Wanderlust. A strong desire to travel. Think of your last trip. The excitement of seeing a new place. The very act of traveling itself whether by plane, train, automobile. Watching the miles pass by. In motion. On a mission. Dare I say, on a pilgrimage? Traveling beyond our boundaries taps into a primitive yearning I believe is within each of us.
We have been a people searching for centuries. Consider the lens of American history. The exploration for new worlds led to the discovery of the Americas. The discovery was led by the urge to know if the world was flat or round? Was there another route to the Far East? Then we have the Pilgrims, aptly named, fleeing Europe in search of a spiritual and political freedom, which they found in the enduring landscape of a new frontier.
The settling of 13 colonies was not enough and before too long came westward expansion; fueled by a deep seated desire to explore what lie just beyond, to test the impossible and seek fame and fortune. Today we see it in the renewed push to explore our solar system and beyond. A yearning to know what is out there. Reach beyond our limits.
Is it coincidence that there is a common theme? There exists that driving force. That wanderlust is in us all. We are all pilgrims — people regarded as journeying through life.
Our lives to this moment have been a journey. Chapters in a book that when written can fill a library. This journey you have written is the result of decisions made in a search of a question, desire, a calling perhaps importantly founded in faith. Our pilgrimage comes from within our hearts and is influenced by interior and exterior movements. It is easier to recall the exterior movements because it is just that — a movement from one milestone to the next. Nonetheless, we cannot minimize the importance of the interior movements. Those quiet moments of reflection and thought that allowed us to discern our next exterior movement.
It is challenging to be aware of our pilgrimage these days. We’re sedentary. Glued to screens. Usually based in a routine. The routine can certainly distract from the fact that even in what appears as mundane we are in fact still on our journey.
I look over the arc of my life, at those milestones that are wayward points on my journey — graduating from college and then spending a year volunteering in impoverished communities, which led me to pursue a graduate degree in public policy where I found my passion for economic development where I have worked in amazing communities across the United States with a goal of getting to Florida, which has set me on quite a journey to get here. These are exterior movements but believe me they are based heavily on interior movements derived through prayer, discernment and reflection.
I share this with you to stir a moment of reflection for you — an interior movement, if you will, to reflect on your journey whether it’s over a wide arch of time or a short time frame. Now more than ever this is a helpful practice when it can feel so hard to believe we’re on a pilgrimage. It can widen our eyes to realize that pilgrimage can be just as much about becoming a better person without having to travel very far.
Hopefully I’ve inspired you, inflamed a small ember of your inner pilgrim. If so, I’d like to offer three suggestions fan that ember into a fire:
(1) If it has been awhile, take a trip. You don’t have to go to Borneo or Timbuktu. Go local. I hear Florida is a great place to start. The key? Pick the destination and go. No planning. No checking out reviews. Seek to be surprised. See how the spirit moves you on the journey.
(2) Journal. If you are a regular go back and read some old journals. Where were you a year ago? Three years ago? If you are new embrace long-form writing or bullet-journal method. Start capturing daily life.
(3) If you are a bibliophile it’s Summer! Pick up a good book to stir the soul. A few recommendations that might stir that inner explorer I recommend Michael Crichton’s Travels, Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, and one of my personal favorites Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Every year I try to read through the Divine Comedy. What calls me back time and time again is that first stanza,
“Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark,/For the straightforward pathway had been lost…“
Whether you are midway upon your life’s journey it’s not too late to reflect on your pilgrimage thus far, assess the paths ahead of you, pick up your walking stick and head on your journey.