Researchers speculate that the surge in spiritual tourism involves several factors, ranging from our skewed work-life balance to the current global popularity of Pope Francis.
Bestselling books like Eat, Pray, Love and Wild can make spiritual tourism seem like a relatively new phenomenon, but as author Lori Erickson points out, “People have been making treks to holy sites for millennia — in fact, these types of locations are probably the oldest form of tourism.”
The stereotype of the seeker-traveler is the unencumbered college student who’s trying to “find himself.” But people of all ages and all walks of life seek meaningful experiences for many reasons: a longing to reconnect to the Big Questions in life, as a response to dramatic life changes (grief, loss, milestone celebrations, overcoming adversity), or simply out of genuine curiosity and devotion.
Whatever the varied motivations, over 300 million people will visit the major religious sites this year, and a quarter of all Americans say they’d like to plan a faith-centered trip. Even if you don’t consider yourself a religious person, there are many ways to approach this type of travel, depending on what you’re interested in. Here are four ways to consider planning your spirit-nourishing trip.
Person-centered journeys. While this type of trip might be more common for people who practice a specific religion, it can also be centered around people you’ve deeply admired, are curious about, or who’ve had a profound impact on your life. It’s a wonderful way to connect with the history and cultural context of people in religious history, and to connect with the real stories of spiritual figures. Examples: Visiting places of significance to Jesus, the Buddha, Rumi, Mother Theresa, or St. Francis. Or picking a theme, like your favorite women in religious history, or the hometowns of your favorite saints. Where: The Holy Land, Ethiopia, India, Turkey, Italy.
Location-centered journeys. There are certain places that in and of themselves are thought to be spiritual. This can be connected to their histories — specific events, certain people or groups of people that lived there — but it also can be the surrounding landscape or the breathtaking architecture in that location. Sometimes places are considered spiritually “charged” because of the presence of certain magnetic or energetic fields in the area (this is common in deserts). Examples: a holy temple, synagogue, mosque, or chapel; energetic vortexes in deserts; mountaintop monasteries. Where: Rishikesh, India; Sedona, AZ; Angkor Wat, Cambodia; Mt. Shasta, CA; The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey; Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (Ayers Rock), Australia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Activity-centered journeys. Maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for several years and want to learn more in an intensive course. Maybe you’re looking to deepen your meditative practice. Maybe you’re searching for ways to give back, to have your travel also be an act of service to others. There are many places that offer a wide variety of ways to nourish your spirit by engaging in activities that are meaningful to you and to others. You can even be a monk for a month (link name to this ==> http://monkforamonth.com/) — a cultural and spiritual immersion program in Nepal, Cambodia, or India — if that’s something you’re interested in trying. Examples: Yoga intensives; silent retreats; voluntourism with a reputable organization; writing, art, or music retreats. Where: yoga centers around the globe; Taize in Burgundy, France; Nepal; Thailand; Cambodia; South Korea; India; meditation centers in the US and globally; anywhere where trusted organizations operate and organize volunteer opportunities.
The-journey-is-the-destination journeys. The poet Gary Snyder said, “Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind.” Perhaps there’s no better evidence for this than the ancient tradition of taking a walking pilgrimage. Sometimes silent and often lasting for days or even weeks, these journeys provide the unique opportunity to still the mind and spirit, to be in nature, to take a much-needed break from screen time, to challenge the body, and to experience the warm hospitality of strangers along the way. For the devout and non-religious alike (link name to this ==> https://www.worldtravelguide.net/features/feature/the-10-best-pilgrimages-for-modern-travellers/), pilgrimages often prove to be powerfully transformative undertakings. Where: El Camino de Santiago, Spain; Char Dham, India; Kumano Ancient Trail, Japan; Machu Pichu, Peru.
Given the frenetic and frantic pace of modern life — and how easy it is to feel disconnected from the things that matter most to us — a vacation that is truly a retreat might be the exact thing you need right now.
If you’re feeling the urge to reconnect with a part of yourself that’s essential and meaningful, but that sometimes gets lost in the busyness of daily living, I’d love to help you plan out your spirit-centered journey. Book a complementary adventure planning session with me!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought a trinket from a trip that you almost immediately forgot about. It’s a common experience!
It’s easy to breeze through the duty-free area on your way home and pick up a few (dozen) chocolate bars — and sometimes that is just the right thing to do. I’ve certainly done it myself, so no judgment there.
But if you love to dig around for souvenirs and gifts that have personal meaning and that reflect what was most meaningful to you about your trip, here are some fresh ideas to bring with on your next vacation.
Keep an eye out for things that don’t cost a thing. If the idea of the souvenir is that is connected to and will spark a pleasant memory, those objects often come just in our everyday interactions on a trip. Complimentary items on planes and in hotels, for example, might remind you of great service or the incredible view from your balcony. Ticket stubs, programs, interesting city maps — all these things can remind you of adventures, art, and beautiful days in a favorite city.
Look to nature. Of course bearing in mind specific laws regarding transporting plant material across borders — there are natural objects that can mean much more than anything purchased in a store. A flower petal or leaf pressed in a book, a beautiful unique pebble, a jar of sand or sea salt — these are simple things that can be incorporated into your décor at home that will make you smile every time you see them.
Boost your learning. If you’re buying for yourself or for someone else, consider something that will offer an inside view of the culture, language, history, music, or food of where you’ve visited.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Laura Palmer Peach of Kaufman Mercantile reminds readers that it’s okay to inquire at restaurants or bars or coffee shops if you can add the price of a dish to your bill. So if you’ve had a particularly wonderful experience somewhere, share that enthusiasm with the waiter and ask if they’d be okay with you buying something to take home. Imagine sipping your morning tea or coffee from the very same cup you sipped from in Paris. What could be better?
Something old, something new. One of the best adventures in a different place can be to scour antique shops for quirky treasures. If you have a reader in your life, a gorgeous old book might bring immense joy. Vintage postcards or photos can be a collector’s dream. Jewelry, scarves, cuff links, bags — these all give a glimpse into style and history and make a statement, and they don’t need to be fancy or expensive. Plus, you’ll have a great story to tell with every compliment you receive.
If you’re going for something new, consider a practical item — something you can use in your everyday life that will bring happy memories. Ms. Palmer suggests that an umbrella or a nice bag can be a great option. If you love to cook or bake, perhaps a cooking tool or recipe book would be just the thing. Even a small musical instrument can be a great gift for kids — a flute or shakers, for example.
Tell your own story. One cool thing about smart phones is that you have instant access to a world of creative sharing. Even if you don’t use your phone while you’re away, it can make a wonderful, portable, decent-quality camera — and when you return, those photos can be easily turned into souvenir books for yourself, family members, or friends. ChatBooks (link name to this ==> https://chatbooks.com/) is a free app that allows you to effortlessly create and customize photo books from Instagram, Facebook, or your regular photo library for as little as $8.
Whatever your tastes, there are tons of ways to approach the idea of a souvenir that ensure you’ll bring something back that will have personal meaning for you and that will spark many wonderful memories months and years after you’ve come home. And don’t forget the chocolate bars on your way out!
If you’re ready to start your own hunt for the perfect souvenir in the perfect getaway, book a complementary adventure planning session with me by clicking here.
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