In my previous post, I offered some suggestions for how to prepare for a Holy Land Tour. After all, you’re investing a lot of money and significant time for this journey. It makes sense to prepare yourself beforehand so that you get the most from your experience in Israel.
But after you arrive in Israel, there are a number of ways you can ensure you get the most from your Holy Land tour.
The following 8 tips include both practical and spiritual ways to maximize your experience every single day you’re there.
1. Take Pictures of People, not Just Places
Going to Israel is about places, to be sure. After all, there’s nothing like learning the Word of God right where it happened. But the trip is more than places.
Get people pictures. Each time the motor coach stops, you’ll be tempted simply to snap pictures of the places you see. That’s fine, but you can buy those kinds of pictures (and they’ll be much better than those you’ll take). What kind of pictures can’t you buy? Pictures of YOU in the Holy Land. Ask someone to take pictures of YOU and of those traveling with you. People also give scale to pictures.
Create a system to label your photos. You think you’ll remember the place names and stops, but you won’t. You will take hundreds of pictures. I suggest you read two great posts by Mark Hoffman about how to take pictures in the Holy Land. Great advice.
GeoTag your photos. If you bus has Wi-Fi, and you have a Smart Phone, be sure to make your last picture at each site one you snap on the bus—connected to Wi-Fi. That way your final photo GeoTags the site. On the go, you can use the Google Maps app to find your location. I love doing this. (Just make sure you’re only accessing the Web via Wi-Fi and not over an expensive overseas network.)
Enjoy the folks you meet. Some of my family’s dearest friends are those we have met on tours and stayed in contact with through the years. We’ve even stayed in each other’s homes. You will meet people on your tour who may end up being friends for life. Stay open to that. God may have more for you in Israel than pictures and places.
(Photo: My friend Todd and me at Tel Megiddo)
2. Take Pictures with Your Heart
I’ve gone on tours with pilgrims who saw the whole tour through their lens. One guy I think literally videoed the WHOLE experience.
Yes, take pictures. But not just with your camera.
Be sure to stop and drink in the wonder. On your tour, time is always measured, of course. But your guide and Bible teacher should leave some time after their teaching/devotional for you to take a deep breath and ponder the significance of the place.
When you stay at the Sea of Galilee, get up before everyone else and watch the sunrise over the Golan Heights.
In Jerusalem, keep in mind you’re in the city where the universe was redeemed. Where YOU were redeemed. Be sure you remember to stand for a few full minutes of silence and just gaze on the panorama of the city. Drink it in with your heart. Pray with your eyes wide open.
Make it happen if it’s not scheduled. If for some reason, you find you’re not getting time at these stops to drink it in, try this. Ask your tour leader if he or she minds if at the next stop or two you walk off by yourself during the teaching time (but don’t wander too far). Taking pictures with the heart is an essential part of your Holy Land tour.
(Photo: Sea of Galilee sunrise)
3. Remember, You’re More than a Tourist (You’re a Christian)
Remember you’re still a Christian, even though you’ve paid a lot to be there. Go with the expectation to receive a wonderful experience, yes—but don’t go with a spirit of entitlement. Remember:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. —Galatians 5:22–25
These are God’s expectations of you—even in the Holy Land.
Think of each of these qualities in connection with being a good traveler—especially patience and kindness.
Determine each day that you will be an encourager, not a complainer. (Remember what happened to those who grumbled in the wilderness wanderings? See Numbers 14:27 and 1 Peter 4:9.)
You’re a Christian, not just a tourist—that is true. Your compassion naturally will go out to your Israeli guide and bus driver, if they are unbelievers.
Stay sensitive. You may know ahead of time who your Israeli guide and bus driver are. Sometimes you do; sometimes you don’t. Obviously, they will be polite and listen to you (think: tips). But don’t take advantage of their good nature. I’m not saying don’t share the gospel with them. (In fact, Cathy and I had the privilege to lead our bus driver to Christ one time.)
Surprise them by modeling Christianity. Realize they have probably heard the gospel many times from many tourists. What they likely haven’t experienced is genuine Christianity: servanthood, love, kindness, patience, etc. One guide I have worked with came to Christ because of the LOVE he experienced from pilgrims.
Be strategic.Show them the gospel before you ever speak it. Remember, you’re more than a tourist—you’re a Christian.
5. Determine to Keep Up (and Stay Hydrated)
The sun doesn’t stand still over Gibeon any longer. When a group moves slowly, and time runs out, you have to start dropping sites from the itinerary.
Every tour has stragglers. I’ve seen two types.
Some lag behind because they’re physically unable to climb stairs, walk briskly, or navigate uneven terrain. If that’s you, it would be a good idea to connect with your leader at the beginning of your Holy Land tour and ask what sites are physically demanding. For those places, it would be courteous of you to remain with the bus.
Other people straggle because it’s a personality trait or they’re simply self-absorbed. They simply don’t realize keeping up boils down to common courtesy.
The tour can only move as fast as its slowest person. Don’t be that person.
(Photo: Our pilgrims at Masada)
Also, in a land where water is life, you will need to drink a lot. It will keep you healthy and give you energy. Get your body used to being hydrated before the trip.
On the tour each day, carry a fistful of dollars on the bus and make it a habit to buy water from your driver every time you get on and off the bus. He will keep his refrigerator stocked full. To me, this is more convenient than carrying a water bottle, though some prefer to do that.
Israel is very tourist-savvy and restrooms are at (most) every stop. You’ll have more energy and stay healthier if you drink lots of water.
You will glean many spiritual insights from your Holy Land tour—more than you can imagine beforehand. You will process it better if you’ll journal daily.
Every single day.
Carry your journal with you. Many people carry a notepad with them for the day and jot down thoughts at each site. This is a great idea. Include the date.
What to journal? Write your expectations, surprises, lessons, and disappointments. Write what God is teaching you. Write your prayers down. Don’t write to be read by others. Write for you.
Make journaling part of your routine. Like brushing your teeth. You could do it first thing in the morning, or perhaps, each night before you turn out the light. I did this on one of my first trips to the Holy Land, and it proved very beneficial.
If you determine you will prepare ahead of time for your Holy Land tour—and also apply these 8 tips while you’re there—you will maximize your experience.
You are in for a tremendous journey. You will never be the same!
Bonus: After your trip be sure and follow this advice so that you don’t lose what you’ve invested in.
Tell me what you think: What other tips would you suggest to maximize a Holy Land tour? To leave a comment, just click here.
Come to the Holy Land with me! After your journey to Israel, you will never be the same!