• "Travel, when it is undertaken by a first world citizen who is searching for the “truth”, can really narrow the conversation." (AP)Source: AP
Helen Razer has no doubt that spiritual wisdom exists; just don’t tell her to go to Uttar Pradesh to find it.
Helen Razer

30 Mar 2016 - 1:52 PM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2016 - 1:52 PM

A few years back, I endured my life’s Big Divorce. And, if you’re worried that I’m going to recount the lonely takeaway meals I ate in that period or of all the tears I shed into a greaseproof bag, I promise that I won’t.  Not, now, anyhow. I’ll wait ‘til we know each other a little better.

No. What I wanted to talk about this minute was the advice I received back then. This was, very commonly, to travel to “colourful” nations. This, apparently, would speed my recovery. Just like it did for that spiritual bint who gave the world’s divorcées the abhorrent “inspiration” of Eat. Pray. Love.

At the time my girlfriend dumped me, I was averse to travel for several reasons. Not the least of which was that I had no godly notion if I’d tossed out my passport with the pizza boxes in a rage. I also didn’t fancy the idea much as I am the type who has a natural suspicion of popular wisdom. If a lot of people are recommending a particular activity, I reason, then it’s probably crap.

Many of my fellow Skip associates were recommending a trip abroad, most often to those countries of the Global South, which are largely held to be both very cheap and spiritual. My non-Skip friends, having intimate knowledge of such nations, did not make the same recommendation. I think it was my friend Tasneem, a Kenyan-Indian-Oz chick, who said that I should just probably go out and get a nice facial.

I went out and got a nice facial. Not only are facials much more convenient than travel to the world’s cheapest, most spiritual nations, but I believe they are much more likely to live up to their promise. I did look more hydrated after an hour with the beautician. I would not return from India or from Bali with advanced spiritual wisdom. Because, darn it, I am yet to meet a single white person who has.

“Travel broadens the mind,” they say. And this can, at times, be true. But, what they do not also say is that travel, when it is undertaken by a first world citizen who is searching for the “truth”, can really narrow the conversation. My goodness, but there’s no bore like a travel bore.

Look.  Coming back from a fact-finding trip to Gaza and telling me what you saw in social terms is one thing. Coming back from Uttar Pradesh, and over-enunciating the words “Uttar Pradesh” until I want to hit you, all instant-spiritual is another. Dude, if you saw the universe inside a single moment at an ashram, then that’s between you and the universe. I don’t want to hear about it.

But, I suspected that I would, very much, want to talk about it too if I myself undertook such a program of spiritual tourism. It’s very easy for a white person to become a colonial arsehole and I had no reason to believe that I would be exempt from the disease that so often claims my travelling Skip fellows and finds us uttering gibberish like, “I learned so much about honouring the human spirit in Uttar Pradesh!”

It’s not only atheism that disinclines me to this twaddle. It’s the darn assumption that wisdom is as easily and as cheaply acquired in Bali as a knock-off Hermès bag.

Shut it. I mean, really, shut it. And, this isn’t just my faithlessness telling you to cram your greedy white gob with another Chablis because, frankly, I preferred the drunk you to the Enlightened one. It’s not only atheism that disinclines me to this twaddle. It’s the darn assumption that wisdom is as easily and as cheaply acquired in Bali as a knock-off Hermès bag.

I am certain that spiritual wisdom is an actual thing. I have met priests, devout Muslims and scholarly Jews who appear to have developed a good framework for navigating this life. I am sure that the Dharmic religions and sundry faiths of First Nation peoples provide such utility and, if a jillion white wankers had not covered their bodies in “tribal” tattoos, I’d be more interested to learn about these.

But, you don’t just find it on holidays.

I find the belief that one can take one’s first world grief to the Global South for spiritual adjustment to be no different from the practice of corporate outsourcing. “Let’s get it made cheap in a Bangladeshi factory” is the material equivalent of “I’m going to India to find myself”.

I found myself, eventually. I was somewhere beneath all the pizza boxes. But, let’s talk about that on a future occasion.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter HelenRazer.

Read these too
To challenge racism we need to do more than celebrate delicious and diverse food
When we discuss multiculturalism, it’s not just the serious issue of racism we need to deal with, but also the struggles many migrants, and their children, face when they try to fit in but realise they’re stuck between two worlds, says Osman Faruqi.
Is our obsession with ethnic eating a sign of cultural progress?
Our fascination with Korean chicken joints, pocket-sized Turkish mezze parlours and backyard pickling is a welcome antidote to meat pies. But does our new-found culinary sophistication signal real diversity or something else altogether, asks Neha Kale.