These are very stressful times for all of us. Most of us have never experienced anything in our lives that even comes close to the fear and uncertainty that surrounds us these days. We are worried if we will have a job next week; if we will be able to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. All we hear from the media is how bad things are and that it’s likely to get worse. Who wouldn’t be stressed?
As humans, we are programmed to avoid anything that “feels bad” or uncomfortable. If it hurts, the first thing we try to do is get away from the pain, and stress certainly is painful. We’re also taught that the quick fix is the best fix. Got a headache? Take a pill. Can’t sleep? Take another pill. Stressed out? Have a cocktail, or… take a vacation!
“Yes, a vacation... that’s what I need”; a chance to get away from life’s stresses; to escape. You think, “That way I can come home refreshed and ready to deal with life’s stresses with renewed vigor”. A typical vacation can be a big help in dealing with stress. You get a chance to leave the worries behind you for a week or two... but do you really?
The first couple days of the vacation you spend just “arriving” and settling into “vacation mode”. Then you get to spend a few days doing whatever it is you do on your vacation. Even during these days, your thoughts frequently return to the worries from which you are trying to escape. Then a couple days before you are to return home, you begin to move back into “stressed out” mode. You start thinking of the all things waiting to be done when you get back home; you wonder if you will still have your job when you return; you wonder if these times of stress will ever get better.
The problem is that when the vacation ends, you have to go back to the same demands of life you left behind. Most likely you did not learn any new skills to deal with the stresses that made you need a vacation in the first place. In this sense, typical gay travel is only a quick, temporary fix, like a pill or a drink.
My personal experience has shown me that a spiritual journey can be a life changing event. Of course, you have all the wonderful benefits of a vacation like relaxing and playing, but a spiritual journey has additonal benefits. Benefits like the introduction to new ways of thinking, the learning and practicing of techniques to handle stress and the building of a support network of friends.
The "extras" on a spiritual journey can help you be less affected by life’s ups and downs and to be more confident as you move through your life. Also, during these events you get to meet and connect with people at a level simply not possible on an ordinary gay vacation. You are given the chance to learn new things and hear new ideas from the others in the group. The connections made on a spiritual journey adds immensely to the enjoyment of your time away. To be able to sit and have a real conversation with someone; for you to be listened to with genuine interest or for you to listen to others with your heart. The importance of these things cannot be measured and bring a deep sense of fulfillment.
Yes, there is effort involved. You can't just hide in your room. You will want to be "present"; you will want to be willing; you will want to be as open and honest as you can be. You will want these things because you know in your heart that the process can change you to your core. When you get home from a spiritual journey, you can have a whole new outlook on life; the stresses of life may no longer have the same power over you as they did before you took your adventure. You may be able to move forward to making every day, a vacation day.
~ Howie Holben of Spirit Journeys