When I hear the word “pilgrimage,” I get the mental picture of a shabby traveler, walking stick in hand, on a dry, lonely path…endlessly walking.
People of all faiths have embarked on religious travel for centuries. No matter the person’s particular belief, there are common characteristics of all pilgrims. They walk to leave the distractions of their world so that they might make a deeper connection with God.
- A journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion: a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
- Any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage: a pilgrimage to the grave of Shakespeare.
Across the globe, pilgrim paths have been well worn. Some pilgrimages are short – you can finish them in a few weeks. Others take months to complete and bring the devotee across thousands of miles.
There is something to be said about getting out of your neighborhood.
It’s like the epic journeys we read about in great literature or see on the big screen. From The Odyssey and Star Wars to Hunger Games and Finding Nemo we see our hero strike out toward the unknown. The underlying theme: to find your true self, you must leave home.
So how do we, people with lives and commitments, go on a pilgrimage and not walk hundreds of miles? Can we take a physical pilgrimage in the span of our annual vacation allowance? How do we make our trips a pilgrimage and not merely a vacation?
Here are a few ways.
1. Carry your belongings on your back.
Pilgrims set out with a minimum of belongings; just the items needed for the journey. When you travel with the intention of spiritual devotion, dragging along abundant luggage will distract you from your surroundings and literally weigh you down. There is a necessary detachment from material possessions. The material world teaches you a lesson in the spiritual world. Traveling light is Jesus’ model.
2. Say in local accommodations.
In keeping with the model of simplicity, the pilgrim traveler would stay in lodging provided by the hospitality of others. Modern pilgrims stay in monasteries and hostels. Commercial hotels, again, can distract you from your journey and surround you with the familiar. Staying connected to the road you are traveling reminds you that you are a foreigner in a foreign land.
3. Eat like a pilgrim.
The meals of the pilgrim were always made from the basics. When relying on the hospitality of others, he ate what was set before him. There may have been little variety, but it was fuel for the body to continue on the journey.
The sojourner was intentional about getting to his destination with as few distractions as possible. A single focus and spiritual direction led him on.
What would this look like today?
Surprisingly, not much has changed for the modern pilgrim. You can still carry your belongings on your back. You can stay at local accommodations like those from Airbnb. And you can eat simple meals made with locally sourced foods found along the journey.
In May of 2017, I found myself on one of these journeys.
It was life-changing. I was apprehensive to travel for three weeks with just a carry-on backpack and a daypack. But as the days progressed, I realized even with this; I had packed too much. It’s so freeing to find out what you can live without.
And that is an important lesson the pilgrim learns. Not only can one thrive with fewer material comforts, one has the mental space to see what limiting beliefs can be left behind as well. The journey teaches you so when you arrive at your destination; you are different than when you started.
I didn’t walk for hundreds of miles (though one day I’d like to), I traveled by plane, trains, and cars. But I intended to immerse myself in my new surroundings. It was more than I could have hoped.
Are you ready to take an epic journey?
I want you to experience for yourself the transformation of pilgrim travel. I’ve named this website “On Pilgrimage” for a reason! It’s time to begin planning a trip!
I have an itinerary and a date in mind. Your job is to begin to pray about joining me.
You only have a bit of luggage to lose and your true self to gain.
And I won’t make you walk 500 miles.