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Transform your summer travel: Finding spiritual growth on the road


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Daniel Esparza - published on 04/23/24

Any journey, if undertaken with intention, can be an opportunity for deep exploration. As we venture outward, we also venture inward.

As summer approaches (despite a seemingly never-ending cold season), many of us are already making exciting travel plans. But, beyond well-deserved rest and relaxation, what if we considered a journey that offers a deeper dimension, an opportunity for spiritual growth?

For centuries, since the very inception of Christianity, Catholic pilgrims embraced oftentimes arduous journeys in search of inner transformation. And while the physical challenges of going on a pilgrimage may be different today, the core principles of reflection, accountability, and renewal remain incredibly relevant.

Any journey, if undertaken with intention, can be an opportunity for deep exploration – both of the world and of ourselves. As we venture outward, we also venture inward. Such discovery takes on added meaning when we embrace a culture of hospitality and find connection with those we meet. In this sense, every journey can become a pilgrimage: We find each other, embrace each other, and offer help along the way.

From travel to change

Now, pilgrimages are not about guilt-ridden hardship. On the contrary, becoming a pilgrim means using travel as a catalyst for positive change. Maybe there’s a past mistake you want to acknowledge and make amends for. Or perhaps you long for a broader perspective that will lead you to serve others when you return.

In other words, goals can frame your journey. Traditional pilgrimage routes offer a connection to the spiritual journeys of the past, yes. Service-oriented trips confront hardship and injustice, sparking a desire to make a difference, true. Some family trips focused on reconciliation can be powerful acts of penance ­– as when you go to see some relative that you’ve been distanced from, for any reasons. But even a seemingly irrelevant trip to the beach, if done with purpose, can become a transformative experience.

The key is your intention, the willingness to grapple with complex emotions, seek a deeper understanding of yourself, and emerge renewed and compassionate. Whether it’s a far-flung adventure or a local exploration, penance travel is not about self-punishment; it’s about making room for meditation, and seizing the opportunity to transform you into an always ongoing better version of yourself.

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