"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things."
-- Henry Miller (1891-1980)
Happiness, spirituality, creativity and even wisdom can reside in certain places, says author and philosophical traveller Eric Weiner.
In fact, a place can shape and define us. And if you change your place, you can change your life.
So convinced is Weiner about the power of place that he wrote a book about it. In The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, he writes about his adventures roaming the planet is search of places that inspire happiness and creativity and stir the spirit and the mind.
"Some parts of space are qualitatively different than others," he says, quoting the historian Mircea Eliade.
And at times, these spaces can seem to blur the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds. Borrowing from a Celtic tradition, Weiner calls these destinations "thin places." Heaven and earth, goes the ancient pagan saying, are only three feet apart but in thin places, that distance is even shorter. In ancient times, the rugged seacoast of the Cliffs of St. David's and the rocky mountain peaks of Croagh Patrick were thin places. A thin place can give you a taste of the divine.
Not that Weiner is necessarily referring to an earthshaking religious or spiritual breakthrough. It's more like a transformative way to see our lives and the world, he says, which is the true magic -- and ultimate gift -- of travel.
So how to find such destinations? Not surprisingly, so-called thin places tend to be highly subjective. What's mesmerizing or transforming for one person is not necessarily the same for another. Often, it's a matter of stumbling upon them rather than carefully planning an itinerary.
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