My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sacred moments when you travel

Do you seek out sacred moments when you travel? Or do you simply open yourself up so as to allow them to occur serendipitously? And when they do surprise you, do you recognize them as being special and savour the moment? Or do you only appreciate them later on? To me, a sacred moment is one that is so inspiring that it stirs the heart and soul. A sacred moment might occur when you meet someone special, someone with an uplifting story to tell. Or simply when you spend quality time in a special place with someone you love. It might be an experience that is so emotionally moving, that it's transformational, even, dare I say it, transcendental? But then again something very simple can be sublime - the way light falls in a particular way, the exquisiteness of a just-opened flower, or the clear cobalt sky that starts your day. I would count visits to shanty towns in Rio and Lima, a bushwalk in Australia with an indigenous guide, travelling through a stunning landscape with husband Terry, and experiencing Uluru at sunset, as among my sacred moments. Life coaches and self-help books advise us to collect our sacred moments - by photographing them, writing about them, or simply storing them in our memory - and retrieving them when we need to remind ourselves of what's important in life, what we value. One of the things I most love about travelling are the opportunities that are presented for experiencing sacred moments. There's something about travelling that opens the mind and prepares your soul for recognizing and receiving special moments and saving them for that day you know you're going to need them. So, when was the last time you experienced a sacred moment?


Sandy O'Sullivan said...

Hi Lara,

I've been thinking about this one a fair bit recently... largely because I'm planning a short (five week) work trip (that one to the US) that involves visits to communities and spaces that may, in fact be sacred to the people that live there... so more the kind of intentional sacred space than the accidental or individual one that you're talking about here. I've also been thinking about it because I am so loathe to photograph or document those processes... in some cases, I'm even forbidden to (quite rightly, I think). It doesn't mean that they didn't happen, and in some instances, especially with my work, that process can make it less valid - that is, not being able to document it or manage it into a public dissemination. Like, 'if a tree falls in the forest, will you get a research grant for it' kind of thing. And of course documenting is what I do.

But overwhelmingly I've been pondering why we need to document everything in an entirely verbatim way, as though the viewer will see what we see.... travel is the best way for me to think about this, because as travellers we often go to the same place as the next person and have entirely different experiences. What one person finds sacred another can find entirely pedestrian... and when I do find something to be I guess what I would call sacred, I sort of don't want to wreck it by trying to reproduce or reinterpret it. I worry it won't work... it's not fear of failure so much as fear of a failure to capture what it is that I think exists outside of me in the first place.

The project I'm working on this sec is a good example of this... it's about Indigenous researcher engagement with research and research outcomes. Some of the stuff has been lovely, but shouldn't be super publicly available. I confess I'm fascinated by the process of deciding what can go up/out (on a website, in a publication etc) and what must remain relatively private.

Amazing stuff isn't it?

Jen Laceda | Milk Guides said...

I am one of those collector of 'moments'. When those special moments happen, it's like a light being turned on, and like you said, I would remember how the light fell that day (I actually had a post with the same title, when in the dead of a Canadian winter, I recalled sunny days in Ravello & Amalfi). The same thing with music. Sometimes, a song would remind me of a place or vice versa because either I heard it there or the song has inspired a feeling of longing (to travel). Like, (yes it is!) that Style Council song, Paris Match.

When was the last time I experienced that? Yesterday...while in the Louvre with my daughter and seeing her eyes light up in front of the gigantic French paintings, and I was wondering whether all the trips we had taken her to would it make an imprint on her and would it spark a love for travel & history?

Sorry if this is quite long...just one more point. My daughter gets babysat with her cousin. And so...we hear her little cousin call other kids and his own cousin (my daughter) a "savage". I hate that word and it angers me when I hear it because I know the parents taught him that. It was a word used by colonizers to call on culture or people they knew nothing about. And this kid's parent, they hardly travel (when they do, it's to sleep or something) they have this close-minded view of the world...for example, they think if it's made in Asia then it's "dirty" and I've even heard them teach their kids say that Chinamen are bad and dirty (a generalization they got after watching some National Geographic special on unsanitary farming in China). For a travel-lover like me, to hear other cultures and races being unresponsibly represented to a child is plain WRONG! Using the word "savage" to call others is disgusting. So, I hope when I take my daughter travelling, hopefully, the exposure to many cultures, places, and people will imprint on her, and hopefully, we don't end up raising a bigot.

