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At the Movies: The Reluctant Traveler

The Reluctant Traveler (2023) © AppleTV+. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

“The great outdoors means different things to different people,” Eugene Levy says at the beginning of The Reluctant Traveler. “I’m more of the great indoors type of guy.”

Eugene Levy is my husband’s spirit animal.

Unfortunately for him, my husband married me, and my spirit animal is Jane Goodall.

This combination is just one of many reasons why we’re hooked on The Reluctant Traveler.

The Reluctant Traveler

The Reluctant Traveler on AppleTV+ is hosted by Eugene Levy and in its second season of wild and wonderful adventures around the globe. 

Indoor-Guy Levy is used to traveling, but his favorite sight to see on such expeditions is the hotel lobby, or perhaps, the view from his hotel room. Visiting remote locations and experiencing the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells beyond the resort just isn’t his style.

Until now.

Each episode drops Levy in a different location to explore the nooks and crannies of the world through a fully immersive itinerary wrapped around some of the most unique, posh, and tailored accommodations humanity has to offer. 

Levy has to suffer through dinner cooked over an open fire after ice fishing in Finland. In episode 2, Levy needs to sleep in the Costa Rican jungle canopy. Later, he’s required to ride with a gondolier through Venetian canals after staying in the historic Gritti Palace.

Poor guy.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

All this nature and reluctance made me think of poor Jonah, who had to go to Nineveh and tell people about God’s mercy.

Based on the episodes we’ve watched so far, I think Levy would have rather been swallowed by a huge fish on his way to Tarshish with Jonah than have to cross a suspension bridge in Costa Rica, or ride in a helicopter over the Utah desert, or take a dip in a frozen Finland lake.

There are a lot of things in life we’d rather avoid, especially if our nerves have anything to say about it. 

But traveling—and listening to the Lord—takes risks, which both Jonah and Eugene reluctantly embrace.

The heart of Levy’s hesitancy is fear. What if I’m uncomfortable? What if it doesn’t turn out the way I think it should? What if it turns out exactly the way I think it could? What if I don’t sleep well, or the food makes me sick, or the plane crashes, or the bridge collapses, or the snake decides to slither into my jungle canopy and bite me in the middle of the night?

What if, what if, what if? 

Jonah’s biggest fear came true: when he went to speak to the Ninevites, they did exactly what he thought they would, they repented. God spared them.

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live

Jonah 4:1-3 NIV

Jonah was so mad that the Lord didn’t rain down wrath on the deserving Ninevites that he went on a hillside and pouted, waiting to see if God’s swift justice would come through and pummel the city.

But that isn’t what happened. Instead, God made a plant grow up around Jonah to give him shelter from the sun. The next day, God sent a worm to chew the plant so that it would die. Shock of all shocks, Jonah gets upset about this.

“I’m so angry I wish I were dead,” Jonah said to God (v. 9), this time about the plant. The plant!

Nothing goes Jonah’s way, and the whole book ends without any resolution, just a word from the Lord that he cares for the 120,000 people of Nineveh in the same way that Jonah cared about the status of his miraculous growing and withering shrub.

God cares more about restoring relationships than he does about judgment. He cares about his creation, his whole creation, even the leafy plant, even the worm. He cares about the heathen city of Nineveh. He desires mercy over sacrifice. He proclaims, over and over, that love trumps fear.

Which is ultimately where Eugene Levy lands—taking the lesson of Jonah to heart and turning, instead, towards the better way.

As Levy conquers his fears and pushes beyond the anxiety and nervousness he has about all the ways this new experience could go wrong, he discovers the wonders of the natural world and reminders of what matters most. 

A gift awaits us when we open our hearts and minds to strangers: friendships form. Relationships are born. And there in the bonds that form between two people is God.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them

Matthew 18:20 NIV

Levy learns that taking this journey is less about ticking off a list of must-see destinations and really about “Nature, family, and the friends that I make.”

Jonah could learn a thing or two from Eugene Levy.

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