golden gate bridge
Christian Travel

Tourists and Travel: The Missing Perspective

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“Be a traveler, not a tourist.” I feel this sentiment pretty resoundingly within the travel industry, especially in media. Popular travel spots, crowds, and tourists are generally met with annoyance and negativity. In the past I even found myself rolling my eyes at beautiful spots overrun by masses of excited people. But lately, instead of being annoyed at crowds, I try to see the beauty in so many people appreciating God’s creation. I think the travel industry is missing an important perspective on tourists. Seeing tourists the way God sees them is a major attitude change, and might even transform the way you travel.

Tourists & Travel

A hallmark of being a traveler instead of a tourist is learning from locals and allowing a place to teach you and mold you in new ways. It’s easy for me to “appreciate” the locals I have traveled to learn from, but as a Christian, it’s important for me to appreciate the tourists as well. It is easy for me to only see God in the “good” or experiential parts of travel. But He’s in the person standing next to me with a selfie stick too. That’s His masterpiece too.

I first recognized this when I was watching the sunset in Santorini. Oia is a beautiful Cycladic town that has become notoriously crowded with tourists. It was so crowded that strands of people created a new skyline along the cliffside. When I first saw this, my immediate reaction was annoyance. But then it struck me how incredible it was that all these people were getting to experience such a stunning sunset too. That sunset made me realize that touristy places create the perfect opportunity to check in with God and see the strangers surrounding you as part of God’s masterpiece too. Crowds may be a turnoff, but they can be beautiful in their own right if you take a step back and see all the unique ways God expressed himself through each person.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27
oia, santorini

Reframing the Narrative

Reframing our perspective on tourists starts by recognizing whose land this ultimately is. We are called to be stewards of this earth, but every place ultimately belongs to God. We are not entitled to a place just by being from there. Instead of defending “my” place, how can I use my knowledge as a local to help these new faces recognize God’s glory here? That may be as simple as recognizing tourists as image-bearers of God and treating them as such. Or it might look like advocating for policy so that a space can be sustainably visited long-term.

Read Next: Prayer for Travel Post-COVID19

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Psalm 24:1

Living near Yosemite, I get a “local” perspective when I see so many tourists visiting the National Park. As a Christian, I try to view tourists through the lens of Romans 1:20. There is something drawing them to Yosemite that they may not even understand. But I have this “behind-the-scenes” knowledge that those invisible attributes are the ultimate draw. The inexplicable beauty, the awe at seeing Yosemite Valley for the first time, they are coming to marvel at God. With this realization, I feel more appreciation for tourists and a responsibility to love them and learn from them just as I would any other element of travel.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

Romans 1:20
tunnel view yosemite

For more on my perspective, check out the podcast I did with the Christian Travelers’ Network. And for even more Christian travel resources check out my Instagram. If you ever have a question you can always DM me @cassiescompass or drop it in the comments below. What do you think, has your perspective on tourists changed?

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For Cassie, every destination deepens her love for God. Her mission is to inspire that same love in others. Hang around and find something to inspire your next adventure!


  • Marian Fink

    What a beautiful perspective! My favorite part of traveling is asking others “why they have journeyed to the destination?” You learn so much about each person’s own unique story and often more about the destination.

  • Cherryl

    I used to think of travel as more long term and back packer type of thing, while tourists were more short term visitors looking for an easy and predictable time – travellers ‘live’d in the country for a while rather than just holiday there and be taken care of with no risk attached.

    I’m not sure if this is entirely true though – a bit of a generalisation perhaps…plus I think people are starting to appreciate the concept of slow travel and that can be done during a short trip too – and offer a more enriching experience. 😊

    • Cassie

      Thank you for sharing that insight Cherryl. I agree, I shared the same view as you. Tourists were there for vacation and travelers for some higher purpose. But that is definitely changing, I think for the better!