Travel is one of the best avenues for exploring and deepening your spirituality, whether you’re going overseas or just down the road. New experiences help shape who we are and how we see the world, so the next time you pack your bags for a vacation or an overnight getaway, keep in mind these 10 ways to open your mind and make any trip a journey of discovery.
1. Visit holy sites. We’ll start with the obvious one! But remember that “holy” isn’t just about churches or just for saints. Certainly, shrines and cathedrals make wonderful destinations, as do mosques, synagogues, and temples. A monument, memorial, or historical site also can be holy if it lifts up your heart.
2. Meet the locals. Sometimes we can get caught up in sites and forget about the people who make a place what it truly is. Strike up a conversation with a local you run into at a restaurant, park, or museum. You’re likely to find great differences between you both, but you’ll be astounded by just how much we all have in common.
3. Learn the history. Even the smallest town has its own story, filled with interesting characters and a few oddball pieces of trivia. Knowing such things might not change your life, but it quite possibly could change your perspective.
4. Appreciate the art and architecture. The way we build and decorate our homes and workplaces says a lot about what we value, doesn’t it? So look around where you are: What does that house on the corner tell you? What about the fountain in the park? What inspired those creations? What inspires you?
5. Appreciate the natural environment. Trees, flowers, animals, rain, hills, prairies—no place is exactly like any other. There’s a powerful message there about God’s creativity, and too often we miss it while moving from activity to activity.
6. Relish the local food. From crab cakes to borscht, food means something. The ingredients tell the stories of place and people; the recipes are a tale of tradition. Take a look at your plate. What does this meal mean to the people who made it? What does it mean to you to eat it, to be served it? Food is one way people express love. What else does this dish express about the history, culture, and natural resources where you are?
7. Embrace adventure. We don’t need to be Chevy Chase to know that many vacations don’t go as planned. The challenge is to be OK with abandoning control and seeing it all as a grand adventure, something new and different from our daily lives. That’s not always easy, true. But it’s always worth it. 8. Take the road less traveled. No doubt, for many of us, the idea of vacation immediately sends our bank accounts into spasms. But all around us are roads we haven’t taken before, even if they’re just one neighborhood over. So, go for it! Start walking, riding, or driving, and see where you end up. It won’t cost you much, and there’s great value in exploring the unknown.
9. Marvel at the methods. We tend to take for granted how we get where we’re going, but the transportation can be part of the fun. Cars, trains, planes, and boats (to say nothing of our own two feet) are works of art and science rolled into one. While you’re waiting for the bus or the airport tram, think about what it takes to move you. Who invented it? How is it made? How many parts have to come together at the right time and in the right ways to get you where you’re going? When you break it down that way, you’ll see that even a brief cab ride is nothing short of a miracle.
10. Give a nod to God. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever you eat, whomever you meet—it’s all God’s creation. If that realization doesn’t make your heart skip a beat, you probably need a vacation.