Spiritual Tourism: Is it the “Nouveau Pilgrimage”, or Something Different?
The reasons for travel are limitless. One of the oldest, yet most celebrated and practised reasons to leave home and take a trip has been a religious pilgrimage. Be it to Hajj in Mecca, Mother Ganga in India, or the Baha’i Gardens of Israel, seekers of something “divine”, or higher than themselves, have been endeavouring to reach faraway lands for centuries. A religious pilgrimage is often-times the apex or at least a major highlight of the lives of many.
But what about those who are still seekers – of something ethereal and profound – but perhaps the destination is less pronounced?
“Spiritual tourism” does not yet have a confined definition. From a scholarly perspective, it is still a relatively new area of study which has yet to be compartmentalised. From a tourism industry perspective, spiritual tourism falls under the larger umbrella of wellness and health related tourism. This encompasses spa tourism, medical tourism, yoga tourism and more. However, is it really fair to draw a direct parallel between a spa holiday and a spiritual trip? Let us first start by understanding what a spiritual trip is:
Travel has been said to have transformative potential, which seems quite obvious when one takes into consideration the fact that the traveller is almost certain to be exposed to a new environment, new people, and new cultures, and thus, a broader perspective than before. This is true whether or not the traveller is venturing to the next town, or the other side of the world. From this moment there is something that must change about the individual which perhaps broadens their horizons and changes them… But then, what about this experience is “spiritual”?
Spiritual travel is that which prompts the individual to find a deeper connection to themselves and the world they are a part of not only in that moment but also after the trip. With this heightened level of consciousness and awareness, the traveller also may be inspired to change themselves or their community for the better. While visiting sacred sites is a crucial aspect of this, it is just one part.
Most of us are looking for connection—something higher yet simultaneously grounding and more profound — in this uber fast- paced twenty first century. The norm is to be perpetually tuned into a smart phone, tablet whilst working long hours. When time finally comes to take time off from work for a few short weeks, it is not uncommon for many of us to take a trip which is full of tropical beach cocktails, painful sunburns and feeling zoned out. Not to mention, this method of travel can often be illusory as it presents a “tourist” friendly version of the host country in many destinations.
However, many are also seeking experiences that are deep- rooted in ancient traditions as opposed to materialistic getaways. Many are searching for a retreat or excursion which will allow them to escape the day-to-day grind completely and immerse themselves in something more transcendental.
This yearning for a truly authentic experience has the potential to evoke a non – superficial change within the traveller. If the world is a reflection of our souls, truly seeing a new culture in a unique way and understanding deep – rooted spiritual and cultural traditions has the power to prompt the traveller to make a connection with new culture or spiritual practice and themselves.
At World Weavers, our primary aim is to facilitate a higher knowledge of the self through encapsulating spiritual adventures. We hope to offer getaways which will leave the traveller feeling inspired to bring what they have learned from their experience overseas back home. For example, being part of a community that is spiritually inclined, living a simple yet happy life, meditating daily can be life-changing practices. We want those who voyage with us to ask questions about themselves and the world they are a part of so as to grow and evolve. We believe an optimal method to facilitate this is through exposure to unique spiritual practices of the world that is not limited to visiting a particular site, but often a series of places , people and cultural practices.
Perhaps it is worth postulating that what spiritual tourism does not need is a definition, but instead more growth, insight and exploration from travellers around the globe.