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Tourist or Pilgrim?

From early on, travel has always been a priority; as a student backpacking through Europe and now, where sleeping in a youth hostel is happily a distant memory. There is no single formula for a uniquely memorable experience, as each trip has been terrific in the moment, save for a few questionable decisions or a bad piece of fish. Looking at photos and some special pieces we’ve brought home, or wearing a piece of jewelry, all contribute to a brief return to far flung locales in my mind’s eye. So, I was a stopped in my tracks when I read the following quote from, “Meeting the Buddha” by Andrew Schnelling.

“Only the walker who sets out toward ultimate things is a pilgrim. In this lies the terrible difference between tourist and pilgrim. The tourist travels just as far, sometimes with great zeal and courage, gathering up acquisitions, (a string of adventures, a wondrous tale or two), and returns the same person as the one who departed. There is something inexpressibly sad in the clutter of belongings the tourist unpacks back at home. The pilgrim is different. The pilgrim resolves that the one who returns will not be the same person as the one who set out. Pilgrimage is a passage for the reckless and subtle. The pilgrim—and the metaphor comes to us from distant times—must be prepared to shed the husk of personality or even the body like a worn out coat.”

Which one is your travel persona? I’ve been both a tourist and a pilgrim of sorts. I hadn’t considered the description of a traveler to be one or the other and especially not with one sounding so profoundly superficial and judgmental. While shopping or hunting for souvenirs are not primary when traveling, neither has the search for transformation been a singular goal. “Wondrous tales” are exactly that and can be called up at a moment’s notice to relive a time long past with others and yes, a string of adventures too. Let’s not demean the fun and pleasure we glean from travel. Perhaps an unplanned metamorphosis or transformative event will happen much closer to home.

• What is your travel “type”? • Are you more apt to acquire or experience? • What’s the balance for you?

©2014 MWeisner

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