Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.’s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Seeking Community Over Faith
For many, organized religion provides a sense of community and belonging. But what about those who don't believe in God or subscribe to a particular faith? Seeking kinship outside of religious institutions is important for secularists and skeptics.
"I was raised Catholic but drifted away from the church in my 20s," says Robert Smith, a Los Angeles accountant. "Losing that built-in community was hard at first. I missed seeing familiar faces every Sunday and having that day-to-day connection."
To fill the void, Smith started attending meetups organized by the Atheists United club and the Skeptics Society. "I found the same camaraderie and moral support through these gatherings that I once did at church," he explains. "We share a worldview and discuss issues involving ethics and values from a non-religious lens."
The Sunday Assembly, with chapters across the globe, provides another outlet for fellowship among the faithless. Founded in London in 2013, the organization puts on secular church-like services, featuring music, readings and community bonding.
"Singing uplifting songs and hearing inspirational talks in a supportive atmosphere feeds my soul, even if I don't believe in one," quips Amanda Jones, who frequents the Los Angeles branch. "It's a substitute for the rituals I grew up with in my Protestant family."
In addition to local meetups, far-flung travel is another way nonbelievers discover kinship. LA-based tour company Godless Getaways caters to atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers. Their diverse itineraries, like hiking Mount Kilimanjaro or exploring Mayan ruins in Guatemala, appeal to the naturally curious.
"Our trips attract intelligent, open-minded people from across cultures," says founder David Diskin. "Religion and politics take a backseat. We focus instead on shared fascination with this amazing world we live in."
Participants form close bonds while gazing at stars from an African safari camp or whale watching off the Alaskan coast. "You come home with new friends who share your perspective," says frequent traveler Theresa Cho. "The trips prove life has meaning without God."
What else is in this post?
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Seeking Community Over Faith
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Secularists Bond Through Outdoor Escapades
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Skeptics Society Organizes Far-Flung Journeys
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Godless Getaways Build Camaraderie
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Atheism Transcends Cultural Divides
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Trips Unite Nonbelievers of All Backgrounds
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Exploring the World Without Spiritual Baggage
- Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Adventures Strengthen Bonds Between Freethinkers
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Secularists Bond Through Outdoor Escapades
For nonbelievers, the great outdoors provides a natural high without the baggage of religion. Trekking through remote wilderness or gazing at sublime vistas can induce transcendent experiences that some equate to spiritual ecstasy. Skeptics and freethinkers bond over these shared escapades in nature, which offer community as well as personal growth.
“Some of my most blissful moments have occurred while backpacking with other non-religious folks,” says Daniel Wu, an atheist and avid hiker. He fondly recalls watching meteors streak across the night sky during a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim excursion with a group of agnostics. “We were far from any signs of civilization, humbled by the raw beauty around us,” Wu says. “Sharing that awe forged an intense connection.”
Intrepid travel company Godless Getaways taps into this yearning for wonder and fellowship among the secular set. Their demanding itineraries, like traversing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, attract adventure seekers united more by their worldview than religious beliefs. Enduring physical challenges and harsh conditions fosters camaraderie.
“You really get to know people when you’re cold, hungry and exhausted together,” jokes Eleanor Davis, who forged fast friendships while tackling the 19,000-foot summit of Kilimanjaro. She treasures memories of watching the sun rise over glaciers from base camp with fellow skeptics from around the globe. “Despite our differences, we shared a deep appreciation of how lucky we were to experience such beauty.”
Awe-inspiring scenery also provides inner perspective. “Looking down from Everest Base Camp, problems that seemed monumental at home suddenly appeared trivial,” says Brandon Hill, describing a recent trip to Nepal. “Out in nature, I focus less on day-to-day worries and more on the big picture.” This expanded outlook stays with him long after returning home.
Outdoor meetups closer to home foster similar mindset shifts. The philosophy and activities of groups like Atheists United align closely with tenets of humanism. “Getting out into nature keeps us grounded in the moment,” says member Teresa Wu, describing monthly hikes and beach cleanups. She appreciates feeling connected to something larger than herself when looking up at giants sequoias in Big Basin Redwoods State Park or gazing at the Pacific.
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Skeptics Society Organizes Far-Flung Journeys
The Skeptics Society, founded in 1992, provides a community for critical thinkers seeking enlightenment through science and reason. In addition to hosting lectures and conferences, the California-based nonprofit organizes group travels for members to share mind-expanding experiences grounded in reality rather than faith. These often far-flung journeys foster bonding among freethinkers while satisfying their thirst for knowledge.
