Pilgrimage as a Form of Travel

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I just left a mass from a large cathedral here in Holland and its focus was to bless the many “pilgrims” that are walking the famous Camino de Santiago trail. While participating in the service, I felt inspired to write a post about the idea of pilgrimage as a form of travel.

Map of the pilgrimage trail the Camino de Santiago. The most traveled route is in Northern Spain, and many routes go to that direction.
Map of the Camino de Santiago. The most traveled route is in Northern Spain, and many routes go to that direction.

Some of my past travels have been spiritual in their nature or involved traveling to very spiritual countries such as Tibet and India. While some of these travels have seemed distant to me at times, I was reminded today about some of the joys I felt when I was in that place in my life. A young man seeking answers to life’s mysteries and taking a bite of the world in the process.

While I didn’t get all the answers I was looking for then, I found enlightenment in my own way. And I expect each person will find their own as well if they decide to pursue it.

I went to Tibet for the summer in 2002. It proved to be a life-altering experience.
I went to Tibet for the summer in 2002. It proved to be a life-altering experience. Photo by my travel companion Jared Kachurak

I think the idea of pilgrimage can conjure up thoughts of it having to only apply to someone who believes in deities and a spiritual world, but I think it applies to each human. The act itself can be beneficial to each person. While there can be many ways one decides to journey as a “pilgrim,” I think there are two ways I would like to spotlight from my own experience. Let’s call them the “slow way” and the “fast way.”

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The slow way is exactly what it implies; Slow motion. In my mind, this mostly involves the idea of walking for a period of time. Although I think it can also apply to sailing and possibly even tour-biking. There is something that happens in this act that I have found magical. I wasn’t expecting it, but after sailing slowly in the raw and vast ocean away from news, cars, computers and phones, something happened.

While “pilgrims/travelers” may walk for a couples days to countless years, I find that if someone is committed to a journey the slow way, they may start to realize a very different reality that they were used to. I had this epiphany when I was sailing in Mexico for two months.

Image of the sailing trip in Baja, Mexico
Image of the sailing trip in Baja, Mexico

One of the first things I noticed was I began to lose track of time. The idea of time was invented by humans, and so much of our lives can be determined by time. Yet, in the open ocean it didn’t matter. I found my schedule revolved around waking up when the sun rose and going to bed not too late after the sun went down.

Initially, I lost track of the hours, and eventually I lost track of days and even weeks. But it was of no matter, I was engaged in the present. There wasn’t telling what the wind or weather was going to be like, so focus was on the now. As a result, I felt an amazing liberation and every action of the day was that much more meaningful and exciting.

During this voyage, I remembered a scripture verse in the Bible told that I heard when I was younger and it said:

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-matt 6:34

That’s a fairly difficult mantra to live by it seems, but I found supreme peace in living in the present and not focusing a majority of my energy on the future. There’s another verse in this chapter that says:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

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I found a peace with these sacred words as well because instead of worrying about if we are going to survive for years to come, it encourages the idea of trusting that our needs are going to be provided for us, and to focus on the present. Some may consider this a false reality and hope, but I think there is a release on worry and stress to consider such an idea.

If the “slow way” is pursued, detached from the busyness of life, it most likely will prove to be beneficial that person. One may find themselves further “enlightened” by this action if their heart is open to listen and experience daily.

Ok onto the “fast way.”

FPP

The “fast way” is in a way another form of pilgrimage. To me, this term involves the act of travel but not solely focused in just one form of transport like walking or biking. It can be that one travels by train, plane, bus and car, but because the individual is seeking something in their journey, they will be inspired in their own way.

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For example, someone could be seeking to experience the idea of community. In their journey, there wasn’t a set plan or place to go, it was just a “mission.” And in that journey, that individual may have found themselves accepted by a group of people, sharing meals, dancing, laughing and drinking and finding a satisfactory answer to what they were looking for. Other examples could be seeking friendship, faith, learning others ways of life or even love (though we all know that could be risky 🙂

There doesn’t even need to be a focus really. Just the idea of going with an open heart and mind to receive is enough. Personally, I always try to travel this way. One can travel with a very set agenda, with all the places they researched before on the schedule. It’s one way to travel, yet if someone has the option to stay and travel longer with flexibility, then it’s rewards will definitely be much more than the short-term option.

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In a way we are all pilgrims, seeking answers to life, contemplating ideas of Truth, existence and purpose. There are many opinions, and each person has their own thoughts. The thoughts we are exposed to when we are young in our home environment are just that: thoughts we know at our local environment. The world is much bigger than that though, and when one goes to other environments and exposes themselves to other ideas and ways, one will definitely find themselves more “enlightened,” and maybe that is pilgrimage too.

Thanks for reading, feedback is definitely welcomes 🙂

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cami

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2 thoughts on “Pilgrimage as a Form of Travel

  1. Yes! Time. It is just an invention of humankind. It looks so innocent, it is indeed. But once you start keeping a track of it, you are completely trapped in it. You divide it into three; past, present, future and all your thoughts are divided into two: past for some, future for some others. Present, though, is often left alone. We live life in this modern world as if there was no present.
    I do yoga. Every time the yoga instructor tells me to feel, explore and realize my body in present I find myself thinking about aome other things.
    But I try. I try my best to focus on now and give its real value to Present, which in fact should be all that matters.
    Thank you Shawn for triggering my thoughts into Present 🙂

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