Are you looking for more than a mere holiday destination?
At times in our lives, we become overwhelmed with hurdles that appear as stupendous mountains to be crawled up in a bleeding mass of sweat and tears. These times of insurmountable stress when blankets of depression descend can be caused by numerous factors. They can include grief, relationship breakdowns, years of chasing the dollar only to find out that happiness is not a guarantee when you have a large bank account or a lack of contentment of life in general. It's time to feed your soul, or to "find" your soul.
For some, it's as simple as sitting in a backyard under a starlit sky contemplating their navel to gain inspiration, but for many, the urge to flee their mundane and all-too-familiar existence takes over. This is when you should plan your own pilgrimage to rebalance, to heal and to look at life from a different perspective without the urge to swallow a handful of pills that will have you living life in a haze of not quite being anywhere. Take this time to find out who you are, what you want from your life, to get inspired and hungry for the next day.
Wellness travel is the new gig to be had when on holidays, but not all wellness travel revolves around yoga retreats, day spa treatments or taking your shrink on holiday with you. For some, it's contemplative moments while chaos can be reigning around them in a big city, while for others, it's silent landscapes in deserts or deserted beaches. The pervading silence in an ancient church or temple, hopping over to Lourdes for a quick bath and some prayer time or you can think big on a global scale and align your soul to the stars.
The stars represent faith, optimism and high ideals taking you closer to your own spiritual nature. Communing with the heavens was the ancient travellers' method of navigating the world, and so you too can navigate your life. Some of the most incredible ancient sites are based on astronomical calculations and primitive religious beliefs. You don't necessarily need a burning bush or the tears of a Virgin Mary statue to restore your faith in a bigger picture or to give you back a sense of wonderment of what is around you; you merely need to get in touch with yourself once more.
The destinations below are the ideal alternatives to happy pill popping when your soul needs recharging, as they are examples of "archaeoastronomy" where you can reach for the stars:
Machu Picchu, Peru
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World and often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is where the Inca's belief of the moon and the sun was elevated to that of gods and their elaborate buildings of myths align with heavenly bodies. Perched above the Urubamba River Valley high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, this magical and mysterious 15th-century remnant idealises the Inca's belief that everything is connected to the stars. Believed to have been a sacred ceremonial site and an astronomical observatory, its awesome views will leave you breathless.
The Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
Like apparitions rising up from desert sand, the majestic Giza pyramids are the oldest monuments of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest of the three pyramids (Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops), is also the oldest and the only one that is relatively intact. Conjuring up myths of aliens being responsible for their construction, the Great Pyramid is still the largest stone building on earth. Defying time, the three pyramids align with the stars.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The heart of the Khmer Empire in Southeast Asia and the iconic symbol for Cambodia, Angkor Wat was created in the 12th Century. Rising from Hindu literature, its temples are believed to be earthly homes for the heavenly gods, with its sacred central square directly in line with the vertical axis connecting the realms of heaven and earth. As many as 18 astronomical alignments within Angkor Wat’s walls make their presence known during the spring equinox and the winter and summer solstices. On the outside of the buildings, many of the structures have astronomical associations. The perfect time for heading to Angkor Wat is in the wee hours of the morning or late in the afternoons.
Easter Island, Chile
The home of giant Moai statues carved by the Rapa Nui people presents a puzzling mystery as to how these colossal figures came into being and precisely what they represented. Theories shroud the demise of their creators and writings about planetary influences in their creation on this remote island in the Pacific Ocean. Gigantic, otherworldly and grandly standing as if mocking the world, the statues and their location give credence to the belief that the celestial heavens played a vital role in their religious beliefs.
"Look at the stars lighting up the sky: no one of them stays in the same place.”
An ancient quote by Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher, dramatist and statesman of the Silver Age of Latin literature.
Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.