Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spiritual Tourism and the NYNO

Machu Picchu at Dawn   Photo by Sean F. White
I love the fact that more and more people, especially us NYNOs (Not Young Not Old) are choosing spiritual tourism for our explorations of the world. I think of this type of journey as "deep travel" and it really means to travel with intention and openness, to sites that may be sacred or may transform you in some way, to listen and be attentive to your surroundings. to learn more about the sacred place you find yourself, maybe from the wisdom keepers in the local area. That is, to journey with intention AND attention. And that's the way I hope to  travel each time I leave for a trip or personal pilgrimage, but when you prepare for and plan for this journey, it can be even more meaningful.
At the NYNO stage of life, we often have the time, the money, and the health, coupled with the keen desire, to undertake this type of inner and outer journey, and that's confirmed by the fact that the vast majority of "pilgrims" worldwide are age 50 and up. Maybe it's also because, as writer Phil Cousineau explains it, we often need the added motivation of a life crisis or a time of transition and unknowing,  to push us onto and into a spiritual journey as we make big decisions and ask the big questions.
Djenne Mosque Photo by Sean F. White
I was wonderfully moved recently by Sean F. White's newest film Terra Sacra Time Lapses and Sean has very kindly allowed me to use some of his images here (Thank you again, Sean!), .so you'll see what I mean. He captured the "Sacred Lands" of our planet both creatively and movingly in the 6-minute film he created...and reminded me of the incredible beauty and sacredness of  our world.
I asked Sean what were some of the most memorable places on earth for him, and he mentioned Machu Picchu, the Pyramids and the supernatural energy of the Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia. He also said the only place in the world where he actually felt he wasn't even on Earth was Antarctica because of the massive ice world there. But he says the "most special place" he's ever been is Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world's tallest waterfall. He said it's "out of a dream world." Looking at the photo of Djenne Mosque, I become so fascinated that I've decided it should be on my bucket list too.
Do you have a favourite sacred place? It's the question I asked each person I interviewed for my book Havens in a Hectic World: Finding Sacred Places, and it's an endlessly fascinating question to me. And there are so many well-known and personal sacred sites around the world that you could start journeying to them today and keep going the rest of your life.
My very favourite book on this topic is Phil Cousineau's The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred, and I carried that book with me all the way to the top of Mt. Olympus in Greece...I simply couldn't bear to leave it behind....Look for it and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
There are now travel tour companies that specialize in spiritual tourism too...and the one here in BC is called Sacred Earth Journeys and is located in Burnaby. Not too coincidentally, I think, Phil is leading their next tour to Greece...small world.
Isla del Pescado, Bolivia   Photo by Sean F. White
I also talked to Wil Davis recently, an 84-year-old "explorer" who fulfilled a lifelong dream recently by returning to Palestine and Israel to walk the roads of the Bible and especially to see the Dead Sea scrolls, which were discovered when he was serving in the British Air Force in that area in 1947-48. Wil admitted to me that he's been a sort of "doubting Thomas" type all his life, never really believing the Bible stories, but at the same time anxious to have proof that might make him feel differently. When he took off on his spiritual journey this spring, he knew he wanted to spend time in the very area where the scrolls were discovered, seeing that cave in Qumran firsthand, walking the streets of Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, standing beside the Jordan River. After his transformative journey, Wil has joined a church and says he "believes the Bible so much more now." Being there, where it happened, was enough for him. Here's to sacred journeys for all of us.
Wil Davis with a replica of the Dead Sea scrolls


  1. Love it! I am discovering lots of my own new sacred places here in Hamburg...even hope to blog on it soon too. :)

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