Heard about an interesting travel book today on Rick Steves’ NPR show about how to make your road trip into a pilgrimage. Religion is the first thing that pops into my mind when I think “pilgrimage” but it doesn’t have to be a trip to Mecca or Lourdes. From what I gather about the book “The Road Trip Pilgrim’s Guide: Witchdoctors, Magic Tokens, Camping on Golf Courses and Everything Else” by Dan Austin, a pilgrimage can be to seek out all kinds of things you’re passionate about. Which got me thinking about 1) Have I already unwittingly gone on a pilgrimage or two? 2) What kind of pilgrimage would I like to wittingly go on, what shrine or sacred place would inspire a journey?
My travel tends to be inspired by 1) a desire to see friends and family 2) a desire to see new places I’m drawn to because of the landscape, the culture, history and, yes, the food. Nothing much deeper – to be honest. But it’s given me something new to ponder as I travel and think about traveling. I’m been to some places that are prime pilgrimage territory – Rome, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Marrakesh – but I didn’t go in search of myself or religion or some great truth. Which leads me to the next question – where would I go if I was looking for myself, or religion, or some great truth?
My husband brought up an interesting point – perhaps the closest I’ve gotten to making a pilgrimage is my frequent trips to Ithaca, N.Y. where I first went as a child with my parents (who met at Cornell) and where I later went to college and where I now take my kids for summer vacations with dear friends from my Cornell days. Ithaca is my very special place, for many reasons, and when I’m there, I feel happy in a way I don’t feel anywhere else. It’s a place that connects me to my family – past and present, my parents, my childhood, my college years and college friends. But also, I have always been very drawn to the landscape and way of life in Ithaca – the gorges, the Finger Lakes, the farms, the quirky alternative charm and, okay I’ll admit it, the ice cream. But does “special place” equal “sacred place?”
pilgrimage: a journey of a pilgrim; especially : one to a shrine or a sacred place
pilgrim: one who travels to a foreign land/to a shrine or holy place as a devotee