Pilgrim’s Pilgrim-age

“It is my inner-standing that we are now in the age or era of partaking a new path, a new journey, and most importantly a new pilgrimage. A thought came to my mind about these new times. This Age is truly about a significant Pilgrimage that a Pilgrim now walks. Hence, my creative idea of the words Pilgrim’s Pilgrim-age.” Para Kas-Vetter



“what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” ancient Greek statesman Pericles

“We all know individuals who impact our lives by the way they live. We rarely communicate how much we appreciate them. Some we know only at a distance, others serve as mentors, friends and advisors. Their words stir our souls, their actions humble our ways and their love is dependable.” https://news.fresno.edu/pacific-magazine/article/leaving-legacy-lives-other

“……What is left in the end are your action, the memories you left behind and how you made people feel. And what you …leave behind is…” what “…people remember you with…….” Brigitte Nicole

“In The End, People Will Remember How You Made Them Feel”

“How Do You Want to Be Remembered”

“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” -Rumi

“Pilgrimage is a Sacred journey—a movement that brings us toward the Divine. While pilgrims have set out on soul-stirring journeys in search of transformation and Sacred Encounter for thousands of years, the pilgrim isn’t simply a person on a physical journey. The pilgrim lives within each one of us and accompanies us on our journeys at home, too.…..”


What is a spiritual mantle?

A “spiritual mantle” is a calling, gift, passion, ability, anointing, skill set, or level of authority that God has given a specific person.


Artist Josephine Wall “Leaving the old behind”


While pilgrimage might be a single spiritual practice, there’s no one way to do it.

Ultimately, what makes a trip a pilgrimage is the intention behind it and the presence you bring (that and the three elements required for any pilgrimage). Here are 10 types of pilgrimage, from outward journeys to inner ones and ancient destinations to modern:

1. traditional pilgrimage

A traditional pilgrimage is a journey to a well-known Sacred site.

In Christian spirituality, the most significant traditional pilgrimage destinations throughout time are the Holy Land, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela (this journey is often called “el camino de Santiago de Compostela,” “el camino” meaning “the way”). Other well-known traditional pilgrimage sites through the ages include the various Sacred sites of Ireland the holy Isle of Iona, both important to Celtic spirituality.

Sacred sites and traditional pilgrimages in other religions include Mecca for Muslims, Kumbh Mela for Hindus, Bodh Gaya for Buddhists, and the Western Wall for Jews.

2. ancestral pilgrimage

We all come from somewhere, and as we seek to know more of ourselves and God, it is likely that a time will come when some of the answers to our questions lie in the past, in lands that our ancestors once called home.

Ancestral pilgrimage is especially intriguing to those whose ancestors immigrated to the nation in which they live today, but can also be significant for those whose family has been rooted for quite some time. In either circumstance, ancestral research and pilgrimage reveal more than a place from which ancestors came—they reveal a story in which we are participants. And yet, this story is far greater than ourselves because it not only tells us where we come from, it can also inform and inspire where we go.

3. sabbatical

Sabbatical is most common in academic vocations, but the concept of sabbatical is valuable to all.

Originating in the Hebrew Scriptures, the idea with the concept of sabbatical is to allow the land typically cultivated to remain fallow, letting it go wild for a year. While this is still practiced in agriculture today, some farmers use this as an opportunity to grow another crop for a season. Informed by the values of the agricultural metaphor, the vocational sabbatical practiced today is an amazing opportunity to pause your work and cultivate something new and wild.

4. solidarity pilgrimage

A solidarity pilgrimage is a journey that is made in order to learn from and experience the world through the eyes of another. Just as pilgrimage allows us to travel the world, a solidarity pilgrimage invites us to journey to the “worlds” of others as we seek to humble ourselves, broaden our perspective, and respond with action.

While a solidarity pilgrimage is often considered to be an opportunity to journey to a culture and environment much different than our own, such as a service journey, it also includes everyday activism in our own communities.

5. pilgrimage of personal or cultural significance

Maybe your dad was a big Red Sox fan, and a year after his death you finally make it to Fenway Park. Perhaps you’re a fan of the beat poets and long to spend an afternoon at City Lights Books in San Francisco. It might be that you’ve practiced yoga for ten years and hope to one day unroll your mat in the land of its birth. Maybe the beauty of Paris simply makes your feminine spirit come alive.

You don’t have to explain it. What you’re passionate about and what ignites your fire is unique to you, and following that spark brings forth moments of Sacred Encounter. What place is uniquely beckoning you?

6. nature pilgrimage

In our world of busyness and chaos, it is vital that we step away from the things we can control (and subsequently tend to control us) and spend time in the world not made by humankind, but by God.