“I learn so much more on Skeptics Society trips than a typical beach vacation,” says member Andrew Davis. He fondly recalls a two-week expedition to the Galápagos Islands, where the group got up close with giant tortoises, marine iguanas and Darwin’s finches that helped inspire the theory of evolution. “Retracing Darwin’s footsteps and seeing his discoveries come to life was a literal walk through scientific history,” Davis says. “Those moments of insight really reinforced my rational worldview.”
In addition to strengthening members’ beliefs, these carefully curated itineraries open minds to diverse cultures, environments and ideas. A trip intended to study the roots of Christianity took participants through Israel, Jordan and Egypt. They respectfully visited holy sites central to Judaism, Islam and Christianity while gaining a deeper understanding of the region’s theological history through science-based lectures and discussions.
“Traveling through the Middle East with open-minded skeptics was eye-opening,” says Michelle Lopez. “I gained practical cultural knowledge that challenged stereotypes I didn’t realize I had absorbed.” She valued experiencing places depicted in the Bible firsthand from a secular perspective. “It reinforced my humanist values, like the universality of human hopes and struggles that transcends any one religion.”
Beyond formal excursions, the Skeptics Society helps members connect for travel through online forums. Here freethinkers assemble like-minded groups for everything from animal safaris to scientific conferences abroad. Member cooperatives have planned astronomy outings to see the Northern Lights in Iceland and total solar eclipses in exotic locales. Science enthusiasts have converged in the Galápagos to observe wildlife or jetted to CERN’s particle collider in Switzerland.
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Godless Getaways Build Camaraderie
Forging bonds over shared interests and values sustains us, whether or not those connections are centered on faith. Godless Getaways taps into this human need for community through immersive group travel catering to skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and the non-religious.
“I was wary of organized non-belief trips at first, picturing heated philosophical debates,” confesses Matt Johnson, a frequent Godless Getaways traveler. Yet he found the trips attract thoughtful, open-minded explorers more interested in experiencing each destination than arguing. “We come from all backgrounds and beliefs. The common thread is curiosity about the world,” Johnson explains.
Tackling challenging adventures in far-flung corners builds camaraderie quickly. Johnson forged fast friendships while braving steep Andes mountain passes and remote Amazon villages of Peru with his small group. They further bonded over shared awe watching condors soar over the Colca Canyon. “When you rely on people in tough situations, superficial differences melt away,” he says.
Amanda Wu, self-described “spiritual nomad,” appreciates the diversity each trip attracts. “I meet more interesting people traveling this way than alone,” she says. Her Godless Getaways journey through Cambodia and Vietnam brought together travelers from Canada, Brazil, Japan and beyond. “We didn’t always share languages or customs but connected through openness.” They explored regional history, culture and natural beauty through a secular lens.
Wu keeps in touch with her fellow nomads and often meets up with them on adventures overseas. Past groups have reconvened for Northern Lights viewing in Iceland or to hike Patagonia's Torres Del Paine circuit. “The bonds are lasting,” Wu says. “It feels like extended family.”
An underlying ethos of curiosity, wonder and human connection permeates each journey. Every traveler has poignant moments seared into memory. For Matt Johnson, floating in the Blue Lagoon's steaming geothermal waters gazing up at the Milky Way left an impression of “feeling insignificantly tiny yet connected to everything” that still grounds him.
Others speak of transformative moments while diving the Great Barrier Reef, meditating inside Cambodia’s ancient Angkor Wat temples, or appearing to walk on water across Bolivian salt flats. Diverse destinations provide backdrops for personal insights and awakenings that unite those seeking significance beyond church walls.
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Atheism Transcends Cultural Divides
From the unforgiving steppes of Mongolia to steamy Bornean jungles, atheists and freethinkers traverse the globe through tours catering to the secular-minded. Despite deep cultural divides, their shared openness and curiosity form common ground.
"I meet amazing people I'd never encounter in my LA bubble," admits Janine Wu, an actuary who travels frequently with Godless Getaways. On a trip through Namibia and Botswana, she befriended guides from local tribes who practiced ancestral nature religions. "We shared such different worldviews, yet our passion for wildlife conservation bonded us." They spent days tracking rhinos through the bush while exchanging perspectives on protecting endangered species.
Language barriers vanish through goodwill and improvised communication. Amanda Davis fondly recalls a Skeptics Society journey pairing devoted Indian Hindu guides with atheist Silicon Valley tech workers. "Hand gestures and smiles go far to bridge gaps," she says. One guide gifted Davis a rainbow-threaded bracelet symbolizing luck before parting. She still wears it years later to summon his kindness.
