Tag: Spiritual Travel

7 Tips for Creating Sacred Holiday Travel Moments

Travelling during the holidays might not always easily lend itself to sacred moments – airport line-ups, tired children, stressful connections, bad weather… it can sometimes all seem like too much. If you are travelling this winter – or just staying cozy at home – read on for our top tips for carving out some sacred time over the holidays no matter how challenging your journey may be!

Note down what the holidays mean to you

Before you set out or if you’re snowed in at home, take a few moments to brainstorm what the holidays really mean for you. What’s most important for you at this time of year? If you’re travelling with family members you can get everyone involved – at home, create a big green paper Christmas tree (or other image that has meaning for you) and stick on words and phrases that sum up what’s important for you. On the move you can draw a mini version in your journal. Focusing on the things that matter to you will ease any frustrations that may arise, and help you make decisions that are in line with your values.

Use your journal

Even if you don’t usually journal, taking a small notebook with you on your travels is always a good idea. It can help you organize your thoughts when you need to figure out a route or a travel plan and, more importantly, it can allow you to pause for a creative “time out”. Write or sketch things that you notice around you, things that inspire you or you’re curious about; let your pen or pencil lead you and see what flows. Connecting with your creative side on a regular basis will both relieve stress and help you expand your thinking and way of looking at the world around you. Our blog post “5 Journaling Tips for the Sacred Traveller” offers ideas for journaling whether you’re just starting out or have been journaling all your life!

spiritual travel writing
Use your journal to carve out a sacred creative moment

Focus on your breath

In those moments of high stress, or better yet, at regular intervals throughout a day or a journey take 2 minutes to focus on your breathing. With eyes open or closed, breathe in deeply through your nose, noticing how the calming air is filling your lungs and moving into your stomach. Pause, and then slowly release the air as you breathe out through your nose. If you feel yourself holding on to a lot of tension you can try breathing out through your mouth instead of your nose to really exhale the stress. Repeat the process 3 times to restore a quality of calm alertness and fully enjoy your journey.

yoga breathing
Our Tour Leader Natalie Rousseau practicing sacred breathwork to a stunning west coast backdrop

Enjoy the journey

It can be tempting to focus only on the end destination when travelling over the holidays but, like any form of travel, the journey to get you where you want to be can be meaningful and rich in sacred experiences. Notice the details in your environment – from the perfect snow-topped trees to the familiar look of excitement on fellow passengers faces. Really looking at all these small details on your journey can help your mind relax and stay focused on the wonders around you. If your journey is more local, take a walk to a friend’s house instead of driving and focus on the sound of your feet on the snowy path or the birds singing overhead. Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere you’re not likely to be able to stop to smell the roses, but there are sure to be enough other natural wonders around to make the journey captivating!

cambodia spiritual travel
Focus on the details of your spiritual journey to create a sacred moment (Photo: Delyse Baldwin)

Create space for sadness

The holidays can be a wondrous, happy time of year and they can also provoke feelings of sadness and grief. Whether you’re missing a loved one or wishing you were elsewhere, take time to honour all your feelings including sadness. It’s ok to feel sad and need some time alone to cry at this time of year. Trust yourself and listen to what you need – the holidays don’t need to look like a department store commercial. Your heart-felt interpretation of the season is perfect for you.

Travel … in your mind

While the above tips can help you to stay in the moment, sometimes transporting yourself elsewhere is exactly the gift you need to give yourself. Whether travelling or at home, be sure to have a good book with you so you can explore your next sacred travel adventure or learn more about some of your favourite sacred sites. For some good reading suggestions check out our blog post on “5 Sacred Travel Books to Warm up Your Winter Reading”. Sacred travel websites such as Sacred Earth Journeys are also a great place to start your research into sacred sites and power places you’d like to visit or re-visit one day. The itineraries offer detailed information so you can virtually explore the different sites and understand what to expect from the journey.

pisac in Peru
Tour Leader Freddy Silva with our group at Pisac on a recent journey to Peru. Are Peru’s sacred sites on your must-see list?

