Hey Buddy, Watch Where You Are Going!

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.  –  GK Chesterton

You can’t travel any distance on the road without stopping for gas, a bathroom, snacks, or all three. You just can’t. Don’t even try it.
When you finally give in and pull over: beware. There is a tourist trap waiting. A tourist trap is the kind of place that draws you in under the assumption that you will be given or provided something of need (or want.) What really happens is that the trap actually takes more from you than it ever gives back. You enter as a tourist in search of something to help continue the journey. You depart from the trap feeling like you were shaken down and wondering why you stopped at THAT place to begin with.

tourist trap

Every highway, in every county, in every state has them. You have seen them and their fancy advertising to lure you in. Your pockets are still empty from the last time you stopped in. Mine are, too.

Buc-ee’s Fun Store is a tourist trap promoting their cheap gas and clean restrooms so that you stop and buy their overpriced beef jerky and obnoxious t-shirts. (How else could they afford to pay twice the minimum wage for a cashier?) Disney turns from family fun to tourist trap when they route you through the gift shop after a ride that has everyone screaming “let’s do it again!” (How else could they afford to buy ABC, ESPN and anything else they want?) Starbucks is a tourist trap by advertising coffee and profiting from our music and food purchases. (How else could they afford to pay for college for employees?) And we love all of them enough to keep going back and empty our resources for an experience, an association, a memory.


Tourist traps like these and others are literal. They are real and the smart adult should be aware of their tricks, even if you willingly participate over and over. Tourist traps are also figurative, but just as dangerous and might even be more damaging because we don’t even see what is going on. We stop in a life tourist trap hoping to get a little rest and/or some fuel and find that we leave baffled, bankrupt, beaten down and brokenhearted. It would be helpful if someone could/would stand by on our life journey with a sign warning us “Don’t stop – Keep going -Danger on this exit” because we are too easily trapped by cultural norms that derail us from the best and easiest route.

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…
Pursue cash for work over our calling in life. Of course everybody else seems to be chasing the bigger check, but happiness is not found by making the most money. Our value to society is not our bank statement or balance sheet. Warning SIGN: Don’t trade your self worth for an increase in your net worth!

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…

Choose competence over character. What we can do is not equal to or higher than who we really are. Honesty, goodness, being genuine, reliability are all worth more than expertise in math, science, technology, even theology. Be careful not to spend your whole life becoming something that boosts your reputation or hire-ability while wasting away at the center of your soul. Warning Sign: Don’t do all you can do. Be all you can be!

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…

Mistake fellowship for friendship. We can have many associations that entertain and not have one real friend in life. Fellowship is for the party. Friendship is for when the party is over. We need friends who accept us as we are, encourage us when we are down, and speak truth into our lives when we are self-deceived. Fellowship avoids anything that is uncomfortable or awkward. Healthy relationships in life bring healing and help to us in the darkest parts of our lives while producing joy and laughter when the sunny side is up. Warning Sign: Don’t be fooled into thinking you can do life alone. Be a friend and make a friend!

We are caught in a tourist trap when we…

Follow the crowd instead of the small voice inside. Americans like crowds. It is why big schools, big restaurants, big churches are thriving these days while smaller ones shrink more every year. We like crowds because they give us confidence that we are going the right way or doing the right thing. If everybody else is doing it, then it must be right, right? Um…not usually. Crowds while popular are not filled with courageous thoughts, noble purposes, or pure intentions. It is usually the loner who acts and lives with courage, nobility, and purity. The small voice inside will tell us not to follow the crowd, but we aren’t good at listening. The small voice inside will serve as the affirmation we need to stand alone, but we aren’t asking. Listening to that small voice and acting independently of social or cultural influence may cost us something in the short run, but in the long run will almost always prove to be the best of our decisions. Warning Sign: Don’t follow the path that others are making. Find the path that was made for you.

There are many more tourist traps out there. Some are obvious and others are subtle. They are all dangerous and will empty us of what is rightfully ours. You will find tourist traps in your family, your church, your government, your circle of friends. Be careful. They intend to profit from your slumber.
When you discover that you are in a trap, don’t panic and don’t give up. Walk away. Drive away, if possible, but get out as quickly as you can. Perhaps you can’t get out of the trap alone. You might need a friend to help. You might even discover that only God can help you break out of the trap you are living in. He will. Ask Him. Then move quickly in the direction He shows you. It is the best way out of the trap and into a life that is full of faith, hope and love.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6


Reflect on this…
1 – Are you chasing a paycheck or chasing a dream for your life to have meaning and be meaningful to others?
2 – How much time and resources have you invested in the “person of you” compared to time/resources you have dropped on the “professional you”?
3 – Who are your real friends and how are you a real friend to them?
4 – When was the last time you listened to what your body, mind, soul was saying to you? What were they saying?


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