22. Feb, 2018

Travelling as Pilgrimage

In response to our hunger for globetrotting and the hunt for brand-new experiences, global tourism offers a wealth of possibilities. Armed with digital cameras, passports and suitcases, those of us who love to travel leave their homes in search of adventures, excitement, relax, change… you name it.

At times, it may happen that our hunger for “something more” keeps us from relishing our travels, as we plod through the unease of unfamiliar places and cultures we hardly understand.

If we don’t want to stay in our complacent comfort zone, a shift in perspective can free us from what I call “the tourist’s chronic discontent syndrome.” Personally, I have practised travelling as a sacred encounter with the unknown, a way of reaching out towards self and world, in the attempt to forge a deep connection and understanding of both, according to the principle “as within, so without.”

Neither do we need to travel to far-away lands only. The great French novelist Marcel Proust stated that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

What if as travellers to lands near and far we developed a subtle perceptiveness towards the landscapes, people and cultures we encounter, while also keeping in touch with our inner journeys?

Not only do we need a keen ability to observe our surroundings, but also that of focusing on why we are travelling in the first place, and why we chose a specific location, how a place and its people are working on our consciousness.

Keeping a travel journal can help us turn from hurried tourists into pilgrims of sorts, it helps us attune to our why and our inner source of sustenance. We may discover how a wind-swept hill moves us and we may take slow, meaningful pictures, instead of ticking off a checklist of all the places we rushed through.

To become a traveller, we don’t need distraction, but slowing down and really looking, sensing, feeling, breathing. Ultimately, a traveller is someone who embarks on a journey as a pilgrim, to find meaningful change and inspiration for their lives back home.

Let’s think about it, next time we pack our suitcases.


Picture by courtesy of Porapak Apichodilok