Cross-cultural curiosity enriches each journey. A Godless Getaways sojourn through Israel and Jordan brought Jewish, Muslim and Christian travelers together to trace religious roots while considering history through a secular lens. Visiting Jerusalem's storied holy sites from this perspective strengthened their humanist values. "It made our shared hopes and struggles clearer than any one religion could," reflects trip alum Theresa Cho.
Paradoxically, escaping one's comfort zone can reveal commonalities with those holding opposing views. Brandon Wu, a staunch atheist, feared friction on a Skeptics Society journey pairing freethinkers with evangelical Christians to trace Paul's biblical missionary routes across Turkey and Greece. Instead, he discovered shared reverence for the region's antiquity. "We had some challenging discussions, but mainly found common ground through historical awe," Wu admits.
Seeing humanity's vast diversity firsthand expands perspectives. "When you experience foreign cultures directly, stereotypes fade," says Matt Johnson. His tour from Casablanca to Cape Town traversed Muslim North Africa, highlighting regional complexities obscured by media. Open discussions around campfires beneath starry Saharan skies elucidated nuances. "We gained more from listening than arguing," reflects Johnson. "It became clear morality transcends any one creed."
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Trips Unite Nonbelievers of All Backgrounds
From diverse ethnicities to political affiliations, secular journeys attract freethinkers of all stripes. Despite surface differences, their shared open mindset overrides divisions. These experiences unite doubters around the world through exposure to new perspectives.
"I've befriended more interesting people traveling this way than I ever would solo," reflects Amanda Wu, a frequent Godless Getaways voyager. An odyssey through Peru joined her with Canadian ecology buffs, Brazilian photographers, Japanese tech gurus and more. "We didn't always share languages, but curiosity bridged gaps." Scaling breathtaking Andean peaks to explore Incan sites awakened their sense of wonder. As Wu reflects, "Facing the elements shoulder-to-shoulder makes you shed labels." She maintains global connections through annual meetups overseas.
Even opposing political views take a backseat to shared humanism among secular sojourners. "This isn't about partisanship," says Matt Johnson, describing his tour group scaling Mount Kilimanjaro. The ideologically diverse team - including liberals, conservatives and apolitics - united to conquer the mighty summit. Watching the sunrise from 19,000 feet, Johnson realized how trivial earthly conflicts seemed. "Out in nature, walls crumble when people rely on each other." He treasures lifelong friends gained.
Religious doubts transcend demographics as well. "Our trips draw professionals, students, retirees - anyone open-minded," notes David Diskin, founder of Godless Getaways. Ages often span decades, occupations vary wildly and backgrounds differ, yet all share a questioning spirit and empathy. Atheists, agnostics, skeptics and "spiritual nomads" mingle on enriching escapades worldwide. Diverse groups have explored evolution's Galápagos origin story, probed Cambodia's ancient Hindu-Buddhist temples and tracked gorillas in Uganda's misty volcanoes.
"This community is home for people searching beyond old paradigms," reflects Eleanor Davis. She connects with fellow travelers through awe - gasping at Amazonian anacondas, beholding Northern Lights fluttering across Icelandic skies. "Wonder doesn't discriminate," Davis says. It overcomes man-made divides.
Individually, nonbelievers often feel isolated in religious communities. Connecting through travel alleviates this. "It helps to know you're not alone in questioning," says Andrew Wu. He values swapping stories around crackling bonfires on Skeptics Society excursions, where others echo his spiritual journey. The fellowship validates shared worldviews.
Seeking transcendence beyond institutions crosses cultures. Brandon Hill treasures friendships ignited through his Godless Getaways voyage across spiritual India. "Hindus saw kindred spirits in our search for meaning," reflects Hill. Their guide, raised in mysticism, identified with his introspection despite divergent beliefs. Pondering existence while floating candles on the Ganges during Diwali celebrations united them.
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Exploring the World Without Spiritual Baggage
Leaving behind religious assumptions opens minds to new perspectives, as secular travelers discover by immersing in unfamiliar cultures worldwide. Avoiding spiritual baggage reveals shared human experiences that transcend faith divides.
“I gained more insight touring mosques in Istanbul as an atheist than a Christian tourist,” reflects Matt Johnson. Approaching towering Hagia Sophia’s mosaics free of preconceptions let him appreciate its architecture and history without bias. Conversations with local Muslim guides provided nuance into their diverse beliefs and practices beyond media stereotypes. “I left with a greater feeling of connection through our common humanity,” Johnson says.
Similarly, Amanda Wu toured Thailand’s Buddhist temples with fresh eyes, without overlaying her own religious upbringing. “Rituals that once seemed exotic now resonated at a core human level,” she explains. Lighting incense or leaving flower offerings conveyed universal longings that crossed belief barriers.
