What gift do you give on a woman’s 50th birthday – especially if that woman is you? Good news: the second half of life is when you’re just getting good at being alive! These five tips for spiritual pilgrimages and journeys to India will help you celebrate your 50th birthday with faith, freedom and joy.
I included vacations, trips and spiritual journeys when I wrote 17 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Your 40th Birthday ten years ago, but it didn’t occur to me to include a pilgrimage to India on the list. That’s the beauty of the second half of life: we get smarter, more authentic and free-er as we get older (if we do it right). Now that I’m looking for 50th birthday gift ideas, I’m acutely aware of the passage of time and spiritual discernment. The idea of going on a pilgrimage to India bubbled to the surface, and I’m already a different woman.
But how do you find the right pilgrimage for women over 50? India is a big place with over a billion people! You feel your way, and you start early. I’m already planning my 50th birthday even though it’s four months away. I don’t want a birthday party, gifts, or even an all-inclusive resort vacation. No sir, that’s not my style…but a spiritual pilgrimage is. A pilgrimage doesn’t have to involve traveling overseas, but I want to give myself the gift of a physical journey. A trip — the adventure of a lifetime — is my 50th birthday gift to myself.
If you’re a husband looking for gift ideas, read What to Buy Your Wife on Her 50th Birthday. But if you’re the birthday girl herself — a woman celebrating her 50th birthday, like me — you may want to go deeper than gifts and birthday parties. You want to discern how to make the second half of your life meaningful and fulfilling.
You’ve come to the right place. I’ll be leaving for my month-long pilgrimage to India in a month. It’s my 50th birthday gift to myself, and I’m thrilled and terrified. I’m a woman traveling alone to India and Nepal, and I have no idea where my pilgrimage will take me. But I do know this for sure: this will be the spiritual journey of a lifetime, and I will never be the same.
And that’s exactly how I want to start the second half of my life.
5 Things to Consider Before Going on a Pilgrimage to India
I don’t want to try to convince you to go on a spiritual journey or Indian pilgrimage. Your desire must come from within you. I do, however, want to give you some ideas on how to plan a pilgrimage to anywhere in the world for your 50th birthday.
Remember that you don’t have to go to India to embark on a spiritual journey! A pilgrimage can take many different forms and shapes. For instance, I wrote Going Back to School for Women Over 50 to encourage intellectual pilgrimages. I wrote Staycation Ideas for Women Over 50 – Yes, You Can Escape at Home! to help women celebrate their 50th birthday with a sense of adventure even if they don’t leave their city. The beauty of a pilgrimage is that it can take any shape for form. And the beauty of my tips for planning an Indian pilgrimage is that they apply to women over 50 no matter what type of journey they’re on. And that leads me to my first tip…
1. Give yourself the gift of time to ponder
If you weren’t held back by responsibilities, money, time, health issues, energy or your own self, where in the world would you celebrate your 50th birthday? Spend five or ten minutes a day sitting or walking silently. Allow your true self — your heart’s desires — to bubble to the surface. This isn’t just about being a woman turning fifty. How do you want to spend the second half of your life? Who do you want to be?
Not every woman wants to go on a pilgrimage to India for her 50th birthday. Some women don’t even want to travel; they’d rather write the book they always dreamed of writing, take the auto mechanics or engineering degree they always wished they could take, or eat a chocolate croissant and sip a steaming cappuccino under the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
2. Take a journey into your own heart
There is an ancient legend from India that says that, once upon a time, humans shared in God’s wisdom, but that they so abused it that God and his heavenly court decided to take it away from them and hide it until they were mature enough to appreciate it.
But where should they hide it? One angel suggested, ‘Let us bury it deep within the earth,’ but God said, ‘No, they will dig down into the earth and find it’. Another angel said, ‘Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there,’ while another said, ‘Let’s hide it in the depth of the ocean’. But God rejected both suggestions: ‘They will eventually climb every mountain and explore the depths of every sea’.
‘Then there is nowhere to hide it,’ said the angels. God thought for a long time and then said, ‘Here is what we will do. We will hide it deep within their being; they will never think of looking there’. And since then, the story goes, humans have been searching outside themselves for their deepest meaning, never realising that is buried within them in their deep heart’s core. – from Making Good Decisions.
3. Pay attention to what keeps bubbling to the surface
It took me a month to decide I want to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to India for my 50th birthday. Actually, it only took me a millisecond to decide on India, but then I got scared. The Indian guy who works at my veggie market — a super nice guy — just returned from a month-long trip home to India. He got sick from the water (and he was born and raised there!). The pollution in Delhi is at record levels; it’s like smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. Typhoid is making a comeback. So I decided to go to Nepal instead — and it seems like a beautiful, safe place to go. Yay! But … India … I’ve just always wanted to go there.
That’s what a true pilgrimage is: going somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Somewhere thrilling and frightening, a destination that requires faith and courage. A spiritual pilgrimage for women over 50 has to involve God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Lord of all.
After a month of research and reflection, I arrived at the same destination I started at: India.
4. Play the Warmer/Colder Game
If you have no idea how to celebrate your 50th birthday — and you don’t want to join me on my spiritual pilgrimage to India 🙂 — try the “Warmer/Colder” game. When you were a kid, did you play the game of telling someone if they were getting warmer or colder as they neared an object you chose? “You’re getting warmer….you’re hot! It’s right there!” Or “You’re so cold, you might as well be living in an igloo.”
Games are exactly what women over 50 need when they’re planning the second half of life. For example, what does it feel like to consider journeying to India by yourself for your 50th birthday? Does the idea of a spiritual pilgrimage make you feel warm, cold, or neutral? A warm/hot feeling means it’s an exciting choice, a possibility that inspires passion and meaning in your life. A cool/cold or neutral feeling means you need to consider something else.
You can use the Warmer/Colder game for any major or minor decision: when you’re deciding about whether you should move to a new home, get a dog, date that man, have a child, go back to school, or even eat that bucket of ice cream.
Tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life? If you’re searching for spiritual discernment, read What You Need to Know About God’s Will for Your Life.
5. Take Sofia with you
Sofia is the Greek word for “wisdom.” For Christian women like me, she is the Holy Spirit. Sofia is our self-awareness, intuition and wisdom. Sofia knows us better than we know ourselves; she is us. She is our spirit and guide, our comfort and courage. She knows how we need to spend our 50th birthdays (and the rest of our lives!). Sofia led me to plan a pilgrimage to India for my 50th birthday, and she will lead me through that wild, exotic, unpredictable country. Sofia will lead me home, too.
Sofia is like Jesus: unpredictable, yet trustworthy. Untamed, yet good. Mysterious, yet comforting. Sofia is the Holy Spirit, and she wants you to know what she knows. She wants you to be healthy, whole, and happy…and she definitely wants you to celebrate the second half of your life with faith and freedom!
How will you celebrate your 50th birthday? Are you planning a spiritual pilgrimage to India with other women over fifty? Marvelous! No matter what you want to do for your 50th, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts and dreams below.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields.
Until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
~ a traditional Gaelic Blessing
for women who want to travel to Scotland for their 50th birthday 🙂
If you need more ideas, read 3 Tips for Choosing Your Own Adventure in Real Life. What is your ideal life as a woman over 50, and how can you start moving in that direction? Who do you want to be, where do you want to go?
With love for all 50-something women in the world,