Researchers speculate that the surge in spiritual awakening journeys involve several factors.
We see a lot of people searching for … something. Something intangible. This something can range from our challenging work-life balances to the current global popularity of Pope Francis.
Bestselling books like Eat, Pray, Love and Wild can make a spiritual awakening adventure 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 spiritual awakening seeker-traveler is the unencumbered college student who’s trying to “find himself.” But what about the rest of us?
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 motivation, over 300 million people will visit the major religious sites this year. Fully, one 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.
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, or feel a strong connection to, or who have 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 of this type of journey might include visiting places of significance to Jesus, the Buddha, Rumi, Mother Teresa, or St. Francis. This is one way a spiritual traveler may bring about the reconnection they seek. Or choosing a theme, like your favorite women in religious history, or the birthplaces of your favorite saints.
Where would you find these places? The Holy Land, Ethiopia, India, Turkey, Italy.
Location-centered journeys. There are quite a few places on this planet that are thought of as founts of spirituality. 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 as well as in the British Isles).
Examples of these types of locations would be holy temples, synagogues, mosques or chapels, or lonely isolated monasteries (we’re thinking Tibet). Certain energetic vortexes or even Lei lines, such as those found throughout the British Isles, are reasons many people visit locations like this.
Where would you find these places? Rishikesh, India; Sedona, AZ; Angkor Wat, Cambodia; Mt. Shasta, CA; The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey; Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (Ayers Rock), Austrália; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil or Machu Picchu in Peru.
Activity-centered journeys. Maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for several years and want to expand your spiritual and practical horizons as a Yogi. Perhaps you’re seeking 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 — a cultural and spiritual immersion program in Nepal, Cambodia, or India — if that’s something that calls to your soul.
Examples of these types of adventure journeys include Yoga intensives; silent retreats; voluntourism with a reputable organization; writing, art, or music retreats.
Where would you find these kinds of adventures? In yoga centers around the globe; Taizé 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.”
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, pilgrimages often prove to be powerfully transformative undertakings.
Where are the best places in the world to find a journey/destination? El Camino de Santiago, Spain; Char Dham, India; Kumano Ancient Trail, Japan; Machu Picchu, Peru.
Given the frenetic 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. You can contact me today by clicking here.