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Embracing the Long Haul

Every decision I have made today has been with one goal in mind: Tonight, I want to fall asleep sitting up straight.

As I write this column, I’m waiting at a departure gate at New York’s Kennedy Airport. It’s about 8 p.m., and I’ve been traveling since early afternoon. Two flights down, and one more to go. But the last one is a doozy — a 10-hour flight, departing just after 10 p.m. and flying through the night. When the flight finally lands, I will have bypassed morning altogether and will step off the plane to mid-afternoon in Amman, Jordan.

Jordan belongs on every faith-based group’s travel wish list. Many of the most momentous events recorded in Scripture happened there, and archaeological efforts have unearthed and preserved many significant historic and biblical sites to an impressive degree. Just across the Jordan River from Israel, Jordan is easy to include on a Holy Land pilgrimage. I first visited the country back in 2006 and was impressed by both its history and hospitality.

Jordan and the other lands of the Bible are once-in-a-lifetime destinations for a lot of travelers. But many more won’t make it there even once. And the main thing holding them back is the same daunting proposition that I’m facing now: a long-haul, overnight flight to the other side of the world.

I won’t sugarcoat it — overseas flights are tough. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can afford high-price first-class tickets, you’re in for a long and restless night in a seat that quickly becomes uncomfortable. Your sleep is likely to be fitful at best, and there’s a good chance you won’t sleep much at all. When you arrive at your destination, jet lag will set upon you like a fog, and no matter what anybody tells you, there’s no magic cure.

So why am I willing to brave the discomfort, fatigue and airplane food for such a long time? Because I know that an amazing destination stands ready to greet me on the other side. And great things rarely come easily.

The older I get, the more I realize this truth: Everything wonderful in life comes at a cost, either to me or to someone else. The richest rewards in life are usually the fruit of the hardest work. Big returns start with big investments. The questions we must ask ourselves are whether we’re investing in the right things and what price we’re willing to pay.

There will be moments on this flight when I’ll wish I was anywhere else, namely, at home asleep in my own bed. Likewise, there will probably be times in your ministry or your travel planning when you wish you were doing something else. You might wish that someone else could shoulder the responsibility instead of you or that the job would be less work and more fun.

But here’s the thing: The only way I can experience Jordan is by getting on this plane and enduring the long flight. And the only way for you to experience the best of your ministry, church group or travel program is by digging in, putting on a smile and embracing the challenge.

The struggle is real, but the destination on the other side will not disappoint.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.