Travelling in dreams: translate the meaning to your waking life
Travelling in dreams could be as big as the “life journey” itself, but may more specifically relate to a spiritual journey, the development of a relationship, a career path, the gaining of education or inner wisdom and so on. Travelling in dreams can explore your current goals and the efforts you are making to achieve them. To understand your dream involving a journey, it can help to look at the means by which you travel, the landscape you travel through, any obstacles you encounter, signs you see along the way or special characters you meet.
Often travelling in dreams reveals much through the journey itself, though sometimes the destination seems particularly meaninful. This may relate to a very important goal to you or the significant closure of a certain part of your life. Reaching the destination in your dream may mean that the goal or closure are recent or imminent. Dreams such as this may bring up feelings of satisfaction, release and even triumph. Other times they may arise to allow you to explore ambiguous feelings around endings and new beginnings and the concept of “what next?”
You can understand more about what your journey dream could be symbolic of by considering the feelings this dream raises for you. If you move easily in the dream, this may symbolise an ease with life and an ability to achieve what you set out to. Feelings of excitement over and enjoyment of your journey are likely indications you are making good progress towards your goals in waking life, or you are perhaps enjoying a new sense of freedom. If you feel lost or confused in the journey, it can reflect a difficult choice you need to make, or starting something with which you have no experience. If you are the first person in your family to attend university or get divorced, for example, this dream may come up for you.
Feeling lost in a dream can also arise when you are denying a certain truth or struggling to accept it. Learning of betrayal and personal disappointment can give rise to this dream. If you have always relied on a certain way of doing things that no longer serves you, this dream symbol may also come up. It could be a negative behaviour that is no longer getting results, such as dominating a person that is now standing up to you. Or it could represent a positive behaviour, such as giving up a bad habit, but perhaps you’re not yet sure about what to replace it with. Feelings of frustration and anxiety may relate to obstacles you may encounter on the way to achieving your goals. Just as these dreams may reveal your inner emotions, they can also provide clues as to how to address these concerns and help you to move forward positively.
Travelling in dreams can also be about understanding balance, compromise and the process of letting go of one thing in order to move on to the next. A dream journey explores transitions, stages and ideas around personal evolution. You may dream of a long journey as a relationship ends, as grown-up children move out of home or as you retire. Changes in your external world are usually mirrored by some kind of change within your inner world as well. Dreams of travelling often explore the many layers of meaning around what it means to change and progress, both in behaviour as well as your beliefs and identity. Not only are you moving on in life, but the person who is moving will also be fundamentally changed by the experience.
When vehicles appear in travel dreams, they can help you to understand how your goals relate to other people and to issues of control and influence. If you are travelling on public transport, such as trains or buses, the current stage of your life’s journey may involve the cooperation of others, or you may be feeling swept along by societal expectations and wishing to chart your own path. If you want to get off a train or bus in your dream, you may be preparing to make changes in your life that go against what others expect of you. Alternatively, you may feel responsible for how your choices will impact on others.
Trains have a further layer of meaning associated with a predetermined outcome. Trains may arise in your travel dreams if you have laid out careful plans or if you feel you are travelling along a path someone else has laid out for you. If you are suddenly forced to become a driver or pilot of a vehicle in your dream, this could symbolise sudden authority or responsibility that has been thrust upon you or an opportunity to lead that you have seized. Controlling where a vehicle goes in a dream can symbolise leadership and self-determination. Travelling in a car, bike or sailing solo in your dreams is more likely related to personal choices you are making in life.
Your dream journey may also be impacted by how well the vehicle works. Mechanical problems can relate to waking issues of a practical nature in achieving your goals, such as operations and planning, and can explore your understanding of “how things work” in your waking life. Issues with vehicles can also have a symbolic meaning that relates to your own mind and body. Running out of fuel can symbolise that a project needs more financial investment to carry on. It may also indicate that you are running out of energy and need to take better care of yourself. Problems getting a vehicle started can represent your frustration at wanting to move forward with an idea or plan but are unable to do so. Electrical issues can relate to concerns you have about connecting with the right people and resources in waking life.
Landscapes in dreams can help provide context to the real-life situation this dream is about. Sometimes the landscape will seem like a mere backdrop against which the story of the dream takes place, at others times the landscape is so prominent it becomes almost like a figure of the dream itself. Either way, paying attention to the surroundings in your dreams can reveal important insights into what the story of your dream is telling you. Just as other people in your dreams can represent parts of yourself, so too can the landscape be a symbolic representation of a part of you. If you dream of ice, for example, you could be frozen with fear, unable to take action, or you could feel your emotions are frozen from a past hurt and you are behaving “as cold as ice”. Dreaming of a desert could indicate you literally feel deserted in some way. Or maybe you feel barren, dried out and unable to be creative and nurturing at this time. Perhaps deserts are sacred places of birth and renewal for you. Dreaming of travelling to a mountain could represent a huge challenge ahead of you or a major success in waking life, as if you have “conquered a mountain”. In more general terms, travelling across water is most likely related to your emotions and your deeper self, through the air to ideas, imagination and intellect, and across the ground with more physical, practical or material issues.
