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How a modern pilgrimage became the It holiday of 2024

Find yourself in the Spanish countryside on a George Scott Riding Safari  (George Scott Riding)
Find yourself in the Spanish countryside on a George Scott Riding Safari (George Scott Riding)

We’re collectively burnt-out, strung-out and fed-up. A new study shows that this malaise is affecting the under-30s far more than older generations, with many confessing they are unable to work for at least one full day per week due to anxiety and tiredness. It adds up to 60 lost days per year.

One antidote perhaps is to tap into a deeper meaning via slow, considered experiences. Travel is transformative and never more so than when the aim goes beyond simply flying, flopping and mainlining rosé (though those sorts of holidays certainly have their place).

A 10-day vipassana silent meditation retreat is a brutal but soul-altering way to practice patience, solitude and serenity. My experience in Myanmar was one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I’ve ever done (worldwide locations; dhamma.org). On arrival at the centre just outside of Mandalay, we were stripped of our worldly possessions: no phones, books, pens and paper were allowed and creature comforts became a thing of the past.

Beds were spine-breakingly hard, fasting was mandatory after midday and the morning wakeup gong sounded at cruel 4am. Not only was it a silent retreat but even eye contact was forbidden and meals were eaten alone facing the wall. Sounds like a prison camp, but the aim is to create an environment as free from distractions as humanly possible. Meditation sessions last for ten hours a day and the introspection one can achieve is cathartic. Mykonos it is not but the mental resilience it requires will make you feel nothing short of superhuman.

For a gentler immersion into the spiritual world, the fashion world chooses to decamp to creative Claire Thomson-Jonville’s Out of State retreats when the going gets too much. Last year’s silent retreat in the Loire Valley was heralded as a post-fashion month rite of passage and the Master Cleanse detox week was a hit. Stay tuned for the 2024 schedule (theoutofstate.com).

Commune with nature on a George Scott Riding Safari (three or five days) through the unspoilt Sierra Morena mountains in Spain. Just you, your horse and miles of grateful contemplation (georgescottrides.com). After days spent cantering through deserted Andalucia (approx five hours per day), nights will be spent beneath the stars in luxury Rajasthani tents.

Closer to home, The British Pilgrimage Trust lives by the ‘Bring Your Own Beliefs’ motto for its walking routes that they hope will take guests on an inner journey as well as a physical one. Its collection of ‘Sanctuary Routes’ is particularly contemplative (britishpilgrimage.org).

The British Pilgrimage Trust's sanctuary routes guide you through the best of Britain (The British Pilgrimage Trust)
The British Pilgrimage Trust's sanctuary routes guide you through the best of Britain (The British Pilgrimage Trust)

For a luxurious pilgrimage, be one of the first to visit Hotel du Couvent, a restored 17th Century monastery in the heart of Old Nice, which is fast becoming the chic city break for those in the know. The walls still thrum with monks’ chants (hotelducouvent.com). Plus, there'll be plenty of that sweet, sweet rosé. Best of both worlds.