Life is the pilgrimage
Landing back to the land I call home
While in Austria visiting a friend, we stopped at an outdoor adventure store, and I picked up this yellow fanny pack. It wasn't until after purchasing that I noticed the tag "Travel Never Ends."
Just the message I needed as my journey to Italy (Austria, Germany, and a little France too) comes to a close. I am back on Turtle Island (aka North America), but not quite home. Riding the wave of travel to be with family and a precious newborn. Babying both of ourselves into familiar rhythms.
I am digesting. So many experiences and people swirling around, vivid and textured encounters, now memories in my mind-body. I notice what rises to the surface, what I've forgotten already, what's resting in my heart. I am shaken up, cleared out, grateful, and inspired.
Throughout my journey, people would ask why I'm traveling - holiday? work? And it would take a pause, a moment for me to think about my reply. No, not work exactly - like no one's paying me to be here (maybe next time), but I am on a mission. There are people I need to see, dances to be danced, love to be witnessed.
A pilgrimage? Yes, let's call it that. Pilgrimage feels grand, but also kinda right. I felt a sense of purpose going to officiate a wedding for two beloveds, spending time at dance communities I've admired from afar, visiting the homeplace of a saint who inspires me, being on the land of some of my ancestors. The whole thing - the planning and deciding that I was going was an act of trust.
"A pilgrimage lives on in you much after the actual traveling is over," says Sr. Mary Ellen during a conversation before my departure. I feel this as I sink back into some kind of normal. And I'm wondering when a pilgrimage actually begins and the different ways we can travel beyond the physical.
Are there rules for pilgrimage? Can we make new ones? What might a pilgrimage to the woods feel like? Can I make room for pleasure and silliness? Am I still on pilgrimage right now?
Life as pilgrimage requires openness. It breaks down ideas of place and time as rigid. Even when we feel still or stuck, we are somewhere on the path. Something interesting may be just around the corner.
This orientation to life sees ourselves as guests on this earth and potential companions to every human and creature. Everyone and everything may have a message or sign.
It's political. It creates a net of support. Everyone deserves a warm meal, a place to lay their head, space to navigate their truth. We are empowered to take care of each other. Whether as pilgrim or host ~ the roles may switch soon enough.
In the coming weeks, I wonder how my commute could feel like a roadtrip, my home as a hostel, new people I encounter during the day as potential companions for a spontaneous conversation or adventure. Leaving an afternoon or day open for possibility, but even a few minutes, an extra pause and breath could make space for this shift.
Life as an improvised pilgrimage. This, I feel, is my current (and probably life-long) experiment.
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4 whispers of wisdom
I leave you with a few young insights for the life as the pilgrimage, an early harvesting from my travels. Shared so I remember them, and maybe there's something that resonates with you, too.
Let yourself receive hospitality.
This is a crucial love practice! There are many, many people eager to share their hospitality with pleasure. The warm meal and snacks, coffee bill, compliments, fresh sheets and towel. Receive and spread the love.
The world is so, so big.
Beyond what our minds can grasp - sometimes this is overwhelming, but often it can provide much-needed perspective. There are many different lives being lived right at this moment. Someone is hanging their laundry on a perfectly sunny day, an Italian couple is passionately making out in a McDonald's parking lot, a train is late, there's a 3-year-old birthday party, there is war, there is someone who would love to connect with you, and there are geese flying across the sky… when the world feels small and stagnant, remember this.
Connection changes everything.
Whether meeting with an old friend, talking to your airbnb host, couchsurfing meetups, hitchhiking (only did this for a couple little rides, sorry mom!), dancing with new friends – this opens up many possibilities. Being in a new place, or even a familiar one, can feel empty, flat or overwhelming when you don't know what to do; or you can get sucked into whatever the crowds are doing. A friend is a lifeline, a conversation is grounding, a spontaneous adventure is world opening.
Love is mycelial.
It's your dear friend getting married to your cousin, it's being walked to the train station and met at the next one, it's a kiss on the cheek from a stranger. It's also train maps, gardens, tears, video chats, fresh fruit. I don't think love is mysterious. It's interconnected and abundant, within and around us.
Wishing you a splash of adventure amidst the mundanity.
ciao for now,