Are You a Spiritual Tourist?

What is a “Spiritual Tourist”?  I recently stumbled upon this interesting topic in our forums. The concern was whether or not a person should be taking parts of different paths and religions that they liked to weave together into their own religious path. I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic.
A tourist is described as someone who travels. Most of us do this for pleasure. We want to explore new places, learn new things and expand our horizons. If a person wants to explore different religious beliefs, they can be described as a religious or spiritual tourist.  I use the term SPIRITUAL tourist  because RELIGIOUS tourist usually refers to those who travel to PLACES.  In this article, we are focused on visiting the BELIEFS or traditions and practices of other religions, not their locations.

When you explore other religions as a “tourist”, you are likely to encounter those who feel it is wrong to simply go from one belief system to the next. Some just hate to see their old traditions discarded and replaced or merged with new ones. However, even if they hesitate to blend activities from other cultures and traditions into their own path, most will agree that there is ultimately no right or wrong way to practice your personal faith. Thus, as an INDIVIDUAL you are free to celebrate your beliefs in a way that feels right to YOU.

Preserving the customs and teachings of a specific path is a wonderful thing and you should give those who want to hang on to their old traditions your blessings.  But you should not feel obligated to follow that exact path unless you truly feel called to do so.

You may also hear concern expressed about individuals who call themselves practitioners without investing any serious study or practice. It is one thing to be a spiritual tourist and explore a number of different religions, but it’s another matter if you call yourself a practitioner while you study, without truly embracing all of its traditions. That’s equivalent to reading about a country you want to visit and maybe learning a few words from the native language before going and then calling yourself a local upon arrival.

True followers of a faith can be annoyed by individuals who only dabble in a tradition before moving on to the next one. If you are serious about exploring other faiths, slow down and take the time to truly experience all the aspects of each religion before moving on to the next one.

I am reminded of a trip my husband and I took a few years ago. We travel on a motorcycle so we can enjoy the fresh air and we make frequent stops to truly experience our surroundings.  At one of our stops, a van pulled up and about a dozen people exited with cameras in hand. They snapped a few pictures, hopped back into the van and were off to their next destination in about two minutes flat. I almost felt bad for this group. They were seeing the same sites we were but could not fully experience the beauty and magic of their surroundings on such a fly-by trip.

Tips for the Spiritual Tourist
If you want to be a spiritual tourist, we encourage you to take your time and enjoy the richness of each culture or belief system. Although doing a fly-by might be fun and increase your understanding, it will not give you a true feel for any religion. Expressing a sincere interest in someone’s beliefs can open the door and lead you to the knowledge you seek.
Finally, once you start to discover spiritual perspectives that match your own philosophies, let these guide you forward and help you find your way on a path that’s right for you. Never try to adjust your own beliefs to fit into a religion. Sooner or later you will reach a place where you feel at home and want to settle down. It may be in an established religion or or you may find yourself in a unique place all your own. Until that time, enjoy your journey!

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