These days we take travel pretty much for granted.  Many of us don’t think twice about driving 20 or thirty miles to work every day as we travel in our climate controlled cars, sitting in comfortable seats, on good roads and with the knowledge help is readily available in the rare instances when something goes wrong.

When we get hungry, thirsty or need a place to sleep relief is usually no further away than the next exit. 

In Biblical times it was totally different.  For much of the time travel was done on foot paths, roads were rare.  Water could be hard to find, travelers had to depend on springs and other water sources that were often undependable, and they usually had to carry their own food.  If a traveler ran out of food or a spring was dry they went hungry or thirsty.

Much of the land travelers went through was wilderness, with wild animals including lions, bears and leopards, plus bandits, harsh weather and all of the other dangers traveling in the wilderness entails.

In the Middle East in the daytime it could get very hot, so travelers often traveled at night when it was cooler and navigated by the stars.

Roman Road

By the time of Jesus the Romans were in control and had extended their marvelous roads into the region.  Travel was easier, the roads were well made and maintained, and food and water was easier to find and more reliable.  But travel was still almost always on foot, although sometimes people rode donkeys, camels and horses.  There were also carts that could be pulled by draft animals, but as springs hadn’t been invented yet they would not have been very comfortable.  The very best of the Roman carts would have had suspensions consisting of leather straps supporting the body.  Better than nothing but the ride would still be very rough, especially over stone roads.

People in those days tended to keep to the left side of the road (as they do in Britain today), and for a good reason.  As you traveled you had no idea who you might run across, it might be someone looking to do you harm so you would want your sword or knife hand toward them. As most people are right handed that means keeping to the left.

Legend has it this changed during the time of Napoleon, as he was left handed he ordered his empire to start traveling on the right side of the road.  As we here in the US were not terribly friendly toward the United Kingdom at the time and in fact were allied with the French we adopted the French idea of driving on the right.

Depending on who you ask Jesus only traveled within a range of about forty miles during His time on Earth, and most people in those days traveled much less than that, and considering the conditions travelers had to cope with we can understand why.

So sometime when you are driving along sitting in a comfortable seat in your air conditioned car on a hot summer day stuck in traffic remember to count your blessings!

*First Published in the “Weekly Reminder”, of the First Reformed Church of Cary