And finally… remember what you can control

There are a lot of unknowns when you travel over the holidays. You can’t control if your flight will be delayed or if snow will jeopardize your shopping plans, and you certainly can’t control other people’s reactions to events, but you can control your own. Recognize those things you do have control over – such as getting to the airport on time, choosing to say no to something that feels too stressful, or putting the above tips into action on your journey. Knowing the difference between what you can control and what you can’t will empower you to let go of those reactions or behaviours that are not helpful and connect you to what’s really important for you over the holidays.

Whether you are travelling near or far this Holiday Season, we wish you a heart-centered, beautiful journey.

~ Sacred Earth Journeys


Spiritual Travel to Ireland: An Interview with Participant Chris Franek

As we excitedly look forward to our 2015 journey to Ireland with Phil Cousineau, departing September 19th, we wanted to ask a participant on the 2013 Ireland journey about his memories of the trip and what made it so special for him. Chris Franek graciously took the time to share his thoughtsand his incredible photoswith us for this exclusive blog interview.


SEJ: What’s your favourite memory of the journey to Ireland you took with Sacred Earth Journeys?

Chris Franek: It’s hard to say if any one part of the journey was more memorable than the other because the destinations along the entire journey were very wonderful encounters with the numinous—almost dream-like encounters with the rare and unusual phenomena of what can happen when a culture is so deeply informed by the natural world that it emerges from. Perhaps nowhere on earth is that more evident than in Ireland.

The Irish people have used their legacy of tragedy and suffering as a kind of forge through which they have produced sacred buildings, art, poetry, music, and story, and the entire journey was redolent of this divinity. Perhaps what is even more memorable is to have such a numinous experience in the presence of a community of enlightened witnesses. I was really astonished at how quickly our group bonded into a deeply connected community that I felt an incredible sense of belonging to.


SEJ: Your photos from this journey are absolutely stunning – which place or site inspired you the most creatively?

CF: The first thing that immediately comes to mind is Clonmacnoise, the famous sacred pilgrimage destination that the ancient Irish incredibly figured out how to locate in the geographical centre of Ireland. That place is this beautiful island of cathedral ruins, mysterious graves rumoured to hold the remains of ancient Irish kings, and beautiful Celtic crosses floating in a surreal green ocean of bucolic Irish countryside. For me, it was a constant reminder that creativity emerges from the cycle of death and rebirth.

The second place that stands out as stimulating my creativity would be the pilgrimage to Colman’s Oratory and holy well in the Burren. That lunar landscape is fiercely rugged and I really enjoyed the contrast between the inhospitable rocky terrain we had to walk across to that of the lush greenness of the foothills where Colman’s Oratory and holy well are located. Having to silently walk for about 20 minutes through this jagged rock rubble landscape evoked a heightened state of consciousness of my place in nature as we had to step very deliberately and mindfully to negotiate our journey. It was a deeply moving experience.


SEJ: Is there a particular photo you’re most proud of or that really sums up the journey for you?

CF: It’s a tie between two different photos. One is the photo I took of the “Cross of the Scriptures” (actually a replica as the original is in the on-site museum) at Clonmacnoise. What this represents for me is the reminder that we, as Joseph Campbell and Phil would say, need to put ourselves in the middle, where the horizontal line of chronos and the vertical line of kairos intersect. It’s the invitation to give equal regard and importance to both the reality that we can see and the one that is a mystery that we can’t see to bring a sense of balance and necessary reverence to life.

The other is the shot I took of a number of the pilgrims laying down on the cliff at Dún Aonghasa on the mythical isle of Inish Mohr, peering over the edge down at the Atlantic Ocean, 100 meters below. For me, this represents that call that I believe we all have to find the courage to put ourselves at “our cliff’s edge” (to quote David Whyte)—to have the willingness to look over our metaphorical edge into the abyss and from time to time, jump.


SEJ: How did travelling with Phil Cousineau as a tour leader enhance your enjoyment of Ireland?