Familiar landscapes are more likely to be about issues or concerns you have dealt with in some way before and already have some degree of understanding of. Strange landscapes may be helping you grapple with new issues in your life or aspects of your personality you had not previously been aware of. In a similar way, built-up, urban or city environments are more likely to be about the life you have constructed, the rules you live by, the societal beliefs you hold and issues relating to friends, family and jobs. Natural environments are more likely to relate to your feelings, your hopes and fears, your sense of self and how you define who you are in your own mind.
Getting stuck, slowed down or hindered in some way is very common in travel dreams. This may be expressed through vivid imagery, such as not being able to move your legs when you run, being stuck in quicksand or having a great big wall or pile of rubbish to overcome. These obstacles can symbolise where in life you are feeling stuck. If you find yourself bogged down or stuck in mud, you could be weighed down by old habits, especially regarding your health, emotions or relationships. If the obstacle is a constructed object such as a wall or fence, this may relate to your own internal boundaries. Your dream could be exploring ideas around boundaries you may not wish to cross in order to maintain your personal integrity. It could also be exploring whether these inner walls are limiting beliefs that prevent you from growing and seeing the world in a more open way.
If you successfully negotiate an obstacle or start moving again, your dream might be encouraging you to persist with your approach. Sometimes a good outcome just requires that you don’t give up. However, if your dream ends without you getting out of your predicament, perhaps it is time for a new approach. While sometimes persistence pays, doing the same things over and over again and not getting results means it’s time for a new strategy. Instead of trying to get over the wall, try going around it. For example, if the wall in your life seems to be an increasing workload requiring longer hours to finish, maybe it’s time to say no to some of those extra tasks, or to start delegating. The obstacles in your dream journey can provide hints as to whether you are “on the right track” in waking life and how to adjust your path if you are not.
Sometimes the travel in your dreams doesn’t happen at all. You may dream of frantically packing and not being able to find the items you need, only to realise that you have missed the boat, plane, train etc. These dreams can symbolise being distracted by small details regarding something that is deeply important to you. Getting caught up in day-to-day distractions, procrastinating, obsessing over details or failing to plan can all lead to this kind of dream.
You may dream of having too much luggage that prevents you from getting where you need to be. This symbol often relates to old, outdated beliefs and behaviours that are no longer helpful to you. When you are starting a new relationship and have not healed from previous ones, we refer to this as having a lot of “baggage”, which can also be a true metaphor in dreams.
Sometimes the reason you miss your trip in the dream is because you can’t find a ticket or vital documents. This may symbolise a sense that authority figures are an impediment to your goals. It can also relate to your own inner authority figure. Your dream may be encouraging you to step into your power and take responsibility for the direction of your life. Whatever the reason for missing or fearing that you will miss your planned travel, these dreams often illicit a sense of heightened frustration and panic. When such feelings come up in dreams, this can reflect a sense of anxiety you feel about potentially missed opportunities in your life. At its simplest level, this could be about missed deadlines or planning for a special occasion.
Travel dreams can also arise when you feel that your life choices do not reflect your inner values. This is especially likely if you feel you have grown emotionally or spiritually and your current work, social group or habits are no longer a reflection of your deeper self. This may be a dream urging you to stop for a moment, take stock and make sure that you are directing your energy and attention towards the things truly most important to you; those things that bring you a sense of profound satisfaction and meaning in life.
Travelling in dreams often contain clues on how to reach your goals, overcome obstacles and manage challenges in waking life. You may dream of something as literal as a sign, so pay attention if your dream is advising you to “slow down”, “go back” or “do not enter”. This can be advice for a project you are working on or goals you have set. As well as road signs, look out for traffic lights indicating whether you should go onwards, stop or proceed with caution.
You may also dream of a special guide who appears to help you along the way. This could be a wise older person, who could symbolise your archetypal Inner Elder, the voice of wisdom and experience, or may relate to insight you could gain from others close to you who have had this experience before. Your guide could also be a child, symbolising your own archetypal Inner Child encouraging you to proceed with openness and trust. Or it may relate to experiences from your own childhood that are relevant to your journey now. Other helpful guides include symbolic animals or people with specialised roles, such as the captain of a ship. It can be useful to consider how these characters have personal and symbolic reference to your current goals to help understand their advice better. Sometimes these dream characters may provide actual directions, others may provide a map or shine a light to show the way. These symbols all reflect a deep knowing within yourself as to how to proceed along your chosen path.
At other times, the advice provided by guides can be cryptic or obscure. It is usually a good idea to note down this advice, if you remember it, and the meaning may become clearer over time. In the meantime, reflecting on the nature of the guide and other elements of the dream may prove insightful.
Travelling in dreams often explores what it means to move on, to metaphorically leave somewhere, experience new things and arrive at a different destination. The journey itself is often the most valuable part of the experience and can express the gaining of wisdom and growth. While not all travel runs smoothly in dreams, the lessons of the process can provide great insight into traversing the challenges of waking life and integrating our inner and outer worlds into a harmonious whole.
Want to learn more about what your dreams mean? Visit our Dreams archive page.