When you think of traveling across the country, you might think of visiting a monastery and maybe snapping a selfie in front of one, but did you know that you could sleep in them? Although definitely an alternative experience compared to staying in hostels, hotels, or even on farms–staying at a friendly neighborhood religious structure is not only cheap, but it can also be surprisingly practical.
Given the deep Christian history in which monasteries are steeped, it may be little surprise that the majority of monasteries are found around Europe. But you can also fi find them in North American, South America, Africa, Australia, and even Nepal.
Monasteries are surprisingly ubiquitous. And more than being affiliated solely with Christianity, a number of monasteries are affiliated with Buddhism and even Hinduism. For the purposes of this blog, I’m talking about functioning or recently functioning monasteries that still retain some level of mystical decorum, not renovated, luxury spots that could more accurately be called Moneystaries. (OK, that’s a pretty bad pun, but it needed to happen.) Another thing to keep in mind that monastery is a pretty flexible term. There are the giant secluded estates that we know and love, and then there are also a number of other properties (apartments, houses, etc.) that are owned and managed by religious orders.
Some monasteries are open to any traveler looking for a place to stay, while other ones cater to those who are looking to actively worship, meditate, etc. etc. But even if you’re just looking for a place to stay, it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity for at least a few hours of quiet contemplation. After all, monasteries are meant to be quiet places, so why not soak up the opportunity while you can before getting back to your car-horn-polluted city?
Many monasteries will ask for a donation, though some may come with mandatory price tags. Similar to a hostel set-up, you’ll often have the choice of choosing between a dorm or a private room.
Pro Tip: One great way to see several monasteries is to travel the El Camino Santiago. France and Spain and Portugal–oh my!
Unlike monasteries, most temples are by virtue affiliated more so with Buddhism and Hinduism than Christianity. And instead of being removed to the most remote, quietest, and most secluded parts of the world, temples can often be found appended onto towns or even in the midst of bustling cities. You can basically find temples to stay at anywhere.
Well, maybe not Antarctica (although I’m sure you could find a comfy research station to host you–future blog idea?) and maybe not every city or every country, but you get the point: temples are pretty freaking ubiquitous.
Like monasteries, the price and experience that comes with each temple varies. Some spots offer packaged stays designed around a concentrated religious/cultural experience while other spots will put you up (near) indefinitely for a limited fee or donation.
Pro Tip: You can get in touch with a number of temples (notably in Japan and South Korea) via the internet, but you’ll need to get in touch with other ones via phone, snail mail, or even the good ol’ fashioned walk-in. Same goes for monasteries.
Have you stayed at any monasteries, temples, or other-wise non-secular spots? I’d love to hear about your experiences @estebanrules.