Humans have been traveling to “find themselves” for centuries. From Catholics traveling to holy Rome to Siddartha’s 49-day meditation under the Bo-tree, we are sometimes called to outside spaces so that we can journey further inside ourselves. While not all travel has to be religious, it can always be spiritual or transformational. It just starts with intention.
When I thought of becoming a “spiritual anthropologist”, a sort of vagabond who seeks spiritual experiences in different countries, I visualized big events such as, meeting shamans and performing flashy rituals. I planned a trip to Mexico without knowing it was the weekend of the Day of the Dead and I realized my intention was heard and that my calling have started to take form. But perhaps my biggest lessons did not need to come from a literal “spiritual cleanse” or a shaman, nor ‘santero’, but from the community, the arts, and the culture. You, too, may find the places you go offer healing in ways you hadn’t considered. Let’s talk about how to travel with a spiritual purpose.
Write a List of Unhealthy Behaviors You Want to Release
Traveling can be liberating because we go from being members of our communities to strangers in another. This can be particularly freeing when we want to try out new habits we put off at home. For example, are you working on overcoming a depressive desire to sleep in and skip meals? When you travel, you can commit to getting up early to enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit with the sunrise. Bad habits don’t have to follow you into travel if you make it the main purpose of traveling to avoid them.
Create a Mantra to Repeat Every Day
Make a list of your least favorite parts of traveling early on in your trip. Then, write a list of mantras that oppose them to repeat every morning, or when things get stressful. For example, if remembering the schedule for the day is causing you more anxiety than peace, try the mantra, “I’m here to enjoy, listen, and learn.” It can be easy to forget the reason why we travel in the first place. Use mantras to refocus your mind on the present.
Write 5 Things to Learn from the Trip
These can be related to learning specific activities, like “learn to surf”, or they can be catered to pushing yourself, like “learn to love spicy food”. Or you can ask more of yourself. What opportunities exist in this place that don’t exist at home? Consider the differences in natural environments, cultural experiences and activities, food, and entertainment. Let the culture and people move you out of your comfort zone, toward something that stirs you mentally and emotionally. Look to be linked to the places you visit. Write 5 learning goals that can help expand and enlighten you.
The Day of the Dead is such a great example of our collective wisdom. Betsabé Romero, a visual artist, wrote a sign by an ‘ofrenda’, an offering to honor the dead. It said that without culture and art, how we dignify life and memories would be very difficult. “The emotional and cultural health are the ones that heal the deepest tissue, which is the social tissue.” (translation) In her view, one of the most difficult things about the pandemic has been the absence and lack of connection at the end of life. In the Day of the Dead, we face the pain of our individual and collective grief. As we do not look away, it gives birth to a valuable attempt of honoring the power of the collective, and of life and death. Such wisdom can be found everywhere if you seek it out.
Lessons We Can Learn Through Travel
The Power of Observation
During my travels, I went to the Mercado de Sonora, a market where ‘santeros’ and shamans offer cleanses and readings. The energy was intense and my intuition told me that was not what I needed to do. I left feeling disappointed, but interestingly, a powerful certainty that I would find what I needed to, rose within me. That night, I went to a restaurant and as I left with a friend, a waiter came running to the end of the street to catch up with us. He was panting and told us we paid double. Somehow, this simple act of kindness burst my heart open. I felt respected, honored, and welcomed in the Mexican community.
The message I felt integrating into my body was “this is true spirituality” and this is how “belonging” feels like. To be seen and cared for by a complete stranger was the blessing I was looking for in that trip. Carolyn Myss, a medical intuitive, says that one of the most important spiritual lessons we need to learn in our lifetimes is that the Divine always comes in a humble package. Small loving acts are the whispers of the Universe that can change our lives. To learn to listen is to be connected to our Spiritual Power. I left Mexico feeling certain that a new beginning as a healer has begun for me.
Traveling within while traveling to other countries can accelerate our emotional healing and improve the quality of our lives overall. In my case, I feel it is helping me define my purpose in life and that is not a small matter. Instead of rushing from one event to the next, slow down and really take in your new world. This will help you feel more at peace on your travels. Notice the little things—the differences in the pace of a place and the appreciation that people move with. You may even find yourself feeling more appreciative of your surroundings upon returning home.
The Impermanent Nature of Our World
Eventually, all adventures come to an end, and we must return home. Instead of mourning the loss, celebrate the highs of adventure and learn to accept the lows of saying goodbye to them all. A great way to practice this back home and while we’re traveling is through meditation. The practice teaches us to see our thoughts as temporary things that pass with time, mirroring the phrase, “This too shall pass.” Allow your travels to affect you in the same way.
We may even find ourselves feeling more appreciative of our surroundings upon returning home.
The Limitless Opportunities to Give Back
When traveling, you may also use the privilege as an opportunity to give back by volunteering for a good cause! Consider teaching classes, building homes, planting trees, or simply sharing your journey online. Remember, traveling can be an enjoyable, eye-opening break from our daily lives. Moreover, it can be a transformational step to healing and connection. Even when plans fall through along the way, open yourself to exploration. Dig deeper into your temporary home and inner self.
Looking for more ways to uncover spiritual purpose? I’d love to help. Please reach out soon for a consultation.