Travel and Spirituality: How to Find Yourself Through a Spiritual Journey

Travel and Spirituality: How to Find Yourself Through a Spiritual Journey

What is a spiritual journey?

Better yet, what is spirituality?

Can we have sudden and spontaneous spiritual experiences while traveling, or do they intentionally need to be sought after?

The concept of combining travel with spirituality is not plainly obvious to many people. 

Spirituality, after all, seems like something you largely do in the solitude of your own home.

And while a large majority of people travel either for business, or to escape business through a vacation, spirituality, I might assume, hardly even comes into question during these sort of escapades.

On the other hand, deeply religious people will often travel for the sole purpose of substantiating their faith and spirituality. 

Indeed, one of the Five Pillars of Islam is Hajj, a mandated religious pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. And many Jews and Christians, moreover, travel to Jerusalem to for the similar purpose of witnessing the holy city. 

But what about those who fall somewhere in between?

You don’t have to belong to a religious tradition to travel for spirituality, but sometimes a simple vacation also doesn’t seem complete without this extra sort of dynamic.

Surely, out of the innumerable practices that cultivate a sense of spirituality, travel must be one of them. It is with this in mind that I’d like to share practices of how to make any journey truly spiritual.

What's the difference between a stone path and a spiritual path?

Defining Spirituality

There is no one symbol for spirituality.

While members of one religious tradition might choose to wear orange robes to demonstrate their religious piety, members of another tradition may choose to wear black vests. Sometimes a person with a sense of spirituality may even be standing right next to you and you wouldn’t even know it. 

It goes to show that the sensation of what one might refer to as spiritual is usually subtle, and almost always internal. 

This point is meant to demonstrate that spirituality is unique and personal to each person with which it is felt. Even then, it’s hardly like religion in this manner. Whereas the religious identity is complete with a set of specialized observances and inherited beliefs, the spiritual identity is formed by private and intuitive cues.

Religion instructs the inner and outer worlds. Spirituality is instructed by the inner and outer worlds. No one has ever heard of a spiritual zealot.

This is, perhaps, why the “spiritual but not religious” worldview has emerged in our modern age in order to take a stand against organized and restrictive religious beliefs.

Whatever it may be, spirituality is wholly up to how any individual senses it as a lived experience, both internally and externally. Therefore, finding yourself through the means of spirituality is a purely individualized experience when it comes to embarking on a spiritual journey.

spiritual people
Which one of these men is more spiritual?

Spiritual Travel Experiences

If you’re traveling to a certain place with a desire to cultivate your sense of spirituality, there are a number of methods to encourage that delicate process.

While the spiritual journey may take many forms and fashions, and cultivating it will be unequivocally interpersonal, there is at least one atmosphere which it most regularly thrives from within. 

Spirituality is timid. But when brought out, it can be wildly astonishing, taking you on the most sumptuous flights of self-realization, or wholly becoming enraptured with the utter beauty of a place.

Because it can be rather shy at times, coaxing it out does sometimes require intentionally ordering your experiences. Though with that said, there are innumerable accounts of sudden and spontaneous inner awakening.

However fleeting or timeless the flash of illumination may seem, it appears that it always comes as a result of listening in a new way.

Watching some children play soccer on the street has the potential to yield just as much illumination as hours of sustained meditation. What truly matters is that you become calm, cool, and concentrated.

Intention is focused, and attention is not forced.

So how do you fill in your travel experiences with this in mind? Below are some simple steps to make your meanderings a truly spiritual journey.

The spiritual practice of watching kids play soccer.
Spiritual practices can be cultivated from all kinds of experiences.

Making Your Journey Spiritual

1. Get away from the resorts.

Sure, the tourism industry operates tens of thousands of resorts all over the world. And with more people becoming spiritually focused in their travels, spiritual retreats are cropping up left and right.

But in order to reach deep into your spiritual journey, you’re going to have to do something outside of the box.

Spiritual illumination should not come with a high price tag. In fact, getting away from the resorts will not only help to cultivate a deeper sense of spirituality, but it will help you to save money as well.

