groove in how I’ll practice and express my faith here. However, keeping faith while living abroad is important to me. It’s a work in progress.
By addressing the discrepancy in keeping faith while living abroad, we can then make steps toward overcoming the challenges and pursuing God wherever we are in the world. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s more than possible! This is all a part of treating yourself well.

ask yourself, “where am I lacking?”

Keeping faith while living abroad sounds intimidating if you don’t take the time to evaluate and reflect. Change is inevitable, regardless of wanderlust. The only constant we have is God.
First identify what aspect of your spiritual life is lacking. What exactly has changed? Is there missing that I crave in my spiritual life? From there, you can adapt accordingly. It might not look exactly like what you’re used to, but isn’t that the point of living abroad?
Tackle one area or concern at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself when you’re already inundated with changing circumstances. The moment you start putting intention behind growing and adapting your spiritual life, you’ll soon notice God working with you to make things happen.

utilize your environment.

Wherever you are, there’s some kind of religious and/or spiritual community. That’s a human universal you can rely on. Now’s your opportunity to explore that community and grow in your own faith while living abroad.
That first step in American Samoa was going to church. On Sundays, everything shuts down and becomes still. Island-wide, the day is dedicated to rest, family, and God. Upon moving into my permanent house on a landlord’s property, my housemate and I joined the family at their church. Sure, the entire service was in Samoan, but the simple act of attending and immersing myself in that community got me in a better headspace.
Talk with local people. Do some research. What’s the predominate religion or denomination? Are there any spiritual sites to visit? Any special holidays or events taking place? Don’t discriminate based on names and labels. It’s refreshing to realize how interconnected all religions are.

make your faith portable.

Who says faith starts and end in one location? That’s a flat-out lie. The beauty of faith is that it’s always to you, wherever and whenever you need it. A healthy spiritual life is one that never stops. Keeping faith while living abroad, however, can complicate that.
Before even leaving for your trip, plan ahead for what you might need or use for your faith time. A holy book? A journal? Inspiring videos or podcasts? Whatever it is, have it tucked away or queued up so it’s there when you need it.
If you’re habitual when it comes to praying or meditating, do much as you can to “recreate” that setting you crave. Assume the same position, get somewhere quiet and comfortable, and take the same time you usually do. Once you’re in the moment, the rest of the details won’t matter. It’s just you and God.
As is the case with keeping faith while living abroad, be flexible. Use your knowledge and resources wisely. Luckily, technology has become a fantastic way to make spirituality portable. Get the Bible app, or any app for anything you need, and it probably exists. You aren’t alone in this craving for support beyond earthly means.

set time aside for God.

I think we feel guilty for not utilizing every moment of every day we’re abroad to go do some new adventurous activity. You didn’t travel all this way to sit idly, right? Get out there and do something.
What we then neglect is our overall well-being, our spiritual health included. We become anxious and flustered over “not living abroad correctly,” whatever that means, and deny ourselves what we truly need.
Just like at home, make time every day for God. Turn it into a routine that keeps you firm and stable. The morning and/or evening is usually best for this, but do whatever you prefer. When you do go out and try new things and see all the cool sights, reflect upon how God is involved in everything. His hand touches it all. There’s beauty, and suffering, but in it, there is purpose. This planet is full of people and nature that are innately good; it’s our job, as travelers and livers of life, to find that and cherish every morsel.
Inevitably, this post was very vague, but this too is for a purpose. Keeping faith while living abroad isn’t something I can specifically instruct you to do. Take these words and intentions, and give them to God for understanding. He will guide you in the right direction.
Your heart is aching for that spiritual touch. You wouldn’t be here otherwise. The human mind, in its spiraling thoughts and emotions, is the one tall obstacle that blocks the way. We try to take every sensation in, but without the spiritual foundation to reveal depth and awe, what’s the point? Maybe that’s enough for you, but you’re missing out on so much more.
Reach out to God and reach out to others, near and far. Again, this concern isn’t isolated or completely unheard of until now. You’re pulling all your energy into the thrill of travel, but what’s left to refill the empty vessel? One word: faith. If George Michael said you had to have it, then you know it’s true.
Trust me, this is still an area of wellness I’m seeking to balance. I’m finding my new “normal,” that routine I can stick to and know I’ll check all the boxes. Not every day will be perfect. I might go days without prayer or Scripture, but either way, it remains. The world spins and evolves, but that truth still stands. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27
What words of wisdom and encouragement do you have for keeping faith while living abroad? Have you too felt this struggle? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Take care, and (for sure) keep the faith. -Allie
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