Authentic travel experiences enable one to be present in the moment, and can include time spent in urban sanctuaries.  Sanctuaries provide a time-out for us to reflect, undisturbed by the pressures of life and needs of others.  Read on for  five ways to find sanctuary -while travelling or at home.

1 Places of worship

In some respects, these may be obvious; but for a novel experience, consider also looking to a sanctuary from another tradition.   Sometimes this can be more powerful, where you gain sanctity without becoming enmeshed in any personal baggage you might have with your own tradition.  Just ensure that your use of the sanctuary is respectful and aligns with the norms of that space.  My own tradition is as a liberal Christian; and to date I have had meaningful experiences in churches, synagogues, and Buddhist temples.  One of my favourite churches ever was Santa Maria in Trastevere (Rome).

2. Graveyards

In addition to being interesting historic sites, graveyards often have beautiful qualities which add to their sense of sanctuary.  The photo below shows a gorgeous Prague cemetery where leafy plants are encouraged to grow over many of the grave sites.  I found it particularly moving to be there late on a July afternoon, where the greenery cooled down the temperature by several degrees on what was otherwise a very hot day.  All the lush vegetation suggested that life and death are intimately intertwined.

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Prague cemetery.  Author photo, July 2015

3. Natural spaces

Nature has cleansing and healing power for many of us. An earlier posting explained why, giving tips on different ways to experience the benefits of something called forest bathing (to read, click here). Beaches and rivers can also be a source of sanctuary.  The key is to find a landscape that resonates with you, and to carve out time to be in it.

4. Musical performances

Look for opportunities to hear live music that you will enjoy, and let yourself be transported into stillness. Many cities make these easy to find, from Time Out listings, to more local entertainment magazines (New York’s The Village Voice, Seattle’s The Stranger, Vancouver’s Georgia Straight). A future post will also discuss how to access classical music while travelling.

5. Look to Time, Rather Than Place

I have been a morning person my entire life. It never ceases to amaze me how few people actually revel in the stillness of an early morning walk through a part of town that, just a few hours later, is bustling. The light on summer mornings is especially captivating. Consider getting up earlier than usual at least one day on your holiday to get a fresh perspective on your destination- and carve out a small sanctuary for yourself. Alternately, sometimes late at night you can also enjoy a certain stillness. The key is to look for it at a time outside the typical hours of human activity.

The calm of morning light.  Author photo, July 2016

These are just a few examples of ways to find sanctuary and stillness while travelling. Sanctuary is a highly individual concept, and can have powerful benefits for us as human beings. Please feel free to comment with some of your ideas for finding sanctuary while on the road or at home – I really would love to hear from you.