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Who is the ? Are you a tourist or a pilgrim?

By Sandra Braun with Alice Gifford

A woman shared a story with us about her recent trip to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On the shuttle from Tel Aviv, her seatmate asked, "Are you here as a tourist or a pilgrim?"

This story gives us pause and inspiration. We wish to bring to the forefront why Adventure Associates exists - how and why we travel - and to further define who we call the Real Traveller™.

Since the inception of Adventure Associates, we have defined ourselves as "Real Travellers™". We prefer to use this phrase in adventure travel because it defines the traveller much like a pilgrim.

A pilgrim is one who takes a journey to seek out what is sacred. We seek out a destination where something awe inspiring exists, whether an element of nature, a community of people, an historic site, ritual or a special event. By picking up our bodies and a few of our belongings to go somewhere far from our homes, we realize our desire to uncover distant lands and people as they are. When we do this, we let go of certain expectations. We learn that time, schedules and amenities have local definitions: electricity and hot water are not necessarily available every day, a bus will leave when it is full instead of at a designated time, heavy winds postpone a day of kayaking... For a pilgrim, the journey may not always be easy. Although necessary comforts are carried in your luggage and provided by planned routes and local guides, the challenges of the pilgrimage are a significant part of the adventure. And, moving with flexibility gives way to serendipitous moments - as you may know, these moments can often be the highlights of a trip.

You might travel deep into the Copper Canyon on dusty bumpy roads to purchase a handwoven basket from a Tarahumaran girl, but if you take the time, she may invite you into her home to meet her family and share stories - not just a passing smile. You may seek out the Wildebeest migration and the indigenous tribes of the Serengeti, and if you linger with them perhaps you will learn that as the Maasai woman spits onto your open palms, she makes a grand gesture of appreciation - because water is most precious to her people. If you go to Cambodia to see the famous sites of Angkor Wat and you wander far from the crowds, you could find yourself alone with your guide in the jungle, scrambling the ruins of a spectacular temple in its raw, overgrown state. If you trek for miles, camp for days, let go of the urge to bathe and slow way down, you might get the chance to view the world from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the sun gate at Machu Picchu, or a high Himalayan peak. The paths that lead to these awe inspiring moments are not easy, but the rewards discovered along the way can fill your heart to the brim.

The Real Traveller™ does whatever it takes, rugged or uncomfortable, to fulfill the heartfelt need to be on the journey.

As you dream of future trips, think about how you travel. Consider whether you will benefit from the challenges of a pilgrimage ... if you are a Real Traveller™, willing to seek out the sacred and travel off the clock.

Pil • grim | 'pilgruhm |
1. One who embarks on a quest for something conceived of as sacred.
2. A traveler or wanderer, esp. in a foreign place.
3. A person who journeys, esp. a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.
4. A wayfarer; a wanderer; a traveler; a stranger.
3. chiefly poetic/literary: a person whose life is compared to a journey.

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