Traveling gets you out of your comfort zone, and once out of it, you can never quite get back in until you return home. You’re like Alice in Wonderland, where everything is not quite like it is at home. That in fact is what makes traveling a spiritual experience, whether you intend it or not. In fact if it’s too comfortable as it probably is for the rich, it won’t be spiritual at all, and so won’t be of much value for one’s life. It will be one more pleasant experience piled on to a whole load of pleasant experiences until that one monsterous, unpleasant experience comes, namely death. To deal with oncoming death in a conscious, hence spiritual way, you need smaller uncomfortable experiences. Life was harder for people of ancient times, and if it became too easy, let’s say they got it all down and tegether, they took on uncomfortable tasks, like moving impossibly giant stones around, or carving incredibly intricate drawings on dark cave walls.
For the traveler, there are different levels of discomfort. There’s the backpacker, the most extreme type of traveler. Everything is carried on the back. Of course everything’s getting so high tech, discomforts are becoming fewer and fewer. That’s OK: Just hike higher and higher, or farther and farther. Or you can travel within your home country. Difficult, sure, but still familiar in many ways. Same breakfast places. Same toilets. Same shower fixtures. Same roads with the same kinds of signs with the same kinds of drivers with the same emergency numbers to call if you get in a jam with the same language.
Up the ante by traveling to a foreign country. First, second, and third world ups it accordingly. My present level in England and Scotland is relatively light compared to Thailand a number of years ago, and less severe than Brazil last year. So there are different permutations and combinations that determine the degree of difficulty. Age and physical fitness is a factor too. There are no standards. Everybody’s different.
On this trip, we each carry a fairly small suitcase, a carry on, and a small satchel. We are out for 15 days. That’s not a lot of space. It involves some clothes washing in the sink before bedtime. We also brought a small computer, an iPad, a large camera with three lens, a small camera, and two cell phones for all our digital needs. Traveling in the 21st century has changed considerably. Still, two pairs of shoes apiece, two pairs of pants, one sweater, one fleece, three pairs of socks, you get the idea. As death approaches, we need fewer and fewer things.
We need proper nourishment. We need protection from the cold and the elements. We need a way to get around. We need loved ones near. So a mindful traveler reflects on these things that we normally take for granted. Traveling forces us to do so. But only when we do so consciously do we turn the mundane in to the profound, and an outer trip into an inner journey.
All this is not to say a mindful traveler doesn’t have fun on a trip, like we are having on this one, and like Alice had on hers.