by Jennifer Dawson
Travel as a Tool for Spiritual Growth
Can travel foster spiritual awakening, healing and spiritual growth? Absolutely! If travel is already a passion for you, chances are you already know the importance of a rich spiritual life. Indeed, a top reason why so many people travel is the wish to feel like part of something much larger than oneself; this is the very essence of spirituality.
After a bit of a generational spiritual lag, spirituality is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of millennials, owing in no small part to important findings regarding the numerous benefits it brings.
A 2015 study found that taking part in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with lasting happiness. Another (2011) study showed that individuals who practice religion and spirituality report better physical and mental health than those who do not. Researchers have even found that having religious and spiritual support improves outcomes for men and women battling chronic illness.
A New Definition of Spirituality
Harvard professors Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile note that millennials may be turning away from organized religion at a faster rate than their parents did, but they are seeking their own definition of spirituality.
These days, they are finding it—not necessarily in churches, but rather, in a plethora of settings in which they can feel a sense of community and belonging. These new spiritual communities, says ter Kuile, come in all shapes and sizes—“It might be lifting weights and climbing ropes five mornings a week like at CrossFit. And if you have a friend involved in a CrossFit, you will know how evangelical that community is. Or it might be experiencing healing and forgiveness through movement and meditation at Afro Flow Yoga.”
And, travel has definitely become a source of spiritual awakening, as well as spiritual growth, healing and cleansing, for many.
When Travel Gives You a Spiritual Buzz
Travel can be deeply spiritual in the moments of connection and sharing with people we would never have encountered in our daily work or academic lives.
Travel provides unforgettable spiritual moments in which we are free and unburdened enough to give ourselves fully to ‘the spectacular now’ and, as a result, experience significant spiritual growth.
Sharing spiritual moments with people of a different culture is one of the most touching, humbling and expansive human experiences we can have. As we open our senses to unique sites and sounds, it becomes easy to feel connected to cultures, regardless of the big differences they may have with our own.
In his book The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner delves into what makes people happy and how geography and culture impact happiness. His personal travel experiences during the research phase of his social project are a testament to the substantial impact of travel on spiritual growth.
Embracing the East
The popularity of yoga, meditation and Tai Chi in the new millennium are showing the extent to which human beings value mindfulness practices. Many use card readings to enhance self-awareness, focusing on their symbols and meanings while meditating or envisioning positive changes they can make to their lives.
These days, spiritual retreats focusing on yoga, meditation, and self-awareness are highly sought across the globe. They nearly always take place in beautiful natural settings, which instills a greater sense of calm and self-awareness that are necessary components for spiritual growth, awakening and cleansing.
Oftentimes, having these types of experiences when traveling can result in life altering behavioral changes in our day-to-day lives.
The Impact of Nature on Spiritual Growth
Carl Jung argued passionately for the importance of visits to nature, for it was only by contemplating its majesty that we could remind ourselves of our need for meaning and purpose. There’s no doubt this is the impetus behind the growing popularity of things like eco resorts and forest bathing.
While millions of people visit bustling cities like Barcelona, London, or New York, to further their spiritual growth, it is important to make time to visit beautiful parks, lakesides, seas, mountains or islands.
Studies have shown that spending just five minutes in a natural setting produces important changes, including a reduction in the heart rate, relaxation in the muscles, and a reduction in levels of stress hormones.
Travel & Spiritual Growth
If travel and connecting with people are a passion, these could very well be avenues to spiritual growth. Make sure to visit the most stunning natural sites in the place you are wandering and take the time to join a spiritual activity in a group setting.
Whether it’s eco travel, forest bathing, yoga or meditation are your thing, enjoy them in company on your next vacation and enjoy the buzz of spiritual growth!
A note from The Wandering Ex-Housewife—This post by Jennifer couldn’t ring louder for me. Travel has been, and continues to be, my therapist. Each wander I’ve taken has been followed by some level of spiritual awakening that I’ve documented in my Travel Therapy sessions. In these sessions, you’ll see me progress from Prozac swallowing at-home mom to owner of the future Vista Cañas Nature Retreat in Playa Venao, Panamá.