The modern Swedish pilgrim

Pilgrimages have been part of all the major religions since ancient times. Today, believers are still walking by foot to holy places to get closer to God and walk in the footsteps of religious authorities, but the driving forces behind setting out on pilgrimage trails have become more diverse and do not necessarily have to do with religious faith. The modern pilgrim might be looking for historic sights, for a meditative hike in silence to get- ting to know him- or herself better through an ‘inner journey’ – or, to the contrary, for socialising with other pilgrims. In this study we've identified five different types of pilgrims:

  • The organised Christians: which typically joins group hikes organised by churches or other civil society organisations.
  • The history buffs: a historical interest can be just as important as the religious motives, and places where well-known histori- cal events have taken place are central.
  • The spiritual: many of these seek stillness and silence for doing an ‘inner journey’, while others are looking for deep conversations with other pilgrims to meditate on life’s mysteries together.
  • The stressed: related to meditation, silence, and the ‘inner journey’ is a desire to relax and find stress relief.
  • The backpackers: are primarily looking for adventure and for making friends with other pilgrims from around the world.

This study was initiated by Visit Östergötland. 

Published: 2018