Oftentimes nothing can reorient you more to the transcendent than a journey to the mountains or the expansive sea. Trees have grown for centuries and flowers have bloomed each spring for generations. Listen closely; watch them for hours. Can’t you hear the wisdom they’re trying to tell you—the truths they’re trying to show you?

Whether a simple day hike or an extended solo journey, nature always has a way of turning us into pilgrims.

7. threshold pilgrimage

A threshold marks the passing of one season of life to the next, not unlike a traditional rite of passage. It is a journey that invites us to intentionally say goodbye to an old way of living and purposefully enter the next phase of life with clarity and awareness.

Though life thresholds can be unique to each person and circumstance, thresholds that are common to the human experience include the onset of puberty, marriage (or divorce), childbirth, and death (including entering old age and preparing for death or mourning the death of a loved one). Others include graduation, taking on a new career or responsibility, having an empty nest, and retirement.

Of course, thresholds can be less clear-cut and contain an element of liminality, too, infusing meaning into those seasons of life when we are in-between with no feeling of “home,” not quite sure where we’re coming from and no idea where we’re going next. Here pilgrimage offers the perfect invitation as we seek to navigate the unknown step by step. 

8. discovery pilgrimage

A discovery pilgrimage might seem like an ordinary travel experience on the outside. However, a discovery pilgrimage is just as much about the traveler as it is the journey. Those who love to travel journey to new places frequently. What makes a pilgrim different than a tourist on such adventures and a discovery pilgrimage different than just another travel experience is the pilgrim’s awareness that new discoveries externally will also to new discoveries within.

A discovery pilgrimage could take you to such far-flung places as Istanbul or Disney World. What makes the trip a pilgrimage is the posture you take and the presence you bring.

9. retreat

Retreats can serve as mini-pilgrimages during which we are invited to leave our everyday lives, learn from wise teachers, ask difficult questions, and try new things, all the while being reminded of what it means to take care of ourselves—mind, body, and soul.

Another type of retreat is one of silence and solitude, often taken at a monastery or secluded retreat center. Challenging and provocative, the space available in a retreat made in silence and solitude brings us face to face with the True Self and God and can be the most difficult and yet most rewarding practice.

10. interior pilgrimage

While it’s last on my list, it’s certainly not least, because in reality, with each type of pilgrimage listed above, we are also on an interior pilgrimage.

Interior pilgrimage describes the inner spiritual journey of the pilgrim. It is the foundation and inspiration for all other journeys and is rewarded by their fruit. It is the journey of a lifetime, the journey of a season, the journey of a day, and the journey of a moment.

Only when we forget that we are on an interior pilgrimage do we go off course. Spiritual practices are vital in remaining present to our ongoing interior pilgrimage. As time goes on we will explore many spiritual practices to fuel the journey, but until then, a good place to start is with a Rule of Life.


Of course, there might not be a title for the type of pilgrimage that calls you. At times you will feel compelled to journey even when you don’t know what you seek beyond inspiration. To saunter, after all, meaning “to walk in a slow, relaxed manner,” is inspired by pilgrimages of old, “saunter” deriving from san terre, meaning “Holy Land” in French. To wander, then, is sacred work when your heart is set on the Divine.

“Not all those who wander are lost,” JRR Tolkien wrote. No matter what called you to go on pilgrimage, when you wander with the awareness and intention of a pilgrim, you will no doubt in some way be found.



What makes a pilgrimage a pilgrimage?

The spiritual practice of pilgrimage is as ancient as they come. For thousands of years, pilgrims have set out on soul-stirring journeys to Sacred sites. Some of these pilgrimages were a religious requirement—a pillar of faith, as with the Hajj in Islam. Other journeys were taken as a gesture of penance, as with the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, where upon completion of the journey it was declared that your sins were forgiven. Others were undertaken in pursuit of healing, as with Lourdes, or simply because of the pilgrim’s desire to encounter the Holy in tangible ways, such as pilgrimages taken to the Holy Land to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

While these journeys differ in purpose and pursuit, they each share one thing in common: they’re tied to a destination. In fact, the practice of pilgrimage has been tied to a destination for most of its existence, always thought to be a journey to a place of significance.

To many, it seems as if this is the main requirement. But I’m here to tell you that pilgrimage is not as much about the destination as it might seem—at least the traditional ones often thought of when the practice of pilgrimage comes to mind. While many might define a pilgrimage as a journey to a Sacred site, I like to put more emphasis on the entirety of the journey rather than just the destination.

