--Rainer Maria Rilke
Turning a mere trip into a journey of the soul is not difficult, but it does call for a different way of looking at travel. One of the most important ways to work spiritually into with a trip is to create a travel shrine.
I created my first travel shrine a few years ago when I was traveling a great deal for my work. I began to feel a deep need to lift all those comings and goings onto a spiritual level. My first shrine was an open space on a bookshelf on which I placed a photo of my cat and my favorite coffee mug. As I left the house, I deposited my ring of keys in the coffee mug and whispered a prayer--Angel of Travel, keep everything safe at home while I am out in the world.
Preparing for subsequent trips, I gave more attention to my travel shrine. Eventually it became more elaborate and more meaningful. Now it works for me as a symbol of my intention to spiritualize my travel--to make every trip a model for the journey of life itself.
I create my travel shrine the moment I hear the first call to journey. I clear a shelf, lay down a plain white cloth, and install my first sacred article--a simple candle. For me, the candle is a symbol of the entire journey, from the period of preparation straight through to my homecoming. More, it represents my willingness to engage the journey, to use it as an opportunity to fearlessly seek new self-knowledge.
As the days and weeks progress toward my date of departure, I bring more articles of significance to my shrine. If I am going to a place I have never visited, I find pictures of that place and stand them up on my shrine. If I am going to a foreign country, I try to get a few bills or coins of that country's currency, and place them on the shrine.
My travel shrine for that journey was laden with class pictures from grade school--group photographs featuring a sea of innocent faces surrounding a half-remembered teacher. I placed other mementos on my shrine's altar: a playbill with my name on it; a small sack of marbles; an essay written in pencil, which sported a small gold star; a mimeographed invitation to my eighth grade graduation; a get-well card from a beloved aunt, sent to comfort me when I had the mumps.
By the time I was ready to leave on that journey, the candle I had placed there when I started my shrine was surrounded by dozens of other articles of profound meaning.
My trip back to the past turned out to be a remarkably moving and significant experience. I reconnected with the people I had known years before--including myself, grown older and wiser. When I left my hometown, it was with a heart brimming with gratitude and affection. I had left some room on the shrine for what I would bring to it after the trip. When I returned home with new photos of former classmates and teachers, printed invitations to reunion parties, ticket stubs, and other fresh mementos, they went onto my travel shrine. Taken together, all of the articles represented the many facets of that journey.
When you create a shrine to your journey, you are entering the realm of the conscious traveler. You are elevating your journey from the mundane to the sacred.