Traveling for spirituality means finding ways to become comfortable with a slight sense of lingering anxiety. It means going to places that are not listed on the travel websites. It means pushing the boundary of familiarity to encompass a new way of listening. 

2. Talk and listen deeply to the locals.

Not every local is scheming to get money out of you. Sometimes, just putting some intention into having a deeper conversation with a a local can yield astounding results.

The locals will most likely find it bewildering that you’re interested in knowing more about their lives, and they’ll be happy to show you pictures of their families if you ask about them. Just be sure to have a few family pictures of your own to share back.

Learning to talk and listen more deeply is a great exercise to practice anywhere. But when it comes to your travels, nothing can be more rewarding.

Not only will you be able to learn about a culture that isn’t your own, but facing the occasional language barrier can make for a wholesome source of laughter. Nothing beats connecting with a local beyond the usual interactions of buying their food and trinkets.

3. Take time just to watch people live their lives.

People watching doesn’t have to be creepy. 

If you really feel that weird about it, find ways to blend in. Act like you’re looking at a local map, or just put on some sunglasses and a warm smile. No one is going to judge you for looking like you’re scoping out the major attractions or simply enjoying the day.

What do you notice about how other people live their lives?

Is it busy in the same way that yours is? Do people interact with each other differently than what you’re used to? How does their culture alternatively shape what they know and feel?

Try to pick out a couple of people and imagine what their backstory is, what life is like for them. Sometimes, the best way to learn about another culture is not only through conversation. Occasionally, more insightful results can be achieved by people watching.

The spiritual journey is made more whole when you have tons of things to reflect on about how other people live their lives in different parts of the world.

4. Turn off your electronics for a while.

The world has never been more interconnected than today with all of our electronics. But oftentimes, this same technology can take away from experiencing the world in full.

Sure, there may be plenty of Instagram-worthy photo ops, or things you’ll see that couldn’t possibly be explained to your friends without a picture. For those moments, it can be wise to invest in a camera that’s not your phone.

The point here is to get away from push notifications, urgent emails, status updates, and flashy games. 

See how long you can go without turning your phone on or lifting your laptop open. The bustling city life and the serene country landscape will always seem more saturating when you don’t have your electronics to worry about.

When you turn your electronics off, you’re able to listen more deeply to the signs and symbols that any environment has to offer. 

5. Relax and travel slow.

When you first arrive in a new place, it’s not unusual that you’ll immediately want to see as much as you can see. After all, when everything is different than your hometown, soaking up these unfamiliar sights can result in a worthwhile vacation.

But when you go too fast, you lose the ability to casually reflect on everything that has brought your life up into the present moment.

The spiritual journey is enhanced by traveling slow because you can cultivate a space to be moved by everything you’ve seen. Oftentimes, it can even be fruitful to think about your home life while you’re away. 

Perhaps the 7-day spiritual retreat can help some people sometimes, but to really get the most out of your expedition it’s best to chart your course slowly and methodically. This will not only make your journey more enjoyable, it also creates a space for deeper listening.

6. Follow your head and follow your heart.

To allow your travels to become genuine spiritual journeys, you’ve just got to trust what your head and your heart are saying. When all is said and done, it’s the sound produced by harmonizing these two elements that really encourages spiritual illumination.

Somewhere between destiny and free will, you know and create that which is going to affect your life most meaningfully. It’s a lot like science in this way, where you try out different combinations of an equation that only you can satisfy.

The results, however, are a lot like art. 

Between you as the seer, and you as the thing that is being seen, there is a third energy always evolving: you as the seeing.

If you sustain this realization, and you watch how the colorful assortments of experience blend and change depending on what you’re thinking, and where you’re at, all of living takes on this quality of conscious development utterly integral to the spiritual journey.

Learning to trust these two elements may just be the most important thing you could do when initiating any spiritual journey.

spiritual forest
Where will your spiritual journey take you?

Hopefully by reading this article you’ll find a new set of inspirations in structuring your travel experiences. 

If you’d like to share your thoughts, you can comment in the box below. Otherwise, I’m curious to hear more about your story with the questions below.

Where are some of the most spiritual places you’ve visited in your life?

How did they make an impact on you as an individual?

Thank you for reading.

Shane

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