Travelling should not be just about exploring exotic places, mixing with the locals and taking the chance to do once-in-a-lifetime, adrenaline-pumping adventures such as bungee jumping or swimming with the sharks.
Travelling can also be the perfect time for deeper introspection, going to a place where you send your mind and thoughts adrift before finally finding the inner peace and serenity that will stay with you amidst the noise and chaos of your everyday, normal life.
Here are some of the world’s finest meditation retreats to choose from, when you update your travel bucket list.
Dalai Lama’s teachings, Dharamsala, India
Here is where His Holiness the Dalai Lama sought refuge when he was exiled from his native Tibet. It is also where the Tibetan community in exile has settled and many spiritual pilgrims go. People can usually listen to the Dalai Lama’s talks for free.
A tour operated by Zen priest Shantum Seth allows guests to connect with and talk about Tibetan culture and practices. “In the Footsteps of the Buddha” is also an itinerary. A guesthouse run by the Dalai’s brother is one of the accommodation options available in Dharamsala.
Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya, Thailand
You can go on a 10-day meditation retreat at this forest sanctuary. The retreats begin on the first day of each month. They accept all levels of meditators, but prepare for the rugged conditions and simple accommodation of a straw mat and wooden pillow for a bed. At 4am the wake-up bell rings. During registration, all cell phones are surrendered.
Assisi Retreat Home and Hermitage, Assisi Italy
This centuries-old farmhouse with four guest rooms is situated in a quiet Italian countryside. You can choose to explore Assisi or the Umbrian countryside during the day and spend your mornings and evenings in meditation. A spiritual walking tour of the ancient holy sites is also an itinerary option.
Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia, Canada
If you want to experience a monastic life in the Shambhala tradition, then Gampo Abbey is the retreat destination for you. Residents usually commit to stay for at least a year. However, if you practice a regular meditation technique, you can spend a week there during the summer in-house season.
Ala Kukui, Maui, Hawaii
The events of September 11 led to the development of this sanctuary, which means the “Pathway of Illumination”. Nestled among hills and fruit trees on 12 acres of land, Ala Kukui offers a vista of the Pacific Ocean and the Haleakala.
There is a special residential retreat for war veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD, grief and loss. The sanctuary also offers classes in hula, writing and yoga.