The Wellness Traveler: Healthy and Well on the Move! General Well Travel Tips – Part Five

Prayer Flags, Shambhala Mountain Center, Colorado - Photo by M. Arloski

“I want to slow down!” is a common answer given by travelers asked what they want out of an up coming trip. Slowing down, shifting “pace of life”, de-stressing, unwinding, letting go, and de-contracting are really high on folk’s travel agendas. The continual popularity of destinations like Mexico, Italy, etc., speaks to this desire to live life on a different external clock, hoping we will shift our internal one with it.

Slowing down and noticing more inevitably puts us into contact with opportunity for nourishing our souls, if we let it. The spiritual has many different faces and shows up in ways that span a continuum from the subtle to the bold.

Well Travel Tip #9
Take your soul along for the ride…be a spiritual traveler also.

I had one day to be a tourist in Rome. Yes, just one day. Yet it could not have been better. I made sure I saw some of the classics. Touching the wall of The Coliseum was a peak experience for me. I also stumbled into ancient serendipity finding less famous ruins just down the block from my hotel that for a few minutes transported me back in time. What really took me by surprise and completely floored me though, was my experience in Saint Peter’s in The Vatican.

Bopping around the city on a step-on/step-off when you want tour bus, I found myself, late in the day, at the entrance to Vatican City. With a “Why not?” attitude I stepped off alone into different world.

Raised a Protestant, and now more of a Taoist than anything else, I was not on a Catholic pilgrimage. The huge Egyptian obelisk that spires above the square in front of the Basilica and the enormity of it all however began to have a profound effect upon me. When I finally stepped inside and looked down the great nave with its impossibly high arching ceiling running all the way to the tomb of Saint Peter, I was speechless. That is, I had no thoughts whatsoever in my mind. Then I looked to my right and there was La Pieta, Michelangelo’s masterpiece of Mary holding the crucified Christ. Torrents of tears ran down my face as my conscious mind remained Zen-like and empty.

The “Spiritual” doesn’t have to mean religious. We can create a trip to seek it actively with that purpose as our quest, or we can simply be open to it in the eyes of a child, the tranquility of early morning, or the sound of a leaf falling and hitting the forest floor. Create the pilgrimage that you feel you need. A small group explore in the wilderness, a retreat of silence at a monastery, observing native ceremony, exploring ancient pagan sites, or just a week at a quiet lake cabin. Is it time to take a vacation from your persona, time to reflect, to introspect, and to become reacquainted with who you are? Part of being “well” is the care and feeding of our soul.

Links for travel of a more spiritual nature:

October 2001 was an amazing time to be traveling solo in Europe. It was less than one month after “9-11” and America had the sympathy of the world. I had rented a spacious appartemento from Angelo The Butcher and was loving my time in the Cinque Terre of Italy. Knowing I was an American, Angelo broke into a spontaneous conversation with me the second day I was there. A profoundly sad expression covered his face as he began, “New York….World Trade Center…molti morto…molti morto (many dead….many dead).” He looked at me and all I could say in my very limited tourist Italian was “Si…si.” The compassion conveyed in his look and tone of voice said it all. I did know how to translate “molti morto”, but even if I had not, I would have completely understood the feelings he was conveying to me.

Well Travel Tip #10
What will you cherish the most? The connections you make.

Good friends and a Pacific sunset, Mexico - Photo by M. Arloski

When we travel with our hearts more open, our minds follow. We’re no longer interested in staying shut away from the local culture. We no longer ignore our wait staff, but instead recognize them as human beings just like us. When we are very fortunate those around us take us in, be they fellow tourists, or the local folks. Those are the times when someone buys you a beer and a shot of schnapps at a ski slope restaurant halfway up an Austrian mountain. Those are the times when you show Brazilians how to dance to The Blues, when you thought you’d be the student for Samba lessons. Those are the times when we connect with others in a way that drives home that we are all citizens of the same planet, the same humanity, be it in Tallahatchie or Thailand.

When the trip is entirely in the rear view mirror the images that come back may be of grand vistas or stunning art, but the mental videos will be of interactions with people who touched you in many different ways. Remove the insulation that you travel with to the degree that you feel safe. Sure, stay at the all-inclusive resort if you want, but take some time to go outside the gate and see the “real” culture and country, the ecosystem that has no gardeners tending it.

Add your comments and tell us what has made travel a personal growth experience for you.