The Price of Subconsciousness: A Guide to Spiritual Tourism Part III

The Price of Subconsciousness: A Guide to Spiritual Tourism Part III

Foregoing the fly-and-flop holiday, Alexandra Pereira
embarks on a quest for happiness that takes her Berlin to Bali,
Svalbard to Japan. This is spiritual tourism at its most raw, a
series of pilgrimages and retreats that form a journey of self
discovery. In the final instalment of a three-part series, she
renews faith in Bali and meditates on the past and present of
spiritual tourism.

First time reader? Catch up on the story with
Part One
Part Two


I’m in Bali
and the Ogoh Ogoh parade is underway, a celebration that comes the
day before Nyepi – an annual day of silence that seeks to vanquish
evil spirits and marks New Year in the Balinese calendar. On this
Hindu holiday everyone – tourists included – is instructed to stay
home and use no electricity or power. The airports and ports are
closed, WiFi is restricted and meditation mode is on.

The preceding parade, by contrast, is electric. As the air is
infused with the smile-inducing scent of frangipani and lemongrass,
and 12ft-tall models of monsters and demons snake between floats,
villagers chant and dance to the rhythmic beats of steel drums and
cymbals. It’s incredibly moving.

There is, however, a different side to Bali. The island has a
reputation as being a hub for the newly-self discovered. It’s
crawling with perplexingly happy humans cashing in on
enlightenment. Influencers are “finding themselves” while receiving
lucrative sponsorship from brands flogging
, coconut water, spirulina and the like.

It makes you question: can visiting the island be more than a
matcha-slinging, chakra-cleansing, Eat Pray Love cliché? I’m
comforted merely by the fact that David Bowie requested for his
ashes to be scattered on Bali.

I’m staying at the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan set
among the lush canopies of Ubud jungle. In response to the rising
demand for retreats rooted in local culture and spirituality, the
resort has launched a year-round calendar of gratitude programmes.
Led by a former nun named Fera, I undergo a 90-minute chakra
blessing followed by a sacred nap, during which my quaking body is
strung up like a baby bat in a hammock. I feel as if near

Years ago in Arizona’s Painted Desert my body
had a similar violent reaction to a sound bath. As analogue waves
rippled through the room, I felt as though my biorhythms were being
scrambled, as if my stomach and heart were being wrung out. All
thoughts and worries flooded my mind simultaneously. I felt
panicked and sick and stuck in a half-sleep paralysis. Stumbling
out into Arizona’s close, humid heat, I felt at once nauseous,
drained and – I suppose – reborn.

My mind wanders back to Bali. While the island’s population is a
patchwork of international citizens – and not to mention hugely
touristy – Balinese life remains dictated by Hindu and Buddhist
scripture, with a committed belief to karma and retribution. One
local tells me that crime “just doesn’t happen” here. People leave
their doors open and keys in their moped engines. Flower offerings
to the gods are left on every doorstep and, though it might feel
smothering for first-timers to Bali, the islanders are rigorously
attentive, polite and kind. Evil spirits are kept at bay here.


For me, getting to the spiritual heartland of a place is to
wander haplessly, to listen to stories, to engage in local culture.
It might mean living in a place permanently for a time, though you
can pretend you live somewhere even if you’re there only

Without us knowing, spiritual tourism has been filtered into our
consciousness since we were young. It is nothing new; people have
been trekking to holy lands and places of worship
since the dawn of travel. It’s likely that your school trips,
family holidays and mini-breaks guided by worn paperbacks will have
chanced upon churches, cathedrals and temples – perhaps even upon a
haunted place.

The main difference now is technology. Investing time and money
and air miles is no longer regarded so much as indulgence; we see
our travel as a wellness activity that could
make us happier and hopefully boost our overall success. In this
context, boutique agencies such as Scott Dunn are the life coaches
of the travel industry; their seasoned guidance leads us on
potentially life-changing forays around the globe.

Yet there are some aspects of spiritual tourism that technology
has not quite mastered. While it’s magical that I can share an
eye-popping image of a seaside shrine in real time online, for
instance, a swarm of selfie sticks and screen-consumed humans at
some sacred spots just makes you sad. In Bali, my photographer
wrestled with capturing the staggering spectacle of a gorge. “You
know what, a camera will never see this,” he meditated. I nodded
and returned to my heady gazing and mental note-taking. I needed a
sacred nap.

Scott Dunn offers a seven-night stay at Four Seasons Sayan, Bali from
£2980 per person. This is based on two people sharing a Duplex
Suite on a B&B basis and includes international flights and
private transfers. For more information please visit