"We are traveling in record numbers. Americans alone accounted for nearly 1.1 billion person-trips (one trip taken by one person) in the air, on land, and on the sea last year. Those trips were propelled by 14.4 billion gallons of fuel, at a cost of $7.5 billion. That was national air travel. If you throw in international travel, the bill goes up to over $10 billion — for about 20 billion gallons of fuel. Not only are we traveling more, but we are traveling, it seems, at any cost.

"We are also staying away from home for longer periods. In this country, we took an average of seven trips last year, and each trip lasted an average of four days — that adds up to almost a whole month out of the nest for every person in the country.

"I find all of this quite encouraging in terms of human evolution. Given that all travel is a journey within, it is heartening that so many of our human family are leaving the comfort zones of home — our present state of awareness — and venturing out into the wild blue yonder: the hidden, yet undiscovered parts of ourselves. Making a journey is always about going from where we are now, to another place, a higher realm of consciousness.

"So, as a species we appear to be embarked on a spiritual quest of vast and unprecedented proportions, searching for the 'stranger' — us, undiscovered — at the most profound levels of our individual being.

"Once we begin to see travel as an inner journey, it is possible to turn every trip we take into a spiritual practice — a hero's adventure that enlivens our hearts and enlarges our souls. Travel becomes a spiritual experience for us when we are conscious at every moment that our physical transportation from place to place has a metaphysical counterpart. Understanding that, the road takes us inexorably to an encounter with the 'stranger' at the heart of the journey — the transformed self.

"Undertaken with awareness, travel surely is one of the most available and most effective means to nourish, broaden, and quicken the soul. The destination does not matter as much as the attention we give to the understanding that all travel is inner travel.

"When we venture out into the world (into ourselves) with that knowledge, we are giving meaning to even the most mundane trip — and giving ourselves the opportunity to grow our life of the spirit in ways we might never have imagined."