A friend of mine just returned from a two week trip to Hawaii - a dream of a life time for her. When I asked her how it was she said it was wonderful but then she paused. "But now it's like it never happened", she said. I don't think that response is all that uncommon for people who travel as tourists and not pilgrims. Hawaii was a sacred destination for my friend but she didn't treat it as such, she treated it as simply a destination. "The anticipation seemed better that the reality." she added.
To travel with a pilgrim's heart is to travel with deep purpose and focused attention. It doesn't matter where you travel - Maui or Iona - all travel is sacred, or should be. Although there is always a destination, every step along the way "to and from" is fraught with meaning for the pilgrim. Every person you meet, every encounter, every surprise or disappointment are signposts. Sometimes those signposts tell us we are on the right path; sometimes they encourage us to leave the path altogether and take a different route. We must be open to both.
I've long equated contemplative photography with pilgrimage; it seems a natural pairing to me. The souvenirs of our journey are our photographs and their meaning may not reveal itself until long after we've brushed the dust of the road off our shoes. A tourist takes one kind of picture; pilgrims make entirely different ones.
I've developed a list of characteristics of someone who tries to travel with a pilgrim's heart based on my study of pilgrimage and my personal experience of the process. With the Memorial Day weekend behind us, we begin the season of summer travel. For those who wish to travel differently, you might want to consider these ideas. Remember, it's not where you visit that matters - across the street or across the country, it is how you visit that makes all the difference. Tomorrow we'll explore the first of four qualities of the pilgrim's heart - The Longing....
Oh yes, I so much prefer pilgrim travel. My recent visit to the Palouse was very much a spiritual experience - with deep, focused attention. Now, my longing is to visit Newfoundland, which I will do in June of 2014 (hopefully). Thanks for the exercise in thinking ahead of time about the why and what. It will be interesting to do that with the looong word - Newfoundland.
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