Tourism: The Return of the Eco Holiday

/, Uncategorized/Tourism: The Return of the Eco Holiday

In my own evolution, and that of operating holistic holidays, I continue to be fascinated by situations, in the mainstream media, that confirm my decision to set up of EcolifeWalks, an entity that helps people to enhance their lives via week’s Eco Holiday in a biosphere with walks and talks to inspirational places.

Podcasts to Ipod to Iphone
One such occasion was this morning, when having awoken too early to get up, I reverted to listening to a Podcast. (For those who don’t know Podcasts, they are like downloadable radio and TV programmes that anyone can make and receive. They are free and work most easily on smartphones and tablets.

The Secret Power of Emotions
People are now discovering how subtle energy works. In simple terms whatever energy you put into a situation is a function of what comes around in your life. Belief systems are a big part of this, so if you don’t believe this, what if you are wrong?

Having researched this area and being aware of my energy, I know how it works. It’s still surprising how life can suddenly change by being aware of what the emotions are doing and finding a way to FEEL slightly better.  In this instance I have a lot of focus on promoting EcoLifeWalks and it is a subtle business to communicate. However it is amazing how, wherever I turn, I find ideas and connections which inspire me into new action and direction. Emotions are very key to the outcome of our life aspirations. We know this to be true deep down (check it out yourself). Millions of people are discovering the secrets to human energy, hitherto only referred to in Ancient Wisdom or by indigenous people.

Excess Baggage
So, returning to the Podcast, first thing in the morning, while still in semi dream state, I selected one from the BBC Radio 4 called Excess Baggage. (Living on an island, the concept of excess baggage haunts us as so many airlines extort extra money in any way they can) I like this travel programme as it offers fascinating asides, from the basic business of moving your body from place to place. (I remember promoting Holistic Holidays at the UK International Travel Show at Excel in London Docklands. One of our captions was “Lose your Baggage on a Holistic Holiday”. It attracted some mystified scrutiny from passers-by who were not in the loop!)

Feeling Grounded
This particular episode of Excess Baggage turned out to be about Pilgrimages. Don’t ring off at this point. I know the notion of a pilgrimage may not sound stimulating, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! If you get a premonition of religion, personal suffering, hardship, well that’s not surprising. The man-made religions have long promoted the notion of having to suffer for our sins.  We don’t’ go there! I think that pilgrimages have ancient roots, often to do with journeys through landscape with the possibility or personal vulnerability, if only to the elements. There is a spiritual component, but let’s not get too grand about this. In simple terms, it’s all to do with feeling better, because when we feel better we enjoy life more and things seem to fall into place more easily! The subtle energy of unspoilt landscape, or holy ground, can help do this.

The reason why I was moved to write this in response to hearing the podcast is on account of the fact that Pilgrimage, as an out-dated notion or of limited general appeal, is actually a significant part of Tourism . The accounts of the speakers , specifically  Rev Dr Ian Bradley, Reader in Church History & Practical Theology at St Andrews University, and travel writer Christopher Somerville, in some ways bore out my own experience. I have operated Holistic retreats for 12 years on a biosphere island in the Canaries. (Travel is involved to get here, so when we send a press release to a magazine about the Health and Life implications of Being in the Environment, we are usually diverted to Travel Section, whose journalists often think of it as a “jolly in the sun”.)  This particular form of tourism, for us, is confirmed by more than a decade of hearing the reasons why people came to chill out at our retreats. Quite often they would find us for one reason, such as yoga, singles, therapies, walking, etc. but finish up realising that the process they selected for themselves, during their week, amounted to enjoying the landscape in ways such as walking, cycling, surfing, whale sounds, having quiet personal time, some fun, healthy eating and the company of other kindred spirits, who may be there.

Organised Hypocrisy?
My challenge as the web designer, having to generate key words, has always been what do you call a holiday like that? Formerly a retreat or a pilgrimage would have done it, but largely we shun the religious connotations of these practices. If church “did it” for more people, then this may not be the case. My parents sent my sister and me to church, but they never went themselves. Now I realise they preferred a bit of peace and quiet, in favour of whatever the godly group were getting! I escaped the church boredom by becoming an organist so at least I could get a small salary, enjoy generating the music and have a curtain to hide behind during the sermon.

Pilgrims Progress
We have welcomed thousands of people who have enjoyed a pilgrimage, paid homage to nature, a spiritual retreat, felt an emotional surge at the beauty of our lovely biosphere and in doing so progressed their lives. They would rarely have entered these terms into Google as their intended form of holiday, yet they send their friends here on their return. Listening to the speakers of the Excess Baggage Podcast, I found myself realising that the reasons people went on Pilgrimages were very akin to the reason our niche group of visitors came for their holistic holiday.

Holy Ecology
I would like to re-instate the function of a pilgrimage but need to strip down the term a bit first! I also make no apologies for dismantling the notions of man-made religions, many of which were cobbled together by the Council of Nicaea, for political reasons in 325 AD (now called 325 CE), round about the time when Hypatia was murdered by a zealot mob in Alexandria. I maintain that people need and enjoy to have a Holy Day, (Holiday) or longer. It’s just common sense to step away from all the things that beset your life and withdraw into a beautiful place to take stock, recharge and re-direct. If dealing with the complications of a named deity get in the way, then replace all that with the beauty of nature, which is where it comes from anyway. (Yes I know I’m being provocatively simplistic, but stay with me!) We call it Deep Ecology

Taking the “grim” out of Pilgrimage?
The vulnerability factor associated with pilgrimages of old can now be thought of exposing ourselves to new possibilities and open-mindedness. There is no need for personal scourging or suffering. We have enough of that from living urban life. The Podcast speakers referred to a pilgrimage from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick on the west Coast of Ireland. When I went on this pilgrimage years ago with the Gatekeeper Trust, guided by Peter Dawkins we were amused by accounts of penitent pilgrims who regarded themselves of being unworthy to ascend St Patrick’s Mountain normally, so made the ascent on all fours, hands and knees or at least walking backwards. This can be a pretty tough climb towards the top, daunting enough for most people to walk! How it can help benefit a person to inflict various degrees of self mutilation in order to visit a holy place eludes me.

If it doesn’t feel good, then that’s not it!
So if we take out the sense of doing our duty, or penance, suffering then the idea of a pilgrimage, or inspirational landscape journey becomes a practical proposition. After all, who, in their right mind, would want to give up their hard earned holiday entitlement if there is not a foreseeable dollop of rejuvenation, fun, pleasure or general uplift. If it doesn’t feel good then that’s not it! Our emotions are the only true guide to knowing what truly serves us in our life journey. And anyway it’s not about getting to a place. My friends who run a horse back pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela tell us that they notice how people don’t stay in Santiago as its getting so busy and touristy, as they say on the Podcast.

It’s the journey, not the destination. There is a process which we witness in our EcoLifeWalks. Yes, it’s nice to crown the week with a ritual high spot such as our desert island journey, but the benefit is all to do with the process of becoming, than arriving.

New Image for Pilgrimage
So if these words have projected sacred journeys in a new light, then we are pleased. What more could you want, than to spend time in a beautiful place, with fun and enjoyment with insights that life a sustained life-enhancing effect. It’s like a holiday that you take back with you that will not be charged as Excess Baggage!

Tel: +34 636 849 474

Stuart Forster, musician, technophile, photographer, philosopher, operates personal level walking holidays on a desert island, combined with life enhancing talks, ecological attractions, in beautiful places.