Updated: Jan 30, 2019
(Guest Blog Contributor: Mary McGilvray)
Why is Spiritual Travel Important?
In 2017, I left on a trip that changed the course of my life. I did not intend for it to be a “spiritual” one. The spirituality came through every moment while I traveled.
Many people have asked me why I did it, how I did it, and how it changed me. This blog post is to answer these questions and provide inspiration for others on their journey.
Note that I define spiritual travel as any journey that causes us to look at ourselves. This could be a meditation retreat, yoga training, religious pilgrimage, climbing a mountain, or any trip that takes us outside of our comfort zone.
The Importance of Spiritual Travel
Spiritual travel reveals who we truly are beyond labels, occupation, and socioeconomic status.
When we travel, the words that define us at home fade away. You wear the costume of a lawyer, a mother, or a teacher day after day at home. Travel allows these home identities to drop away in favor of our authentic disposition and personality.
Without the weight of labels holding us back, we see ourselves in a new light, as who we are and have always been. This helps us look beyond the endless separations between self and other. We begin to draw similarities between ourselves and others rather than differences.
Spiritual Travel is a Teacher
The deepest lessons I learned while traveling happened in the smallest, softest moments from unexpected places – not when I was on a 10-day silent meditation retreat or six weeks in to 11 hours a day of yoga practice.
Instead, it was the shopkeeper who told me that acceptance was how he found happiness and the cab driver who walked me in to the doctor’s office like I was his own daughter.
A reimagining of identity happens naturally when we travel, whether we kickstart it with active spiritual practice or not. That’s the beauty of it. Simply traveling is a spiritual journey unto itself.
Spiritual Trip Ideas
This list of trip ideas encompasses both my personal experience and that of others I’ve met while traveling. Overall, it doesn’t matter whether the destination is exotic or close to home, as long as it’s travel for you!
Inspiration for bringing spiritual travel into your life:
· Travel by yourself. This is a groundbreaking experience. Ultimately, it offers enormous freedom in our identity because it takes us away from the familiarity of home, causing us to find contentment within ourselves.
· Travel with your family to a new place, especially partner/spouse or kids. Spending 24/7 with our family builds the relationship while also bringing any unmet challenges out into the open. It’s also a beautiful way to spend time with children or teenagers. Word to the wise: People all over the world have kids and love them. There’s no shortage of playmates.
· Travel to a new place with a language you don’t speak. People love people! There’s always a way to negotiate, laugh, or ask for help.
· Take a retreat in an unusual location. Getting there will be half the fun.
· Take a long, immersive training in a topic you’ve always wanted to learn. This could be spiritual, technical, or whatever your heart desires. Going away only to learn brings us fully into the learning experience and introduces us to other fascinating, passionate people from across the world.
· Go on a religious pilgrimage or go to pilgrimage sites. This is a powerful way to connect with your religion if you ascribe to one, and a good reason to explore a new country. If you don’t follow one religion, like me, these sites offer an awe-inspiring, deeply moving view into the heart of humanity. Paying respects while surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people practicing is an experience akin to wearing a jetpack to spiritual awakening.
· Walk up a mountain or across the countryside, carrying your possessions. Do you really need that second shirt? Not with how full your heart is at seeing that mountaintop sunset.
· Follow a dream to a place you’ve always wanted to go – and visit it properly. We all have places we’ve held onto since childhood. Travel there as your child self would have liked to travel, toes in the sand.
Tips for Spiritual Travel
Spiritual travel is accessible to anyone, regardless of budget or lifestyle. That’s because it’s how you travel that makes it spiritual. That said, here are tips for making your journey a seamless.
When planning your trip, build in periods of time for rest and exploration. It’s tempting to “get the most” out of the visit by checking sights off the list or eating at every delicious restaurant.
Keeping a packed schedule can leave a traveler exhausted. It also restricts the experience.
The times of rest and exploration reveal the hidden secrets of the location, allow for the building of a friendship, and help us release the attitude of “I should be doing…” from our minds. Following our intuition – or our spouse’s, partner’s, kid’s – brings the unexpected into the travel experience.
For long-term travel, set a budget and stick to it. It’s tempting to treat long-term travel as a “trip” and to spend as if we’re on vacation in Cancun.
Spoiler: it’s not a vacation. It’s life. Being wise with finances will enable you to keep exploring or to invest in a neat adventure experience later on.
Making a Trip Spiritual
Any trip can be spiritual. It depends on how we open to the experience. Keeping an open heart and an open mind helps us connect with others and connect with ourselves.
Sometimes, it can help to schedule an overtly spiritual activity, like a retreat or sessions with a spiritual adviser or healer. Otherwise, it’s about mindset. Start day one with the thought that you’ll be open to the experience as it is – and you’re already on the journey.
This attitude lends itself to everyday life, too, whether it’s work, family, friends, or hobbies.
Give yourself the time for a spiritual journey. You can take one 50 miles or 5,000 miles from home. You’ve earned it.
Guest Blog Contributor: Mary McGilvray
Mary is the former Executive Director at hOMePYM and founder/owner of Satyaa Consulting. Mary teaches Iyengar-style Hatha yoga & non-dualist meditation techniques inspired by her years studying in India under the great masters. Through her business, Satyaa Consulting LLC she empowers yoga studios to generate more revenue so that their owners have the time & resources to live the life of their dreams.