CF: A pilgrimage through Ireland with Phil is to be in the presence of Pegasus, whose hoof striking the rock exposed a crack from which a geyser of vitality sprung forth—inviting the 9 Muses to come gather around and dance. Phil has that rare and precious gift of disseminating ideas and knowledge through the enchanting medium of story. In pre-modern times, teaching was an oral tradition and Phil is a wonderful bridge to the Ancients in that regard. Ultimately, I think we are all in search of our own élan vital and pilgrimage with Phil in Ireland put me into direct contact with my own dormant vitality. For two weeks, I was beyond the reach of the heavy insidious claims of my ordinary life—allowing my consciousness to expand beyond the narrow gap between my ears to include a larger purview of nature and a feeling of my direct participation in “the dance.”


SEJ: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your journey to Ireland?  

CF: Ireland, despite its legacy of sorrow, holds deep seams of gold waiting to be mined if you have a proper guide and a call to adventure. Sacred pilgrimage through Ireland puts you in direct communion with what Phil frequently refers to as “duende”—those deep mysterious forces of life and nature which drive our instinctive creative impulse. Duende is what so deeply informed the art of the great Irish musical and literary geniuses such as Van Morrison, Bono, Sinéad O’Connor, Glen Hansard, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, C.S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde and Seamus Heaney.

Joyce defined “proper art” as that which puts the beholder in a state of “aesthetic arrest.” Sacred pilgrimage in Ireland is to be in one constant state of aesthetic arrest. After two days, you feel like you have been together for two weeks and after two weeks, you feel like only two days have passed. It’s akin to being in that timeless realm of the dream state. I was speaking to another one of the pilgrims that have done multiple pilgrimages with Phil after returning from Greece and he remarked to me, “I don’t know how people live without this.” Sacred pilgrimage is one of the best ways I have personally experienced to put a tap root deep into this vital soil of soul and there is no better navigator for such a journey than Phil Cousineau.

We still have a few remaining spots on our 2015 journey to Ireland: A Spiral Journey into the Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau: Explore the Mythology, Arts, and Spirituality of the Ancient and Modern Celtic World, September 19 – 30, 2015. If Chris’s evocative replies have inspired you to take your own metaphorical jump into a sacred journey, visit our website today to book your place on what promises to be a truly life-changing travel experience.

 To learn more about Chris Franek you can visit his website. To view more awe-inspiring photos of this taken journey by Chris please visit our Flickr page

~ Sacred Earth Journeys

Sacred Pilgrimage & The Essence of Spiritual Travel

Have you ever longed to embark on a journey of pure wonder and transformation, a journey that may stretch your personal boundaries and open your heart, mind, and spirit to new possibilities and new insights? If so, a sacred pilgrimage is the trip for you. Spiritual journeys, pilgrimages, and sacred sites tours are becoming more and more popular – here we explore their importance.

sacred pilgrimage
Phil Cousineau on a sacred pilgrimage to Ireland

What Is Sacred Pilgrimage?

For centuries, people of all cultures have gone on pilgrimages to sacred sites around the world. These journeys acted as rites of passage, an expression of faith and devotion, an answer to a sacred call, or merely a seeking of spirit. In his book, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, Phil Cousineau writes that, “in each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred… What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly”.

hill of tara
The Hill of Tara in Ireland – a powerful sacred site

“For millennia, the cry in the heart for embarking upon a meaningful journey has been answered by pilgrimage, a transformative journey to a sacred center. It calls for a journey to a holy site associated with gods, saints, or heroes, or to a natural setting imbued with spiritual power, or to a revered temple to seek counsel. To people the world over, pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul…”

machu picchu peru
Machu Picchu in Peru draws thousands of pilgrims

Why Go on a Sacred Pilgrimage?

The reasons why modern day pilgrims embark on such a journey are very personal and individual. For many, there is a deep desire to touch and connect with the sacred energies that are palpable at sacred sites. Perhaps one has a lingering question and feels drawn to a certain place for answers, or perhaps one wishes to find a community of like-minded spirits by venturing on a pilgrimage with others.

