Rest, Relaxation, and Religion
The faithful seek out vacations with a spiritual flavor.
The outdoors, too, is a natural site where vacation and religion fuse. Dave Wienk is Web master at www.fisher-of-man.com, where Christians can find vacation spots that are compatible with Christian values. When he started the site several years ago, 50-60 hits came weekly. Now, through more search engines, the religious market brings 3,000-10,000 weekly hits. Wienk sees the Christian component as ranging from a family-friendly environment to the sponsorship of daily Bible instruction and prayer opportunities.
Christian family camping has burgeoned, too. In 1996, approximately 5.5 million people attended Christian camps and conference centers. In 2000, nearly 7.5 million attended. They come to sites such as Forest Home in California's San Bernardino Mountains, which hosts 60,000 residents yearly and 100 families weekly through the summer season.
Bible lessons for adults and children, time alone to pray and dinner as a family punctuate a full day of outdoor activities. Mount Hermon family camps in California have seen the same rush of seekers. In 1996, its revenue was $1.5 million. In 2000 it was nearly $1.9 million.
Elat Chayyim, a Jewish Retreat Center in the Catskill Mountains, begun part time in 1992, now teaches year-round the spiritual underpinnings of Judaism through prayer, meditation and dance.
Why this surge of pilgrims into diverse vacation settings?
Partially responsible are the usual suspects: maturing baby boomers now seeking religion. Lillian Abdur Raman, 45 years old, is one who, after becoming a Muslim 26 years ago, left her home in Indianapolis to travel last year with her husband for hajj, the Islamic holy pilgrimage to Mecca. "People need to reconnect with God," she explains, "so we go back to these ancient places."
But the search of aging baby boomers such as Raman is only part of the explanation for the increase. Religions comprise more than beliefs. All faiths have a material side: foods eaten, symbols displayed, clothing worn and buildings of worship. Because American society is so materialistic, this concrete expression of faith becomes especially important in the United States. Time away combined with the spirit is the newest expression of material religion.
Spiritual vacationing is burgeoning because the believer can be faithful in a very American sort of way.