A few months ago, I went on my first ever official Soul Journey. Organised and lead by my business mentors, Mike and Landi, it was a glorious 8 days of travelling through Scotland. So inspirational that I would love to return for an 8 week trip! I don’t think I’m an expert yet, but I have some Soul journey ideas that are useful for who I am, so thought I would share…

1. Travel with a Soul Journey Family

I have many fond memories from my own childhood of camping through Europe with my parents and three older siblings. But no, now I’m NOT talking about being in a car packed with kids asking: “are we there yet?!?”. I’m suggesting traveling with people with whom you can foster deep connection and interesting conversations. Diverse, yet somehow like minded.

My Travel Family

The group I travelled with came from 3 different countries and ranged in age from mid thirties to mid seventies. They came from diverse industries: from construction to mining to business consulting to the arts to technology to retail – there was even an Uber driver!

They quickly became my soul journey family. Some quirky and fun. Or, warm and extroverted. Others quiet and wise. Many with other wonderful combinations of these and more traits. All in their own way loving and beautiful.

Soul Journey Family
Soul Journey Family – at dawn on the Isle of Skye

Maybe I was just lucky to find kinship with others mad enough to buy into something called a “Soul Journey”. However, I was chatting to a friend who toured Ireland with me a couple of years ago, and I suggested that trip should have been called a Soul Journey. Her reply: for her that is exactly what it was! I’m think going to find more people who think that way. Soul family.

2. Venture off the Beaten Path

I have a confession. I’m a terrible tourist. Any of you who know me or have read my post “Wondering about Wandering about” will know this already. I struggle to get excited about museums, paintings, and sights. I remember once being in London and deciding it was it was finally time to visit Madame Tussauds. It was one of the least memorable experiences of my life.

Not that there is anything wrong with being into all these things. However, looking out for alternatives can be so much more interesting.

Two such Experiences

One adventure in Edinburgh was exploring the Gilmerton Cove, a fascinating series of tunnels and rooms, over a vast area, beneath the floor of what looks like a small cottage on a side street. Theories of its origin range from the Druids, to the Knights Templar, to the Masons.

Soul Journey standing stones
Standing Stones of Stennes, Orkney Islands

Or the standing stones of Stennes and many other sites. A spread of different patterns. Geometric alignments and mystical uses. We buried a time capsule at Temple Wood. Hand written notes to future discoverers sealed in a bottle. We also had a closing ceremony there as we would be heading out of the highlands the next day. Unforgettable places and spaces and connections.

3. Notice what you Notice

On the day we ventured towards the Scottish Highlands, Landi shared an insight that became a revelation to us all. We each notice different things. What we notice is not only unique to our individual wiring, but also unique to our needs at that specific moment in our lives.

I thought the concept was quite interesting, but totally underestimated how true it was. As we travelled we began to compare notes and I was delighted to discover that I had missed so much of what others had seen! Plus they hadn’t noticed what I had. They had stories of birds, hares, templar symbols, and interesting structures. I saw mesmerising bodies of water, enchanting trees, and captivating colours.

Soul Journey Scottish blues near Inverness
The blues of the Inverness area

What I Noticed

Trees were a big theme for me. It was as if they called to me, inviting me over to dance, to play, to rediscover groundedness. Calling me back to my roots. Except it wasn’t about going backwards, it was definitely an invitation to move forwards…

Soul Journey notice what you notice - trees and moss
I was drawn to this tree. When I got closer, I saw this moss.

This was also highlighted when we visited a Yew tree which is reportedly 3000 years old. We did a group meditation there. The visualisation took me down into the roots of a tree. It was delightful and warm and inviting. A real return to my roots! Noting what I noticed.

4. Make it an Inward Soul Journey

I’m convinced that this trip is the most present or conscious I have been in decades of traveling. It truly felt like I was home. Mike even suggested that if he didn’t know better he would have mistaken me for a local. He felt it looked like I belonged in and to Scotland.

Soul Journey - Ian looking like a local
Ian looking like a local

I have been wasteful on so many of my previous trips. Worrying about money. Concerned about whether others are having fun or not. Ensuring the catering is up to scratch. Getting the right photos. Everything except being truly present to the moment, with myself and for myself.

My Inward Journey

Embracing the moment leads to significant experiences. Landi and I had an exhilarating chat in the wind under a grey overcast sky whilst on a ferry crossing the North Sea from the Scottish mainland to the Orkney Islands. One of the subjects was childhood toys, and it emerged that I have no recollection of any cuddle toys as a child.

A couple of days later we spread out in search of lunch in a delightful village called Fort Augustus at the southern end of Loch Ness. When I returned to the bus, I discovered a weird orange character sitting on my seat. I assumed (or hoped) someone had mistakenly placed it on the wrong seat and I pushed it aside. Then Mike came to me and explained that they had walked into a shop, looked at the stuffed toys and said: “which one of you wants to be Ian’s friend?”

A new Soul Journey companion - Dippy
That Dippy stare – the face that needed to be Ian’s Soul Journey friend

Thus, at the age of 56, I have my first cuddle toy. It was awkward for me at first. But I decided not to limit myself and explore this new facet of an inward journey. Dippy (he came pre-named) has great significance to me. My teenage dog was Dipsy – originally called Dippy, I think named after a Professor Dippenaar we had got her from. I’m not sure what the statistical possibilities of the coincidence are, but either way, it simply added to the depth of the inward soul journey.

5. Make it a Lasting Soul Journey

Consciousness is one of my favourite words. As a student of leadership, my favourite form is called Conscious Leadership. Forbes magazine describes a conscious leader as a leader who has been on a journey. A journey of life, facing self, becoming aware of who we really are, where we are, and why we are here. In that sense I wish we were all conscious leaders. 

My Ongoing Journey

Dippy and I have already visited 5 countries and 10 cities together. At first I was embarrassed to be traveling with a soft toy’s head sticking out of my bag. However, I relaxed as Dippy became an attention grabber and conversation starter. Whilst walking through Birmingham Airport I was stopped by a salesperson who wanted to know who this was cruising through his electronics store. On another occasion, Dippy caused a stir with two hotel receptionist as they both insisted on hearing his story. Hotel cleaners seem to have the most fun with him, deciding each day on a new position for him to spend the day on my bed.

Soul Journey - the ongoing travels of Ian and Dippy
Dippy and Ian at a Speaking Conference in Durban, South Africa

Dippy has twice been invited to be part of a Morpheus Genius keynote I was delivering. He had been sitting on my table both at a conference in Durban, South Africa and again when I spent a week working with senior leaders in Accra, Ghana. He attracted a lot of attention which eventually meant me telling his story during my main speech. The audiences seem to love it! Who knew?

I carry my Scottish Soul Journey in my heart. In spite of a crazy schedule for the first two months after I returned, people keep telling me how alive and peaceful I look. Most of the time I still feel at home the way I did in Scotland. I don’t think it’s because I’m not being present and instead longing for the highlands. I think it’s because I’m at home in my heart. At home with myself. Not all the time, but a whole lot more than I used to be…

What would it take for you to venture out on such a journey?