There are many soulful reasons why one chooses to go on a sacred journey rather than just travel some place new. Essentially, pilgrims are spiritual seekers, people who are searching for the divine, a force which can be found in a myriad of spaces. Cousineau describes a pilgrim as a “poetic traveler, one who believes that there is poetry on the road, at the heart of everything”.

spiritual travel mexico
Sacred ceremonies like this one in Mayapan, Mexico are part of a sacred pilgrimage

Soulful Travel: Becoming a Pilgrim

He also explains how the sacred can be found all around us if we travel with a certain mindset. “The practice of soulful travel is to discover the overlapping point between history and everyday life, the way to find the essence of every place, every day: in the markets, small chapels, out-of-the-way parks, craft shops. Curiosity about the extraordinary in the ordinary moves the heart of the traveler intent on seeing behind the veil of tourism.” If you are able to see, feel, and experience the sacred even in the most mundane of things and places, then you are already on your way, you have already become a pilgrim.

In the Global Spirit program, “Sacred Travel: The Pilgrimage Experience”, Cousineau further explores this ancient spiritual phenomenon, addressing questions such as, “What can the ritual of Pilgrimage tell us about deepening the sacred dimension of life?”; “What spiritual state or benefit are pilgrims ultimately looking for?” and “How do they know and express it, if and when they find it?” With invited guests Pico Iyer and Peruvian anthropologist Zoila Mendoza, as well as compelling footage of pilgrimages to India, Peru, and more, this new program is a must-see for anyone interested in spiritual travel. Enjoy a short excerpt from the program below!

There is no better time to begin your own sacred pilgrimage experience than the present. If you have been drawn here and are reading this article, then you have already been called. It is now in your hands to heed this call and respond as you will. We wish you an exciting, enlightening, and transformational journey, wherever the road may lead you.

Browse our current sacred journeys and find your own unique calling today!

 ~ Sacred Earth Journeys

Top 5 Spiritual Destinations in Turkey

Are you planning a visit to Turkey? Curious to know what the must-see sacred sites are in this beautiful country? Here we take a look at the top 5 – plus a surprise bonus “destination” at the end!

1. House of the Virgin Mary

Located a few kilometres outside of Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary is an important shrine for Muslims and Christians alike, and is believed to be the final home of the Virgin Mary. This popular pilgrimage site has a “wishing wall” on the outside for visitors to leave intentions and prayers, a sacred healing spring running under it, and a modest shrine inside the house.
House of the Virgin Mary, Turkey. Photo by CherryX.


2. The Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

According to the old legends, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons (Callimachus, Hymn to Artemis, III.233). Considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and dedicated to the goddess of the hunt, The Temple and the entire ancient city of Ephesus are some of the greatest pilgrimage sites of antiquity.
Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey

3. The Oracle at Miletus

In classical antiquity the Oracle was both revered as a voice of god and place of pilgrimage when seeking advice. Well-known for attracting crowds of pilgrims, Miletus was one of the most important cities in the ancient Greek world and the place St. Paul stopped at on his Third Missionary Journey, on his way back to Jerusalem and Didyma (Acts 20:15–38).
Miletus, Turkey

4. Aphrodisias

Dedicated to the ancient Mother Goddess, and then the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Aphrodisias was the site of a magnificent Temple of Aphrodite and the home of a renowned school of marble sculpture. It has been a sacred site since as early as 5,800 B.C., when Neolithic farmers came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops.
Temple of Aphrodite, Turkey

5. Mevlana Museum, Konya

In the 1920s Rumi’s mausoleum and dervish lodge were turned into a museum, which has been an important place of pilgrimage ever since. The poet, philosopher, and religious teacher Mevlana Rumi is widely believed to be one of the world’s most important literary and spiritual figures and an embrace and understanding of his works helps us to discover the philosophical concepts of Sufism. While in Konya, and to further deepen your understanding of Sufism, you can see a performance of the Whirling Dervishes.
Mevlana Museum, Turkey

Bonus “Destination”: You!

As a seeker and traveller you will always bring an extra dimension to all the destinations you visit. When travelling around the culturally-rich sites of Turkey take time to open to the sacred energies and appreciate all this country has to offer.


Have you visited any of these sacred places in Turkey? Would they make your Top 5 list or would you choose others? We’d love to hear from you!


If you’re interested in visiting these sites and more, check out our “A SacredJourney to Turkey with Phil Cousineau: Long Conversations in the Land of Troy, Rumi and the Goddess”, October 10 – 22, 2014.


~ Kim Bridgett & Sacred Earth Journeys