Alternative Travelling – Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is not your every day travel vacation. At its most basic, a pilgrimage is a journey motivated by a hallowed, spiritual purpose. As with anything spiritual, the reason for going on a pilgrimage varies from person to person even when the destination is the same. It could be a search for inspiration, a quest for new perspectives, a study of religious paths, exploring new techniques of meditation, an attempt to redefine oneself and sometimes, sheer curiosity.
Pilgrimages are often defined by the pilgrim’s spiritual or religious beliefs. Certain pilgrim sites are more prominent than others. Most of the world’s major faiths have what is (whether de jure or de facto) their holiest site. For Sikhs, that place is the Golden Temple in Amristar, India while for Mormons, that place is the Salt Lake Temple in the Salt Lake City in the state of Utah, USA. For Jews, it is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem while for Muslims, the holiest site is in Mecca.
Buddhists may look at Lumbini, Nepal the birthplace of the faith’s founder as the premiere destination for pilgrimage even as many Christians set their sights on Jerusalem. Many devout Catholics may consider travel to St Peter’s Basilica as the most important pilgrimage of their lifetime while Hindus journey by the millions to Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River.
These are just some examples drawn from the world’s major religions. Yet, most faiths have numerous holy sites that draw hundreds, thousands or millions of visitors each year. When going on pilgrimage, always bear in mind that everything begins and ends with you – it is first and foremost a personal journey. That said, there are certain things you need to factor in.
For starters, establish how many days you have to spare for the journey and plan your trip accordingly. Nothing prevents you from going on pilgrimage in phases and breaking it down over several years. So if the pilgrimage involves walking for tens of kilometres and you want to do it with your kids or are pressed for time, you can always break down the walk into several manageable stages to be completed cumulatively over several years.
Another important consideration is crowds. The world’s top pilgrimage destinations attract millions of visitors annually with huge crowds during the peak season. If you can avoid the crowds and visit off peak, try to do so. Travel light. You do not want bags of luggage packed full of luxuries to be a physical and mental distraction to your quest for spiritual self-discovery. As a general rule of thumb, always carry no more than 15 percent of your body weight.