I found myself wishing, praying, someone would tell me what the next step was. There were a million different jobs I could apply for, a million different cities to live in, a million different paths to choose. But instead, I chose none. I was stuck, scared to fail, scared to choose the wrong path.
So I ended up working the same soul-crushing job for years. I ended up hanging out at the same bars, every weekend, with the same friends, for years. Every day and every weekend looked exactly like the last.
I had no idea how to move forward. I didn’t even know HOW to know what I wanted. “Oh my God, I can’t believe how much time I’ve wasted!” I thought in utter frustration. “I’m falling behind.” I panicked. Desperate, I knew I had to do something.
As any disciple of Elizabeth Gilbert would do, I turned, with a hopeful heart, to travel.
My trip would be the next, big, exciting step in my life. I would need it to travel inward, to find answers, to get clarity.
I saw my trip as a soul-stretching, heart-opening, gumption-building pilgrimage.
My two-month pilgrimage to Chile was just that: it was hard. It tested me in every way. I was surrounded by a sea of Spanish speakers, in a completely new place, and living in a house with twelve other people. And through the struggle, I pulled myself out of that rut. I felt happy again. I made lifelong friends. I gained real momentum. I gained the clarity I so desperately needed.
And I’m here to tell you how to plan your own pilgrimage; how to transform a regular trip into a healing, purpose-driven, enlightening journey.
1. Consider your trip a pilgrimage
When traveler and author, Phil Cousineau, was in Egypt, a taxi driver called his trip a pilgrimage, changing everything: “By naming my journey a pilgrimage, he had conferred a kind of dignity on it that altered the way I have traveled ever since.”
Words matter. The word “pilgrimage” transforms a trip from the inside out – it instantly becomes more than an itinerary, more than a bucket list. It becomes sacred, meaningful, beautiful. The trip becomes intentional.
According to Cousineau, “a deepening of focus” can transform even the “most ordinary trip into a sacred journey, a pilgrimage.”
2. Write a heartfelt, emotion-centered journal
Mindful, soulful travelers agree: for a more meaningful journey, keep a soul-soaked journal.
In your journal, answer these questions: How are you feeling? What inspired or excited you? What did you learn? What divine, aha! insights came to you that day?
Consider leaving a section of your journal blank – a section to be lovingly completed by the people you meet on your journey. Ask them to write you a message, where they can share advice, favorite memories with you, and well wishes for your future.
Soon, your journal becomes the manifesto of your soul and the very blueprint of your transformation.
3. Pack the things you’ll really need
Traveler and author, Joseph Dispenza, turns the most dreaded part of a trip – ugh, packing! – into something beautiful.
As he packs his toothbrush and pants, he packs something surprising: courage, an open mind, flexibility, and mental clarity.
How does he pack courage? An open mind? Well, he writes these “spiritual provisions” – courage, an open mind, flexibility, honesty, tact, self-esteem, love – onto index cards, and tucks them, lovingly, into his suitcase.
Travelers who have adopted this practice – including a woman who fell in love after packing it! – are certain: the universe responds to this powerful metaphor in beautiful ways.
4. Create a shrine to your trip
Accepting the call to take a pilgrimage is a spiritual, sacred experience.
As soon as he answers the call for a heart-centered trip, Dispenza clears a shelf in his home, lays down a tablecloth, and starts to create a spiritual shrine to his upcoming journey.
The first step is to light a candle, which symbolizes to himself, and to the universe, that he has answered the call.
In the weeks leading up to his trip, he adds pictures, article clippings – things that really excite him – to the shrine.
He leaves room on this shelf, of course, for when he comes back. During the trip, he collects meaningful, heartfelt pictures, symbols, souvenirs – pieces of his soul – and spiritually completes the shrine upon his return.
“All of it was there on my altar for me to see, to understand, and to love.” Ahh, beautiful.
Now, whenever I find myself in that stuck, icky place, I use these soulful practices to plan my next pilgrimage – even if it’s just down the road, even if it’s just for the weekend!
What is the most meaningful trip you’ve ever taken? I can’t wait to hear your stories!
This is a guest post by Shannon Marshall.
Shannon Marshall is a writer, traveler, and the co-founder of Your Velveteen Life. Joined by her sister, Jessica, she’s on a mission to help millennial women get unstuck, and create a life full of purpose, through the power of intentional travel. Visit the sisters’ website to wow your friends and family with free, word-for-word scripts that will help you answer that dreaded question, “So what have you been up to these days?”