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Travel as Therapy: Where to go to Make a Holiday More Meaningful

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Travel as Therapy: Where to go to Make a Holiday More Meaningful

Nina Karnikowski makes the case for considering the potential inner journey in every holiday, in order to make each trip more satisfying, memorable and meaningful.

Nina Karnikowski

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Seven years ago, while moving through a rather anxiety-tinged time in my life, I travelled to Peru to trek to the Rainbow Mountain.


Over six days, I faced my mild acrophobia by climbing mountains of over 5,000 metres, and my fear of my own mortality by doing so in sub-zero temperatures.

By completing that difficult trek, I proved to myself that I was so much more capable than I thought I was.


I left Peru feeling more calm and, for perhaps the first time in my life, brave. It was a journey that turned out, for me, to be the travel equivalent of a long, warm Epsom salt bath.


Travel, of course, often pushes us out of our comfort zones and delivers us confidence and courage. But until that Peruvian trek I had never realised that travel can actually function as a form of therapy. A way to soothe our underlying issues, and possibly even reshape our personalities.

From then on, I came to see each journey as a kind of secular pilgrimage in search of a particular inner resource, whether that be inspiration or fortitude, peace or vitality.

As the travel world bursts open and travellers scramble onto flights faster than you can say ‘climate change’, we could all be well served by viewing every outer journey as a potential inner journey, too.


Because in clarifying the inner purpose behind each journey, we not only make them more satisfying, meaningful and memorable, but are also forced to think harder about why we’re burning all that carbon before we zip across the other side of the world.

Seeing travel from this more mindful angle can also help slow our journeys down. Because as the great travel writer Pico Iyer wrote in a recent BBC article, “no one has yet mastered the art of seeing the world deeply while running around.”

If you are wanting to travel more consciously, and are hoping that your next destination might help with your inner evolution, here are four fascinating places and their accompanying ‘medicine’ to help get you started.

The Kimberley, Western Australia: for calm



Whether you’re exploring this glittering coastline by boat, plunging into freshwater swimming holes, visiting indigenous rock art sites or hiking through the bush, spending time in one of the world’s last untouched wildernesses is a balm for ragged nerves.


At three times the size of England but with less than 40,000 inhabitants, there’s a good chance of finding that solitude you crave here, too.

Rishikesh, India: for spirit




The yoga capital of the world and a magnet for spiritual seekers, Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, will plug you back into yourself.


Set on the banks of the sacred Ganges River and the place where the Beatles found enlightenment in the ‘60s, it’s bursting with ashrams and temples, and offerings of every form of spiritual healing - from yoga and tarot, to palm readings and reiki.

Wadi Rum, Jordan: for modesty



T.E. Lawrence once wrote that Wadi Rum is “vast, echoing and God-like”, and there really is nothing like this red-hued desertscape, with its curious camels and Bedouin encampments, to make you feel small in the best possible way.


Dotted with natural rock towers, narrow canyons and soaring rock bridges, it’s a place that offers perspective on life, and strips you back to what’s purely essential.

Churchill, Canadian Arctic: for activation




Nicknamed ‘the polar bear capital of the world’, with an estimated 900 polar bears to 800 people during summer, Churchill will put you face-to-face with these mythical creatures, as well as tens of thousands of Beluga whales.


It will also put you face-to-face with the fact that global warming means a declining polar bear population, which will likely activate you to fight harder for our planet.



Photo credit: Nina Karnikowski

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