In Search of the Ultimate Travel Adventure
At the heart of every traveller is an explorer, an adventurer in search of something different---the unique experience, the signature event, the personal gift, a spark, enlightenment.
Tourist, Traveller or Pilgrim?--Get the most out of travelling
A successful entrepreneur on a business trip to Victoria, Canada, decided to go on a whale-watching excursion. "Right beside the boat," she told me later, "this magnificent grey whale came to the surface. It slowly rolled to the side, until its eye cleared the water. Our eyes met, and for this incredibly intense, timeless moment we gazed into each other. Then it righted itself in the water again and submerged."
"Something happened in that moment", she said "and when I got back to shore I phoned the office and told them to draw up the papers and sell the business", and she added " I told him I was not coming back."
There is remarkable charm to this account. It appeals to the dreamer in those of us who would love to be able to shed drudgery and start fresh with our lives touched by magic.
That is why travel is so irresistible. Travelling promises to take us from the habits and routines that seem to define us to some different anywhere in which we can be free to be anyone we choose to be. Unfortunately for lack of an awareness of other options the choice made is so often for travelling simply as a tourist.
Trying to escape everyday deadlines and schedules by flying off on a tourist experience is something of a contradiction. Tourism is very much characterized by routines and schedules. Like any product, tours tend to be standardised to deliver a predictable, reproducible experience. Instead of finding a tour tailored for personal needs and preferences, the tourist usually ends up accommodating the constraints and demands of whatever tour they're on.
In our first visit to the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu, my partner Shera and I had just emerged from 8 hours roaming through the breathtaking temples and terraces that stretch over a kilometre and a half along a ridge in the high Andes, our minds still full of our discoveries and speculations, the glory of a time long past, and our excitement about returning the next day for more. Imagine our surprise to hear a tour guide announce to a group of tourists that had only just entered the ruins late in the morning "We will be going out now for lunch and then we're catching a bus down to the train back to the city.
Travelling in the tourist mode can be an enjoyable entertainment and a worthwhile diversion, yielding photos, and souvenirs to document a visit to another culture. However, actually experiencing another culture is generally rendered impossible by ever-present limits imposed by programs and schedules. There is no surprise then that ultimately the tourist experience leads to a feeling of "Is that all there is?"
In every tourist there is a traveller wanting to experience more.
After two Korean tourists on a 5 day holiday were safely booked into local set-piece tours, the Egyptian travel agent turned to serve us. When he learned that we had put aside 5 weeks for the experience he leaned back and declared, "Ah! So you are travellers!" .
A traveller he explained, has more time. They are not into 'collecting' places, but savouring experiences. They're explorers and give events time to unfold. Travellers typically buy open-ended tickets and let time take a back seat. Their priority is somehow to involve themselves in the places they visit. They are the ones dropping off the end of walk-around tours. They get lost in free-time periods. They are off discovering unique opportunities, and making contact with local people.
A traveller returns home renewed and flushed with stories to tell of their discoveries, the people they have met and the situations they got into (and out of). They are generally more than satisfied with the fullness of their experience.
Yet in every traveller there is a pilgrim yearning to go deeper.
There is a world we yearn for beyond the world we know. Usually this yearning sits quietly, an ember hidden beneath the busy-ness of our days until in an unguarded moment when an unexpected breeze stirs the ember to life. Everyone has had the experience--the "strike of lightning", the sudden realisation that it is time to make a shift. It is this kind of life- transforming shift that the businesswomen experienced with the whale .
A pilgrim however holds the ember steadfastly to the wind and follows the light cast by the resulting flame to unanticipated destinations quite distinct the travelling itself.
Travelling as pilgrim one has made a quantum leap from other modes of travel. As well as being on a physical travel adventure, one finds oneself on a second journey, one of spirit, fully alert, fully open to the insights and gifts that will transform the inner landscape of one's being. Transformation is not an accident, it is an objective.
When one travels in the mode of pilgrim travelling is no longer a diversion. A pilgrimage holds a clear underlying intention, a quest for meaning, a desire to know more. In the mind of a pilgrim this creates a readiness to follow where existence leads, to see and to learn from the experiences it brings. This intention releases the incredible power of the brain as a tool. Once focused and alert, the brain becomes a lazar scanner able to find supporting evidence, clues, and information everywhere. The effect is like a magnet drawing waves of information and insights until we see ourselves reflected in everything around us.
In this mode the world becomes more personalized, more manageable, more sacred. The inevitable result is reverence, a sense of humility and wonder at the marvellous flow of synchronicity and events--and a profound gratitude for the blessing implied by it all. All the while--above this internal dynamic of the pilgrim--one's physical travel experience is immeasurably enriched.
In the end the pilgrim in each of us knows the 'world' we yearn for is the infinite greatness of our own fully expressed and connected selves. Whether you choose to travel in life as pilgrim instead of tourist is a matter of individual timing and readiness. Ultimately the important thing is not where you go, but that you ask for more from the experience.
Just be sure you are ready for the results!
Chidakash, is a co-founder of Serenity Transformational Tours. In Enter the Mystery tours to Machu Picchu, Chidakash and his partner Shera offer a rich immersion in the mysteries of the Incas, the energies of the high mountains and the beauty of the Qetchwa people. They encourage their co-travellers to set their highest expectations, and support them on all levels in going for a peak travel experience, including extra time on the Inca Trail, an inner journey practice to nurture the 'pilgrim' mind, complimentary journals and videos, and an intimate connection with local people. For more information call (800) 944-2655 www.serenitybythesea.com/tours