This week, the idea of making travel sacred has been on my mind, as I’ve been slowly making my way through Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage. I’ve been contemplating how we transform each journey into one that actually means something, and how important bringing an element of the divine into each trip is.
By making our journeys sacred, and focusing on our TAO OF TRAVEL, we deepen them and inject them with purpose and meaning. We alchemise them into something so much more profound than a simple holiday.
In this way, we make travel a practice. And it all begins in the planning and preparation stage.
“Reading old travel books or novels set in faraway places, spinning globes, unfolding maps, playing world music, eating in ethnic restaurants, meeting friends in cafes whose walls hold the soul-talk of decades – all these things are part of never-ending travel practice, not unlike doing scales on a piano, shooting free throws, or meditating,” says Cousineau.
“They are exercises that help lure the longing out of the soul and honour the brooding-over of unhatched ideas for journeys.”
For me, this phase also includes watching films and travel shows set in the location, moodboarding outfits (possibly the most fun of all), scouring maps so I can get my bearings, and learning a few key phrases from the local language to annoy Pete with before I leave.
Next week I’ll be heading off to Hokkaido, the most northern of Japan’s main islands, on a snow-shoeing assignment with Walk Japan. And so, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been immersing myself in all things Japanese.
Re-watching Memoirs of a Geisha, and loving every second of Joanna Lumley’s Japan. Carefully mending my vintage kimonos, dreaming of where I might end up wearing them with every stitch. Drinking bowl after bowl of Sencha green tea while burning Japanese Daphne flower incense. Puzzling over Zen Buddhist koans – riddles that Zen Buddhists use during meditation to help them unravel greater truths about the world and about themselves.
I’ve also been experimenting with cooking Japanese food – I came up with a yummy simple soup and have included the recipe for you below. And, of course, making my usual destination playlist, which I’ve called Snow Falling on Hokkaido, that you can also check out below for some ethereal, chilled Japanese vibes.
All of this, of course, is also extending the life of my trip. I’m already there in my head. The journey has already begun before I land.
I used to think serious preparation ruined adventures a little bit, taking the serendipity and surprise out of them. But now I recognize how much deeper and richer it makes our travel practice. And how it simply opens the whole journey up to a new realm of magic.
Organic green tea noodle and tofu soup
Ingredients (all organic if possible)
Green tea noodles
Silken tofu, cubed
Unpasteurised mugi miso paste
Crispy nori flakes
I keep things very, very simple in the kitchen. Which in a way is quite Japanese, actually.
For this recipe, I simply cook up the green tea noodles, rinse then a couple of times, then make a broth of the miso paste, and a good slug of tamari and mirin. I first add in the broccolini, and after a couple of minutes the cubed tofu, noodles and nori flakes.
Dekiagari! (that’s Japanese for voila). A simple, clean, tasty Japanese meal in less than ten minutes. Best served with a cold glass of saké, of course.