Capturing the Spiritual Tourist….on camera
“I love to travel. Every penny I can save and any free time I get, I try and dedicate it to a trip somewhere new, exciting and yes, it has to be captivating.” Bio-Veterinary science student, photo enthusiast and travel devotee, Kalyani Lodia speaks to HMB.
Science is my passion, but travel is in my blood and photography helps me to express all that energy. With travel becoming more and more accessible and the world seeming to become a much smaller place, the concept of tourism has evolved drastically. It is no longer simply a matter of being just a tourist; ecotourism, voluntourism, geotourism and spiritual tourism are all becoming normalised phrases in our vocabularies.
Just like many young people around the world, this past year has seen me visit new regions around the world. This includes the romance of Paris, the humdrum of a British seaside and revisiting my favourite country in the world, India.
Through my travels, I have been able to experience first hand how much faith and religion means to people across the world; how it shapes their cultures and customs and how much of a country’s history relates to religion.
One place where religious practice is prevalent is Thailand. Behind the facade of Full Moon parties and beach hangouts, Thai culture is deeply rooted in spirituality and one of the best places to see that is, surprisingly, Bangkok. You can’t walk around without stumbling across a temple. The most amazing thing for me about Thailand was learning more about Buddhism, a religion so similar yet so different to the Hindu religion I grew up with.
In Chiang Mai, I found a couple of temples where the monks reserved time to answer questions or just talk to you to practice their English. We spoke of Hanuman and Ganesh and why you often see monks carrying iPads and other bits of technology around with them as a life learning tool.
Spiritual tourism is not just confined to visiting places of worship. More and more people are taking it to the next level by staying in religious institutes to learn more about spirituality.
During my gap year, I spent around eight months in an ashram in Rishikesh, India. It was the most incredible time of my life and on of the highlights was spending two months at the Maha Kumbh Mela, Allahabad. Being brought up a Gujarati Hindu in the UK, you think you have a pretty good idea of what Hinduism is and what it is all about! I found out that I could not have been more wrong. Being at the Kumbh Mela, really opens your eyes. You can see how complex and varied Hinduism is as a religion and how much it is a part of the lives of millions of people in India and around the world. No matter how much I try, I know I’ll never even come close to experiencing anything like the Kumbh.