Spirituality is a journey. Kind of like a holiday to a place you’ve never visited before, but without the luggage surcharges or the blackflies. While you have some idea of what to expect, you’re largely in the dark about the adventures that lie in wait, and it’s your anticipation of them that propels you ever forward in your expedition.
But the concept works just as well in the reverse. A trip to some exciting locale is itself a spiritual experience. More than plastic snowglobes and cheaply made T-shirts, spirituality is a souvenir we haul back in our suitcases. By visiting new places in the world around us, you see, we come into contact with new places inside ourselves.
Because what better conditions are there for divine expansion than those that greet us on vacation, freed from the stresses of the workplace, away from the drudgery of the homefront, forward leaning in our willingness to embrace novelty?
If you’re looking to get literal with your escapade, consider destinations where spirituality is embedded in the very soil. Think Italy, and its historical roads of Christianity, like the Via Francigena. Or take in Sunday mass, barefoot, at a monastery 8,000 feet in the clouds in Crestone, Colorado, where the eastern light spilling through the clerestory window offer views like you can’t believe.
But the point of gaining spirituality through travel is less about the landing-place anyway, and more about the experience you enjoy while you’re at it. Something there is about trying a new-to-you ice cream flavour on the main strip of an East Coast holiday town, or tuning into a bird’s call that delivers you back to some childhood idyll on a cottage dock, that opens up a person’s soul.
We are pilgrims, all of us, pressing through airports, baking inside cars lined long-weekend deep on cottage-country highways, ticking the boxes on our Still to Explore bucket lists. Through travel, we extend our cultural and physical horizons, and enhance our spiritual growth by identifying the sacred in everything we see. Lewis and Clark themselves could do no better, though our discoveries are more along the lines of the explosive beauty of a Lake Huron sunset or the miracle that is a tree-strung hammock or an ancient cobbled street.
And then, from these revelations come their more inward-looking counterparts, like the one about how maybe I am just a wee bit prejudiced, after all. Or that it really is possible to learn something from everyone, even the schizophrenic alcoholic who’s appointed himself custodian of John Lennon’s memorial in Central Park.
Whether it be the natural world or its manmade overlay, a crumbling cemetery or a sprawling museum, a conversation with an old-school antiques dealer or a wee dram at the quirkiest pub you’ve seen, the richness of the cosmos is thrown into stark relief on holiday. So buy a train ticket or book a bus, load up on road snacks and uncover your passport. And head out to regard the enormity of the universe that hangs above a holiday like a promise.