Document Type : Case Studies


School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia.


Arguably, all people are spiritual. We will, at different stages, seek meaning and connection, and seek transcendence through self-improvement. Often, this personal quest will begin or resume, or be addressed more fervently after a personal event that leads to an awakening of one’s spirituality. This paper considers how transformative life experiences lead people to engage their spiritual side, and specifically how they may seek to do so through their experience of travel. Through 18 months of in-depth phenomenological data collection, this paper analyses the personal narratives of 11 tourists who experienced volunteer tourism after experiencing life events that facilitated a spiritual awakening. This paper finds that experiences such as the death of a close family member, the facing of mortality, or existential crisis can lead to a motivation to travel, and that travel can be deeply spiritual. It posits the question: In the year 2017, with great global and personal uncertainty, is the desire for spiritual growth through travel becoming more mainstream and urgent?


Bone, K. (2015). Selling spirituality: Issues in tourism. Tourism Review
International, 19, 123-132.
Bourne, E. J. (2005). The anxiety and phobia workbook. Oakland,
CA: New Harbinger.
Crotty, M. (1996). Phenomenology and nursing research. Melbourne:
Churchill Livingstone.
Gaarder, J. (1999). Sophie's world: A novel about the history of
philosophy. London: Phoenix House.
Gottschall, J. (2003). The tree of knowledge and Darwinian literary
study. Philosophy and Literature, 27(2), 255-268.
Hands Up Holidays. (2017). Voluntourism, taste of volunteering,
luxury volunteering, meaningful holiday. Retrieved March 1,
2017 from
Hardy, A. (1979). The spiritual nature of man. Oxford: Clarendon
Hayllar, B., & Griffin, T. (2005). The precinct experience: A
phenomenological approach. Tourism Management, 26(4), 517-
Hill, P. C., Pargament II, K. I., Hood Jr, R. W., McCullough, M. E.,
Swyers, J. P., Larson, D. B., et al. (2000a). Conceptualizing
religion and spirituality: Points of commonality, points of
departure. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 30(1),
Ingram, G. (2002). Motivations of farm tourism hosts and guests in the
South West Tapestry Region, Western Australia. Indo-Pacific
Journal of Phenomenology, 2(1), 1-12.
Jamal, T., & Hollinshead, K. (2001). Tourism and the forbidden zone:
The underserved power of qualitative inquiry. Tourism
Management, 22(1), 63-82.
Jarratt, D., & Sharpley, R. (2017). Tourists at the seaside: Exploring the
spiritual dimension. Tourist Studies, 1468797616687560.
Li, Y. (2000). Geographical consciousness and tourism experience.
Annals of Tourism Research, 27(4), 863-883.
Marques, J. F. (2006). The spiritual worker: An examination of the
ripple effect that enhances quality of life in and outside the
work environment. Journal of Management Development,
25(9), 884-895.
Marra, R. (2000). What do you mean, spirituality? Journal of
Pastoral Counseling, 35, 67.
McGraw, P. (2008). Real life: Preparing for the 7 most challenging
days of your life. New York: Free Press.
MinerWilliams, D. (2006). Putting a puzzle together: making
spirituality meaningful for nursing using an evolving theoretical
framework. Journal of clinical nursing, 15(7), pp.811-821.
Moran, D. (2000). Introduction to phenomenology. London: Routledge. Mostafanezhad, M., & Hannam, K. (2016). Moral encounters in
tourism. Routledge.
Mustonen, P. (2006). Volunteer tourism: Postmodern pilgrimage?.
Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 3(3), 160-177.
Prayag, G., Mura, P., Hall, C.M., & Fontaine, J. (2016). Spirituality,
drugs, and tourism: tourists’ and shamans’ experiences of
ayahuasca in Iquitos, Peru. Tourism Recreation Research,
online, 1-12.
Schultz, E. K. (2005). The meaning of spirituality for individuals with
disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation, 27(21), 1283-1295.
Sharpley, R., & Sundaram, P. (2005). Tourism: A sacred journey? The
case of ashram tourism, India. International Journal of Tourism
Research, 7(3), 161-171.
Spaniol, L. (2001). Spirituality and connectedness. Psychiatric
Rehabilitation Journal, 25(4), 321-322.
Tanyi, R. A. (2002). Toward clarification of the meaning of spirituality.
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 39(5), 500-509.
Timothy, D. J., & Conover, P. J. (2006). Nature, religion, self-
spirituality and New Age tourism. In D. Timothy & D. Olsen
(Eds.), Tourism, religion and spiritual journeys (pp. 139-155).
New York: Routledge.
Torrance, R. M. (1994). The spiritual quest: Transcendence in myth,
religion, and science: Berkeley University of California Press.
Tribe, J. (2005). New tourism research. Tourism Recreation Research,
30(2), 5-8.
Wearing, S., & Wearing, B. (2001). Conceptualizing the selves of
tourism. Leisure Studies, 20(2), 143-159.
Willis, C. (2001). Introducing qualitative research in psychology:
Adventures in theory and method. Buckingham, PA: Open
University Press.
Wilson, E., & Harris, C. (2006). Meaningful travel: Women,
independent travel and the search for meaning. Tourism: An
Interdisciplinary Journal, 54(2), 161-172.
Willson, G. B., & McIntosh, A. J. (2007). Heritage buildings and
tourism: An experiential view. Journal of heritage tourism,
2(2), 75-93.
Willson, G. McIntosh, A. & Zahra, A. (2013). Tourism and spirituality:
A phenomenological analysis. Annals of Tourism
Research, 42, 150-168.
Wright, M. C. (2002). The essence of spiritual care: A
phenomenological inquiry. Palliative medicine, 16(2), 125-132.
Zahra, A., & McIntosh, A. J. (2007). Volunteer tourism: Evidence of
cathartic tourist experiences. Tourism Recreation Research,
32(1), 115-119.