I have been preparing for a pilgrimage over the course of the past six months. I’ve kept this very much a secret, and four days before departure, after obsessively following ticket-prices on Skyscanner, I finally booked my flight to Bali. Though I have been mentally prepping for this journey for months, I held myself back from actually purchasing my tickets and kept the trip entirely secret from those around me until the week before.
I’m not sure exactly why I’ve been so private about the intended journey, but I think it has to do with a deeply ingrained, though entirely irrational, sense of shame and guilt that I’ve built around my lifestyle and recent experiences. I will do my best to explain.
At the moment, I have absolutely no strings. No romantic partner, no job, no kids, no rent. There is nothing tying me to any particular place or any particular identity. I'm relatively used to this level of unending independence, and this personal space has always brought me a deep sense of freedom and inspiration. As I’ve grown older, however, and my friends begin to build cohesive, stable lives, either with partners or careers (or both), I’ve begun to doubt the validity of living this way. I notice that I often feel selfish in my endeavors and desires to pursue the artist's life. My internal fraud police never hesitate to rush in with the guilt and self-shaming, "What gives you the right to take a trip somewhere on my own, or to take a break from employment?" "You haven’t earned anything yet, have not accomplished anything grand, so what makes you think that you deserve to live a life that is this wide-open?"
This slew of self-criticism manifested itself in the form of guilt throughout my recent secret-planning process, and it seemed my ego was hard-wired to convince me that I should stay-put, sit still, save money, and close to the idea of a potentially transformational journey. Fortunately, in December a friend in Austin handed me the book “ The Art of Pilgrimage, The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred” written by Phil Consineau, and my egomaniac of a mind could no longer hold footing against the wanderlust that took root in my soul. Once I began to frame the travel in terms of a “pilgrimage,” the self-abnegation slowed. I was used to pilgrimages. They shaped travel, and gave one’s journey an intention. This makes all the difference. Though I have often struggled to establish intention in my career-focused life, intentional travel was always easy for me. Four years ago, I trekked across northern Spain, following the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim’s route that has been traversed by seekers for thousands of years. Before the Christians established a route during the 9th century, Pagan travelers walked the stretch westward to Finisterre to give praise to a sun god. The walk was, and is, undoubtedly intrinsically sacred. Embarking on this journey from Santander, I carried no doubts. I was awake to the posibilities, and my soul yearned to find peace along the infinite stretches of green countryside. We followed the beloved yellow arrows painted on fence posts and pavement.
That pilgrimage was relatively easy to undergo, because the route was well-established, well-mapped, and well-respected. It has been difficult for me, however, while planning a trip on my own to Asia, to maintain a similar mindset. For some reason, I felt selfish in my endeavors. My wanderlust seemed like exactly that…. lust. A craving, a base desire. If I was not working toward something, how could this be worth anything? What right did I have to set out again on my own, leaving my community behind?
Reminding myself of the sacredness of travel, and the potent power of the traveler as an intentional seeker has been necessary throughout this process. In reaction to my overacting ego, I've planted deep spiritual and artistic intensions for this journey, whilst relinquishing any attachment to the outcome, and through this process, have felt my soul open and my ego fall silently calm. I have no idea what to expect, and am terrified by the fact that within an hour, I will be boarding a plane and flying across the world, to land in an imagined land alone. My mind is anxious, but my heart and soul are smiling. It is time to take flight, and allow myself to truly assume the identity of the pilgrim once again, humbly bowing to the divine and unpredictable powers of this planet.