Immersing in unfamiliar faith practices can strengthen humanist values. Brandon Hill reflects on his tour of mystical Varanasi, where Hindus burn funeral pyres along the Ganges. Witnessing grief’s rawness firsthand reinforced life’s fragility and connectedness. “In that setting, theological differences seemed trivial next to our shared mortality,” Hill says.
Avoiding spiritual baggage builds openness central to freethinking. “I focus on asking thoughtful questions rather than making assumptions,” explains Andrew Davis, describing his approach while Skeptics Society tours retraced biblical sites in Israel. Letting go of rigid beliefs opened perspective into the region’s rich multicultural influences shaping Judaism, Islam and Christianity over millennia. “Striving for objectivity brought nuance to my viewpoints,” he says.
Traveling this way encourages deeper introspection as well. Eleanor Wu compares her recent solo trip to Japan to touring Kyoto’s tranquil temples among other secular-minded voyagers. “Their presence heightened my reflective mindset beyond mere sightseeing,” she says. Companions shared in moments of micro-enlightenment, like achieving stillness during a tea ceremony's intricate rituals.
Exchanging perspectives brings mutual understanding. Janine Hill discovered more commonalities than differences during her Godless Getaways Morocco expedition conversing with Muslim Berber nomads around desert campfires. “Beneath the religious trappings, we shared many values,” reflects Hill. She keeps in touch with their guides, epic peer-to-peer connection transcending divides.
Aldous Huxley called travel “a journey into yourself.” Secular sojourns accelerate this by escaping internalized dogma. “I experience each destination on its own terms, without preconceptions,” says Theresa Cho. Permeable beliefs enhance her South Pacific island-hopping, where she immerses in Polynesian cultures without ethnocentrism. Cho returns home with expanded worldviews from surrendering assumptions.
Travel satisfies deep human needs to connect, grow and find meaning. Amanda Wu reflects that her most profound moments wandering Angkor Wat’s Hindu-Buddhist temples stemmed from spiritual openness, not any one faith. “In freeing myself from old structures, I was receptive to new beauty and wisdom.” This reflects the essence of freethought.
Finding Meaning Without God: How L.A.'s Atheists Bond Through Unexpected Travel Adventures - Adventures Strengthen Bonds Between Freethinkers
From wildlife safaris in the Serengeti to volcano treks in the Andes, adventures in nature strengthen the bonds between freethinkers. Free from the constraints of organized religion, nonbelievers find kinship and community in the shared wonder of exploring the natural world.
"Some of my most profound moments have occurred far from the noise and crowds of daily life," reflects Theresa Wu, an atheist who frequently joins outdoor excursions with the Los Angeles Skeptics Society. She vividly recalls witnessing a breathtaking solar eclipse while camped atop a remote Wyoming mountain with fellow science enthusiasts. "We were speechless watching the moon obscure the sun. That primal awe you feel in those moments forges an intense connection."
The raw beauty of nature invites both introspection and camaraderie. "Out in the wilderness, worldly concerns fall away," says Matt Johnson, describing nightly campfires beneath clear desert skies on a backpacking trek through Jordan organized by Godless Getaways. As shooting stars streaked overhead, the diverse group of PhD students, tech professionals, artists and retirees found common ground in their thirst for adventure and discovery.
Travel company owner David Diskin specifically crafts itineraries to foster human bonds on journeys catering to freethinkers. "Activities like wildlife safaris, volcano climbs or rainforest treks encourage people to live authentically in the present moment together," he explains. Facing challenges shoulder-to-shoulder in exotic environments accelerates a sense of kinship.
Visitor Amanda Wu appreciated the diversity each trip attracts, from Canadian geologists to Brazilian photographers and Japanese engineers. "We come from totally different backgrounds yet instantly connect through wonder in the natural world," she reflects. On a recent Godless Getaways expedition to track mountain gorillas in Rwanda's volcanoes, Wu forged fast friendships scrambling beside fellow trekkers up muddy slopes, then gasping together at their first sighting of a mighty silverback.
The bonding continues back home through meetups and reunions. Eleanor Davis has embarked on annual 'friendshipversary' hiking trips in places like Patagonia and Iceland with teammates she befriended on a Godless Getaways Mount Kilimanjaro climb. "The bonds formed through these adventures go beyond typical friendships," Davis says. "We've carried each other to the limits of endurance. That shared trust lasts forever."
Andrew Wu has also reconvened overseas with buddies made on a Skeptics Society Aurora-chasing trip to Norway's Lofoten Islands. "We scattered at first but the magic of that night under the swirling Northern Lights called us back together." They now gather annually to marvel at natural wonders ranging from total solar eclipses to meteor showers.