Passing through this foreign country called life

Thoughts from a long term tourist (1)

photo by Wes Loh

At the Musee Carnavelet in Paris, 2007

Jack and I had just finished our third week in Paris. We’d unpacked, settled into our apartment, walked, worked, rested and made fools of ourselves attempting to speak the language. Generally speaking, it was going well. But being a sort of long-term tourist in Paris raised some thoughts in my mind.

I hate looking like a tourist. You can spot them a mile away, guidebook in hand, a dazed or an awed look on their face, standing on the corner consulting a map of the city. Living in a tourist city like San Francisco has heightened my awareness of how touristy tourists look. And how annoying they are, with their slow driving and their gawking at sights familiar to us locals. I hate looking like a tourist so much so that I’ve even sort of lied. Not really, but sort of. Jack and I walk around Paris with our dog, Molly. (Only locals would have a dog out for a walk, right?) And when people stop to pet her or comment on her looks, I quietly smile and nod. I don’t say a word, because if I do, they’ll know I’m not a Parisienne. I let them believe I’m French. On purpose. See what I mean about hating to look like a tourist. It causes me to almost lie.

That’s what got me thinking. At church we speak of living in the reality of the Kingdom of God, that our citizenship is in heaven and this world is not our home. So in effect, we are all tourists. Passing through this foreign country called life and taking in as many sights and experiences as we can.

So is there something we can learn about living this exiled life of the Kingdom from these “annoying” tourists? I believe so.

One thing is that tourists, even long-term ones, are just that – tourists. They are only visiting; they do not intend to stay. They know their home is elsewhere and that when the vacation is over; they will head home, richer in experience and often with a greater appreciation for their homeland.

Oh, for the ability to keep that perspective as we walk through our daily life. We are here on earth for just a little time, and soon, we will be going home. Until then, we are tourists. The scriptures are our guidebook, Jesus is our tour guide, (he knows the best places to go and the places we should definitely avoid), and hopefully, we will stand out in a crowd of “locals” as different, foreign and other.

With you on the journey,


Written while living as an expat in Paris, 2005

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