Millions of Roman Catholics around the world dream of visiting the Holy Land. They want to see with their own eyes the places where key events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth and Christianity, in general, happened. They want to literally walk on the same paths Jesus walked as he preached about kindness, love, and faith.
Apart from the Catholics, other religious groups and Christian denominations also go on trips to the Holy Land. For example, the Mormons go on meticulously planned LDS trips to Israel. The country, after all, is the crossroads for three of the world’s largest religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
It’s safe to say that the majority of visitors to the Holy Land go as pilgrims. But while the purpose of a pilgrimage is to reflect on one’s relationship with God and repent for one’s sins, it doesn’t mean that visitors can’t have a bit of guilt-free fun during the trip. Below are some simple things that you can do in between your moments of prayerful reflection during your Holy Land trip:
- Befriend the people you’re traveling with.Many pilgrimages are organized as a group tour shared by people of different ages, professions, backgrounds, and origins. Unless you’re traveling with such a large group of friends that you constitute an entire tour batch, you’re bound to spend a few days in the company of strangers. Talk to them during your free time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at people’s stories, especially from older people. You’ll make new friends in the process and also learn from their life experiences and realizations during the pilgrimage.
- Take every opportunity to taste local cuisine.Holy Land tours rarely bring visitors to five-star restaurants, but they will surely take you to places that offer delicious and affordable food. But if you can pick between convenience store fare and local diners and eateries, choose the latter. They probably won’t serve anything too fancy, but that’s fine. It’s even better because then you get to taste authentic, everyday dishes that the Israelis enjoy.
- Be open to try the local customs.You can try riding a camel, buying food, clothing, and spices at the market, and petting and feeding cats in the streets. There should be plenty of opportunities to do these since they are part of many of the locals’ everyday lives. The best part is that you can do these without straying from your tour group’s itinerary. Jerusalem is home to hundreds of free-roaming cats (whom many locals feed and care for). You can pass by markets on your way to various destinations on your tour, and many camel owners stay at the foot of Mt. Sinai and other locations often included in pilgrimage tours.
- Bring a camera and take photos and videos of your trip.It’s best if you can wear it on your body (i.e., carrying a GoPro in a water-proof sling pouch around on your chest. You can record lots of footage and photos, which you can later browse and enjoy after the trip.
Many believe that it is bad form to have fun during a pilgrimage because it’s not supposed to be a vacation. Besides, it is common courtesy to be mindful of other tourists who likely wouldn’t appreciate disturbances as they reflect and meditate while walking through Jerusalem. With these tips, you can have some fun on your pilgrimage without losing sight of your spiritual goals.