To me, pilgrimage is a Sacred journey—a movement that brings us toward our True Selves and the Divine. It is a soul-stirring journey in search of transformation and Sacred Encounter.

While for you, this might very well look like a 500-mile walk across northern Spain or a week immersed in the thin place of Iona, you could also equally encounter the Divine and experience transformation while backpacking across Europe or spending time in creation like we’ll be doing on our upcoming Creation Pilgrimage (find out how you can join us here). And because pilgrimage is a Sacred journey, you don’t necessarily have to leave home to live like a pilgrim, either. Any pilgrimage—whether at home and abroad—simply requires these three things:


The reason pilgrimage is such a powerful experience is because it involves leaving behind what is comfortable and known in pursuit of transformation. This might be a physical journey to another country or landscape, but it could also be one of the many journeys we experience in everyday life, whether in relationships, faith, vocation, and beyond. While these journeys happen all the time, they begin to shift when we claim them as significant and begin to approach each step of the journey with curiosity and intention, just as a pilgrim would do on a journey abroad.


Whether a pilgrimage at home or abroad, each journey is a quest, each quest begins with a question, and each question is sourced deep within the soul. For a pilgrimage to be transformative, it has to be a journey of listening deeply, following the pilgrim’s compass of intuition, and facing the obstacles of the ego, temptation, and the false self so that the True Self—who you are in God’s image—can be revealed.


In the practice of pilgrimage, the pursuit of the Divine is at the beginning, middle, and end of the journey and everywhere in between. It’s what fuels any pilgrimage, and when it comes to transformation, it’s the alchemy that turns what’s rudimentary into gold. While the spiritual nature of the pilgrimage might be subtle or overt, one thing is certain for the pilgrim at home or abroad—it’s the Sacred Guide who leads the journey each step of the way.


Forest path by WesleyChen on DeviantArt


While the beginnings of many journeys are fueled by the energy of inspiration and change and the conclusions of our journeys are marked by transformation, when we are in the midst of our journeys it can be challenging to stay on the path.

The liminal or “in-between” space between the start of a journey and its peak or resolution can often feel like we’re in the belly of the whale. This is especially true in times of trial, discomfort, uncertainty, or weariness that we encounter in any meaningful experience of pilgrimage. As challenging as these experiences might be, however, in order to experience the transformation that they seek, the pilgrim knows it is important to stay present to the journey at hand, no matter what it brings. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek,” famed mythologist Joseph Campbell said. This means it is precisely by facing adversity both without and within that borders are crossed, edges are stretched, and new life can be found.

While we can’t predict or control the challenges that await us on the path, there are many ways to engage them when they arrive that foster a posture of presence, curiosity, engagement rather than the resistance, overwhelm, or apathy that are so often the response to adversity. Be prepared to stay present to the journey and engage challenges as they arise with the awareness and intention of the pilgrim with the following tools:

1. theme

Bring more clarity and direction to your journey by selecting a theme for your pilgrimage. Though you could certainly choose a topic that you’d like to explore further and craft a journey from there, you might also find that the theme of your journey is already determined, hidden in the questions that led you to your quest in the first place. Once you name a theme for your journey, begin to gather resources to inspire your steps and offer guidance along the way.

2. altar

Whether traveling abroad or journeying with intention in everyday life, an altar is a valuable tool to bring focus to your pilgrimage, serving as an external representation of the journey taking place within. Literally meaning “high place,” altars are visual reminders that something Sacred is occurring and remind us that just as the altar holds our selected objects, the Divine has space enough to hold all that comes with our journey, including our questions, worries, doubts, and fears. Learn how to create an altar at home here and a travel altar here.

3. touchstone

A touchstone is a simple, tangible object that serves as a reminder of the journey at hand. Sometimes we might intentionally pause with our touchstone in order to reconnect with our quest. At other times, it’s the touchstone itself that invites us toward reconnection when we’ve otherwise lost our way. When choosing a touchstone, select something that you will always have with you, such as a piece of jewelry, keyring, or small symbolic item you carry in your pocket, always ready to call you back.

4. breath prayer

No matter where we are or what we are doing, our breath is something that we always carry with us and can easily be used as a tool for recentering and re-engagement through the practice of breath prayer. Keeping in mind your journey’s theme, listen deeply to the longings of your heart and craft a simple, two-phrase breath prayer to help guide you back to your intentions, matching the first phrase with your inward breath and the second phrase with your outward breath and repeating as often as you’d like. New to breath prayer? Learn more about the practice here.

5. vade mecum

Meaning “go with me” in Latin, a vade mecum is a tool carried by pilgrims for centuries containing words of inspiration and guidance for the path. Make one of your own by adding your favorite prayers, poems, and quotes in a small notebook to carry with you, referring to it as needed as your journey unfolds.

