If you dream of visiting Uluru in Australia, the dreamlike Arenal volcano in Costa Rica, or the powerful Huangguoshu Waterfall in China, then welcome to the club. Nature and ecotourism are booming among fervent travelers, with non-profit organization, Sustainable Travel International reporting that nearly 60% of U.S. leisure travelers are interested in travel to pristine natural locations to learn more about these areas and contribute to their conservation. Much of the appeal of nature has to do with the important role nature plays in spirituality. As noted by a fascinating study by Pew Research, American millennials in particular are turning their backs on organized religion at a fast pace, yet are keener than ever on feeding their spiritual needs.
New Ideas of Spirituality
Spirituality is a wide concept that essentially embraces the idea that all sentient things are connected by a life force or energy. In a study on youth attitudes towards spirituality, Richard Flory and Donald Miller conclude that millennials are not “the spiritual consumers of their parents’ generation, rather they are seeking both a deep spiritual experience and a community experience, each of which provides them with meaning in their lives, and is meaningless without the other.” In other words, millennials may not necessarily be drawn to a group that follows specific religious tenets, but they are looking for a blend of spirituality and community support. Without both ingredients, meaning is lacking.
Spirituality is Defined by Each Person
A fascinating report by Harvard academics called How We Gather notes that many young people are using secular activities such as travel and pilgrimages to fulfil some roles played by religious communities. Indeed, they feel as compelled to reflect on their inner thoughts and emotions through card readings (tarot is popular owing to its rich symbolism) as they are to harness the sense of stillness and connection afforded by travel to a natural paradise. Spirituality can be sought through meditation, or yoga… some find it through the connections they make on social media, or at the gym. Today, the definition of spirituality is almost limitless.
Why is Nature such a Popular Choice for Honing Spirituality?
Carl Jung believed that nature provided human beings with powerful symbols of the eternal and universal. When we are in the midst of a majestic setting, he said, we are more aware that we house the ‘collective unconscious’ (or spiritual life) within us. In busy cities, it is easy to feel that we are insignificant and alone. In nature, however, we are reminded of our inexorable connection to all humanity; this experience was crucial, said Jung, for mental health and wellbeing. It is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the top choice for honeymoons or winding down from a stressful lifestyle, is nature – whether the beach, lush jungles and forests, or mountains are more your scene.
Spiritual Holidays with a Mindfulness Focus
Some travellers are opting to do more than simply ‘be’ in nature. They are also harnessing the documented stress-reducing power of mindfulness-based practises such as yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong, by opting for retreats focused on these activities. Thus, ‘yoga camps’ and meditation workshops in the great outdoors are growing in popularity, since they are seen as an efficient way to discover a new place while proactively taking steps to reduce stress, instil a more mindful state, and find greater purpose or meaning in one’s life.
The popularity of nature holidays are very much a reflection of the keen interest younger generations have in spirituality. Far from being a simple adventure, holidays are increasingly being viewed as a way to boost travelers’ mental health and wellbeing through spirituality. With studies showing that those who are spiritual are happier, less stressed, and more united to others, a holiday to a lush green mountain or sparkling seaside town seems more appealing than ever.