For many in the West today, international travel has come to fill the void vacated by organised religion. It conveniently provides meaning, purpose, awe and wonder as well as a sense of belonging. Like a religious pilgrimage, travel represents a spiritual journey to sacred places. It is a journey with a hallowed purpose and every step along its way has meaning.  

The pilgrim knows that countless challenges will emerge along the way. But the pilgrim also knows that the destination will be awe-inspiring and the wonders will be shared with a community of fellow pilgrims. Like religion, travel can be an escape from the routine of everyday life. But like religion, it can also become just another ritual.

Obviously, no one wants to travel compulsively so it is important to spice things up a little all the time. This is where aspiring for an authentic travel experience comes in. It is sure to spice things up in the short term but it will ultimately become transformative in the long term. It is also true that like a religious pilgrimage, travel has its hardships.

We who travel subject ourselves to physical exhaustion, grueling flights, red-eyed early mornings and unfamiliar diets. This is penance as far as the religious metaphor goes. But like in religion, there are huge spiritual rewards. Travel will transport us to a different place – and often a different time. It will open the doors that would have otherwise remained shut.

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