6. reflection

The practice of reflection encourages us to go deep within, letting essential truths emerge. It also allows us to revisit memories and occurrences in order to uncover insight that we might have otherwise missed. Journaling is a simple and meaningful reflective practice to aid in this process and can either be free-form or a response to prompts meant to arouse contemplation (try my Compass Cues Reflection Cards here). Other practices of reflection include the Ignatian practice of examen, drawing your intention toward consolations (where you felt close to God) and desolations (where you felt distant). Learn more about the examen here.



One of the essential tools for the pilgrim as they seek to uncover their journey and determine which step to take next is the practice of following the thread.

The poet William Stafford explains this practice beautifully and hints at how intrinsic this process is to the journey in his poem, “The Way It Is.” “There is a thread you follow,” he writes. “It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change…. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Nothing you can do can stop times unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.”

This thread Stafford refers to is reminiscent of the thread in the Greek Myth of Ariadne, Thesseus, and the slaying of the Minotaur. In the story, Ariadne gives Thesseus a thread to lay on his way into the center of the labyrinth so that once he defeats the Minotaur he can easily find his way back.

Just like the thread given by Ariadne which guided her suitor to safety through dark, labyrinthine paths on his quest to slay the beast within, there is a Sacred Thread woven throughout our journeys to help us stay close to the Source and guide us along the path. This Sacred Thread can reveal to us the movement and invitations of the Divine in our journeys as we look back as well as help us to discern which steps to take and which direction to follow going forward. This is true for our pilgrimages abroad as well as our journeys in everyday life. I like to think of it as a golden thread that shimmers throughout our journeys with the evidence of Divine Presence.

Do you recognize this Sacred Thread shimmering in your own life? If you trace your journey back to its beginning, you’ll likely find a thread of discovery woven throughout, highlighting the many journeys you’ve taken in life and the direction in which the Sacred Guide has been leading you all along. It could be one main thread that seems prominent in your life or it could be many threads weaving their way through the tapestry of your journey.

Perhaps there is a thread of connection that led you to your current career path, or a series of events that fell into place in order to bring you together with your partner. Quite often it is a common thread that prompts us to make life-changing decisions or go on pilgrimage, and there is no doubt a thread of curiosity and desire that led you to this Path of the Pilgrim.

Once you know how to locate your Sacred Thread, you can use it to guide you forward as well. Similar to Ariadne’s suitor, you, too, can use your thread as a tool to aid in your quest, taking note of its look and feel so you can recognize it, grab hold of it, and continue to follow it closely as your journey unfolds. But how do you locate this Sacred Thread?

In order to find your Sacred Thread, you must follow the clues. The word “clue,” in fact, is a variation of “clew”—a ball of thread or yarn—and derives from the very thread that Ariadne gave to Theseus. The modern meaning of clue, then—”that which points the way”—is intricately connected to the practice of following the thread, guiding us in the direction of the Divine.

Here are five clues to help you locate your Sacred Thread:

1. themes

What are the common themes in your journey? Oftentimes such recurring themes are like dots or stars in a constellation, the Sacred Thread connecting them to reveal something greater.

2. longings

What do you long for? Longings are birthed in the deepest part of ourselves—the same place the Divine Presence dwells and the Sacred Thread pierces our souls.

3. questions

What are your questions? Phil Cousineau, the author of The Art of Pilgrimage, says that “questions tune the soul” and reminds us that it is our questions that lead us to our quest. In the same way, our questions can help us identify our Sacred Thread and clue us in to the stirrings of the Sacred Guide who is always seeking to lead us on a journey of awakening.

4. opportunities

Where have you lost opportunities on your journey, and where have new opportunities been found? “When one door closes, another opens,” as the saying goes. Something similar can be said of the Path of the Pilgrim—where one way ends, another begins. Though initially such a shift might seem like a change in direction, the Sacred Thread connects it all, revealing that something much deeper is at work.

5. synchronicities

When have you experienced a seeming-coincidence to be something more? This is called “synchronicity,” a term coined by Carl Jung describing events that seem related and yet cannot be fully explained. One might say they “shimmer,” leaving us with a sense of the working of the Divine.

Ultimately, the invitation is to align yourself with the Sacred Thread and, like Ariadne’s suitor, follow its lead, trusting that it will guide you closer to your True Self and the Divine, whatever twists and turns the path might take. Whenever you see a thread shimmer, practice curiosity, surrendering any other agenda at hand in order to see where it leads, for if it truly is a Sacred Thread, it will lead you straight toward the Divine.