Sorry for the long comment.

p.s. that was a Style Council song, but interpreted by Scott Matthews during a show in Brooklyn. If you have a chance to YouTube's a great version!--That coming from a die hard Paul Weller fan!

Travel Muse said...

For me sacred moments must be serendipitous. I simply cannot plan them and have the experience you hint at. I do recognize them in the moment though and am able to savor and remember them. Most recent one? Last year I climbed a terrifying trail in Zion National Park and had to literally talk myself across a crevass. Once I did it and saw the view from the cliff it led to the experience was transcendental and not to be missed!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Sandy

When is this trip of yours? Dying to hear more about it. Sounds fascinating - as does the project!

Although I didn't spell it out, I was thinking of both sacred places that are "sacred" in a spiritual sense (eg. indigenous sites) as a well as a religious sense (eg. churches), hence my question to readers as to whether they seek those out.

I'm not religious but I have still found some of those spaces, a particular indigenous place (such as Uluru) or a church for example (I remember one in Tallinn and another in Vilnius that both really overwhelmed me), to have a certain aura or atmosphere or something that I have found to be special.

I'm also thinking about documenting the experience from a personal viewpoint, not necessarily for publication. I think people too easily forget those special moments, which is why I think we should store them up - whether it's a diary or album or something - and just remind ourselves of them from time to time.

I can't wait to see this project of yours! I really think you should be blogging about the process - that process of thinking through things and making decisions - as much as creating a site to document the project itself.

I just think those "sacred moments" - those personal experiences that moved us and changed us in some way - get lost among the day to day of life.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Travel Muse - that's a great example! They tend to be the moments that are super-special - and dare I say "sacred"? - for me. I do see them as "sacred" in the sense that they can be life-changing. And, yes, they are almost always serendipitous for me too. I guess, as I said to Sandy above, I was thinking about those travellers who might be religious, spiritual, although I wasn't suggesting pilgrimages.

Thanks for your comments!

Unknown said...

Lara - this is a great post topic. I have always been lucky to experience sacred moments when I travel, both of the explicitly religious and more secular variety. I also find that they tend to be things I stumble into although I do sometimes find that the magic will strike more than once in the same place.

I thought that once I started traveling with my kids and basically stopped having much reflective or quiet time would put an end to these moments, but I have found this not to be the case. In fact, one of my favorite moments happened in Florence when I saw my sister-in-law and husband feeding my young son pieces of clementine and saw how exactly they looked like the paintings of the holy family we'd had been looking at all week in the Uffizi and other places. I wrote a post about it here:

Lara Dunston said...

HI Mara

Wow! That sounds pretty special! I'll have to check out that pic.

Thanks for dropping by!


Lara Dunston said...


Your long comments are most welcome indeed! I actually wrote a long comment back to you but it didn't save!

I'm so pleased to hear you're a collector of sacred moments!

And, yes, music and art do that for me too! Create those magic moments.

I'm sure your little daughter is storing beautiful moments in her head that one day she may only recall as impressions, but, ah, what a wonderful stream of them she'll have when she does. I'm sure they'll affect her in profound ways and make her so much more open-minded and open to wonderful opportunities that present themselves.

Enjoy your trip!

Prêt à Voyager said...

i love this concept. i feel like i've had a few sacred moments over food. meals in other countries are long and leisurely compared to the rushed ones in the US, so it's so nice to just unwind and enjoy the moment. i particularly remember one with my parents in panama city. it was a 10 course small plate meal ("chef's surprise"). since it was entirely out of control we were able to completely let our guard down and enjoy every moment, every bite and good company.


Mark H said...

In a secular sense, some of my most sacred moments are viewing wildlife (in the wild). Though I seek them out, nothing beats sighting a penguin reacquainting itself with its partner, a gorilla baby leaping onto the back of a silverback, a whale breeching or a leopard stalking deer. Equally well, natural locations - sunrises in exquisite places, a mountain unveiling from cloud, a view from the top of a hill, the Grand Canyon at sunrise/sunset. I find such moments sacred - maybe not in your defintion but certainly they make my most treasured moments in travel.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Mark

Those are *exactly* the kind of moments I meant actually - definitely a secular sense - the moments when the beauty of nature surprises us or catches us unawares.

- Susan - said...

wow, what a beautiful post... I am still thinking of all my special moments I had while travelling and also while leaving a special place.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Suzie

Thanks! Much appreciated. I was actually thinking I might blog about a few special travelling moments and then I have them close at hand when I need them! What do you think?