Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist

January 3, 2022 11:22 AM

Note:  In October 2021, Rose shepherded 27 yogis on a journey of reflection and self-discovery in Italy’s Amalfi Coast. These are the “teachings of the soul” she brought back with her.

One of the things we lost during the pandemic is travel. Not just get-on-a-plane-and-go kind of travel, but also the deeper truth we seek through new experiences and meeting new people. As yogis, we are asked to be students of life’s greater meaning, to let the Divine be awakened in us. That was hard to do during the pandemic. Now the world is open to travel once again, and it is time for us to re-awaken the “seeker” in us.

Yoga asks us to be spacious. To make room in ourselves for compassion, truth, and acceptance of other…and our own … beings.

How do we become spacious? I believe one way is to be a “traveler.” When we go to new countries or states or towns, we are out of our comfort zone. We can choose to immerse ourselves in other cultures, thereby expanding our own inner truths, or we can gather up documentation that we were there and overlook the chance to fine-tune our compassion and understanding.

One yogic maxim says, “All the things of the world are yours to use, but not to own.” It is a way of saying, gobble up experiences, not stuff. Non-attachment.

Travelers, or seekers, are curious and receptive, open to shaping themselves through understanding the world around us, and within us. Travelers are on a journey of exploration and self-discovery, or maybe even healing. Travelers live in the moment, collecting experiences rather than souvenirs, and allow some of their travel to unfold organically rather than keeping to a tightly orchestrated itinerary. They make time for La Dolce Fare Niente…the sweetness of doing nothing.

Tourists, on the other hand, often have an agenda for their travel experience.
-Selfie at the Eiffel Tower  ✅
-Ride an elephant in Jaipur, India ✅
-Eat “Pizza al taglio” (pizza by the slice) in Naples, Italy✅

Tourists see the sights, but miss the nuances of history and the Divine that shape our inner selves. When a tour allows 30 minutes of free time in an Italian market, we scramble to snag souvenirs for our grandchildren rather than stop to chat with a merchant who shows us a game that her “nipoti” enjoy. In that conversation, we gain a shared moment that means more than any postcard could depict.

Have I told you I am a first-generation Italian and have family still living there? That stepping on Italian soil makes my heart sing? That Italy is where God speaks to me so very clearly? Of course I have. Probably far too often! But there is nothing more empowering for me than sharing my beautiful ancestral homeland with fellow yogis on an extended retreat designed to nurture and heal our inner selves. It is more than just showing my yogis the sights. It is opening their hearts and eyes and souls.

How do I make that happen? One way is through expanding our experiences and allowing ourselves time to go inward. We stay not in hotels, but in real villas that open to the Italian countryside for quiet contemplation or yoga practice. We eat out, of course, but we also shop at the Supermercato for freshly made pasta, ripe tomatoes, fragrant herbs, and we cook some meals together, savoring the perfection of olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. We see some of the “tourist” sights, but we also step off the beaten track. We rest and eat and talk with each other and the people we encounter.

I especially look for moments that can change my yogis, shape them and open them to new thinking. The Amalfi Coast is a stunning stretch of coast in southern Italy, where the historic ruins of Pompeii melt into romantic towns and pristine beaches, and we took in as much of it as we possibly could.

There is a place along the Amalfi Coast that I have visited many times, and it never fails to uplift my soul. It is the Path of the Gods, a rugged 5 mile hike along the rocky Sorrento peninsula that winds through fields and forests and along jaw dropping cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a narrow, ancient mule trail that meanders  through historic towns and the ruins of ancient settlements. It is a place to walk Shambala (a form of walking meditation) so as to experience the deep sacredness of the Path (see the Soul Stretch blog “What We Long For,” July 21, 2020, to learn about Shambala).

There is a point along the Path where the immense beauty and godliness are almost unbearable. It is a place where I feel God’s hands on me, where my heart blooms with love and compassion, and I feel myself becoming a part of a great and powerful Divine. It is a place that will change you, if you let it.

Being a traveler is letting the Path of the Gods change you. Being a tourist is walking right by the place shrouded with the legends of the Gods because your eye is glued to the lens of your camera.

Don’t get me wrong, taking pictures and buying souvenirs have a place in our adventures. But the best souvenirs can’t be seen; they are the revelations we gain about ourselves and the world around and within us.

PBS travel expert and host, Joseph Rosendo closes each of his Travelscope programs with this Mark Twain quote:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”  

So as the pandemic world opens us to planes and adventure and wanderlust, appreciate living in the moment. Soak up your surroundings (whether local or across the Pond), try new things, look beyond the lens. Be a traveler, Lovelies. That is the key to understanding our amazing world and finding our own true selves.

Namaste and Travel On, Lovelies!