Inspired Minds: Elizabeth Medgyesy

A hatha yoga instructor, nursing student, and massage therapist, Elizabeth Medgyesy understands the human desire for

transformation and renewal—and she aims to encourage it by offering spiritual trips throughout Asia. Spirit Travel (, which she founded in 1997 in Juneau, Alaska,

leads small groups on yogacentric pilgrimages to India, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan.

YOGA JOURNAL: How does a pilgrimage differ from a vacation?

ELIZABETH MEDGYESY: The main difference is the intention. A pilgrimage is a vessel for growth, and travel is the most

potent form of spiritual growth that’s available to us. When we’re at home in a regular day-in and day-out routine, our

feelings, thoughts, and actions are just that, routine. However, when we travel, we get out of our seat of normalcy, and

that’s when growth occurs. It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as it’s different from home.

YJ: Can you elaborate?

EM: It comes down to releasing control and trying something new. India, for example, is an assault on the senses. Its

sights, sounds, smells, and tastes are all completely different and exotic. To fully experience them requires letting go of

existing patterns—getting up, going to bed, eating certain foods, taking a certain route to work, being in the pattern of

familiar relationships. It’s like peeling off the layers of an onion in that there’s no skin left to protect and surround.

And that can be frightening—but it’s also challenging.

YJ: Do you take regular vacations?

EM: I do a lot of ice climbing, mountain climbing, trekking, and hiking. And I set out for weekends in the Yukon,

mostly to see fall colors and run my dogs around. I wouldn’t call all of my vacations pilgrimages, but I’m getting there. I’m

proud to say that I include yogic practices—meditation, breathwork, hatha yoga—in my ordinary vacations, as I do in my

everyday life.