Traveling Mindfully Connects Us to the Deeper Meaning of Life


Travel can be a sacred act. Many people on the planet are waking up to the idea that true  “pilgrimage” is a tangible possibility. Traveling mindfully is an intentional process, an active rather than passive way of traveling.

Intentional, sacred travel, even, is a process by which we can connect to the deeper meaning of life.

In his The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau writes, “The art of pilgrimage is the craft of taking time seriously, elegantly. What every traveler confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel . . . is the way we spend our lives.”

Phil isn’t only a well-read, adventurous author—he’s also one of our veteran tour leaders who’s been crafting expansive journeys with us for many years. 

It’s because of leaders like Phil that we’re reminded of the importance of how to best travel. . . and how to best spend our lives. 

Traveling Mindfully as a “Sacred” Rather Than “Leisurely” Act

Traveling for leisure is excellent. Really! It can refresh the mind and reinvigorate the body. Nothing like taking time out from the day-to-day to have a getaway. Right? 

But what if instead of taking trips to “get away” from our lives, we traveled to exist differently in them, or, even, to change them. 

What I am presenting is Phil’s idea, from his book, that how we travel is how we live. Perhaps if we travel like a pilgrim, to reconnect with the sacred world, it will help us “pass by that which you do not love,” as Phil writes in his book. 

Travel primes the mind for ridding of any stale nooks, routines, people, and situations in our lives. Make it sacred—and it will be all the more life-enhancing.

More from Phil’s book:

“When life has lost its meaning, a pilgrim will risk everything to get back in touch with life,” and, “A journey without challenge, has no meaning; one without purpose, has no soul.” 

Travel as an Ultimate Tool For Personal Growth 

In life, we have the endless need to always feel on course. We plan and aim and seek to control. Rarely is it that we ever let go to the flow of life, the flow of change, the ability to see “success” or “failure” as just “things” happening with a greater purpose behind them.

Mythologist Michael Meade said, “The ship is always off course. Anybody who sails knows that. Sailing is being off course and correcting. That gives a sense of what life is about.”

Travel is a powerful tool to help us be at peace with the unexpected. It’s an opportunity to open ourselves to the vast mystery of unknown days. Sure, we can make a plan. But unexpected feelings, challenges, and even ecstasies inevitably come up. These moments always become the memorable stories we tell about our journeys.

Sacred travel is a powerful tool for growth because it connects us with our own soul and the deepest longing that resides therein. Visiting sacred sites—pyramids, forests, stone circles, ancient churches, mountains—plants seeds of depth in our being. It revives our need to connect to something larger than life. 

Personal growth to many may mean landing more reps on the pull-up bar or reading more books each month. Great! 

But what if true growth has more to do with how we exist in the world as people? What if we could use a tool like sacred travel to radically transform our views, habits, aspirations, and thus our paths and temperaments?

We can. 

How to Plan a Journey with Intention 

We lead journeys that are planned with unwavering intention. In this section, let’s use one of these journeys as a model to explore what an intentionally planned, sacred journey looks like.

Let’s take one of Phil’s pilgrimages into consideration, La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life of Mythic Italy

Placing a Focus on Beauty

We explore the “sweet life” on this journey to Italy. That is, we explore the myths, art, literature, fashion, and crafts that make up what is arguably the most artistic culture in the world. What a place to practice traveling mindfully!

Embracing the sweet life is about mindfully exploring the sensory experience a culture has on offer. Italy, for example, offers the simple pleasures of strolls along old cobbled roads, deep talks over cappuccinos in historic coffee shops, live music in medieval churches, pilgrimage to museums and art galleries, as well as delectable food and wine.

Exploring the Sacred 

Sacred travel is largely about exploring sacred sites. But what makes a site “sacred”? 

There are 4 types of “sacred” places.

  1. An agreed-upon site for the placement of a church, mosque, synagogue, etc where people meet on a weekly basis for worship.
  2. A place in the natural elements that holds particular power as sacred. This could be a mountain, valley, waterfall, or cave. 
  3. A place that holds personal significance for someone such as a childhood home, town, specific walking place, or even the home or grave of a beloved writer or artist.
  4. Ancient, sacred sites that were erected in ancient or medieval times such as stone circles, old churches, or pyramids.

With Phil, we’ll be exploring sites such as the first-century BCE Roman Temple devoted to Minerva, goddess of music, poetry, medicine, weaving, and wisdom.

Visiting old temples like that of Minerva inspires a sense of depth and inspiration in a mind intellectually deprived by the shallowness of the utilitarian, modern world. 

Integrating the Soul of a Place 

Phil leads his thoughtful “Long Conversations” to illuminate the spiritual, cultural, and historical elements of the journey. 

These are talks that get the mental gears turning for the day. They prepare the mind for the knowledge and myriad of deep insights and experiences to be had for the upcoming day.

Embarking on the Journey of a Lifetime

“Uncover what you long for and you will discover who you are.”
-Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

And traveling mindfully can help us do just that. It redefines what personal growth even means. On mindful journeys, we find that to grow really means to upgrade the soul, to return home with clearer sight, a better plan, and a greater capacity to exist as an authentic, kindred being. 

This is the sort of transformation we facilitate on our sacred journeys, and the journey with Phil is no less than a journey of a lifetime.

~Jacob Lopez, staff writer

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