Spiritual awakening leading to a search for meaning through travel

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

International Journal of Tourism and Spirituality


University of Science and Culture

Place of Publication



School of Business and Law




Willson, G. (2017). Spiritual awakening leading to a search for meaning through travel. International Journal of Tourism and Spirituality, 2(1), 10-23.


Arguably, all people are spiritual. We will, at different stages, seek meaning and connection, and seek transcendence through self-improvement. Often, this personal quest will begin or resume, or be addressed more fervently after a personal event that leads to an awakening of one’s spirituality. This paper considers how transformative life experiences lead people to engage their spiritual side, and specifically how they may seek to do so through their experience of travel. Through 18 months of in-depth phenomenological data collection, this paper analyses the personal narratives of 11 tourists who experienced volunteer tourism after experiencing life events that facilitated a spiritual awakening. This paper finds that experiences such as the death of a close family member, the facing of mortality, or existential crisis can lead to a motivation to travel, and that travel can be deeply spiritual. It posits the question: In the year 2017, with great global and personal uncertainty, is the desire for spiritual growth through travel becoming more mainstream and urgent

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