Last year, I had the profound honor of attending and teaching a Fearless Soul workshop in the gorgeous and wild Fort McDowell, Arizona. Hosted by Bucket List Retreats, the sessions were clarifying for the attendee’s and for me. I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the owner and cultivator of Bucket List Retreats on her podcast program called Travel Talk (listen to the full interview here) which explores one of my favorite topics: transformational travel. The interview was so delightful, I converted it into a blog. I hope you enjoy ~
Part I: The Basics
Traveling gave me the space and time to discover that I am inherently a slow-moving, intuitive. A deep thinking wanderer fueled by curiosity and asking profound questions. And the world, in all her beauty and wisdom, provided profound answers (which are woven with love throughout my book: Your Fearless Soul).
I graduated from college with a degree in engineering and all my engineering friends went off to high paying jobs and beautiful apartments but, in my heart, I had always wanted to travel. So I took a different path because I felt compelled. I couldn’t help myself! A piece of my Soul was calling to me, and I had to go after it.
I went to Europe (including Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway) as well as Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Tibet and Peru (including Cusco and Machu Picchu (of course!), but was also able to trek the Cordierra Blancas, Colca Canyon, and wandered the Amazon Jungle). Asia and parts of Europe I did solo and other parts of Europe and Peru I did with my hubby (who was my then boyfriend).
Logistics are an interesting piece of the travel puzzle. Travel, just like life, is one step at a time. If you think about the whole trip and what you’re going to do and when and where - it’s too much. It’s overwhelming. You have to pick the thing that’s right in front of you and figure it out. You just have to buy the ticket. Everything else you figure out along the way.
The idea of going somewhere foreign is inherently frightening, unless you are lucky enough to posses the emotional stability of granite (which I do not!). When I flew to Hong Kong, i walked straight into a bathroom stall and sobbed, I was so afraid. My only option was to feel the fear and take the next step anyway. You say, “hello fear” and you let it consume you. Then, you invite it along as your friend and move forward.
I bought a one way ticket to China with zero idea what I was getting into. But once that ticket was purchased, I bought a great guide book and took care of the very next thing that was imperative: how to use the subway and finding a place to sleep for the first two nights.
The single hardest step is buying the ticket - because you are committing - you are telling the Universe: "Okay. I’m ready. Let’s go on this journey to pick up the pieces of my Soul. Lead the way, I trust you."
Part II: Transformation
Because of travel, I transformed. I left as one person and came back as another. Every time I went on new adventure, I learned, integrated, and became more whole.
I learned to listen with my senses. To memorize a place by the way it sounds and smells. Each place leaves an imprint on the Soul, like potters hands on clay. In Tibet, the air is crisp and thin, cold on the nostrils. Tiny bells tinkle on bicycles and there is an ever constant scraping sound of wooden blocks against dirt as the pilgrims stretch and bow across the ground. It transformed my idea of devotion.
In some parts of China, there is garbage piled in the streets up to the knees. The humidity and fog is thick with the smell of food and salt and people. Even the crowds have a smell. Oceans of cream skin and raven hair, I was never, ever by myself, and yet - never in my life have I felt so alone.
In Peru, the people talk to the earth as if she were a living being - they stack stones on the pathways and call it ‘making a prayer’ It taught me what it is to pray and how we are loosing something precious in our “civilized” culture that is so removed from the land.
A lot of what I experienced sounds scary: a one way ticket to Hong Kong, holding baby alligators in the Amazon, being dumped at a Chinese train station in the middle of the night, crossing the border to Vietnam overland, and I think it was scary. But I believe the place we truly come alive is when we feel the fear and do it anyway. The place where fear and thrill intersect is exactly the place we're meant to point. I was terrified to write my book - "Do it anyway!" my heart would cry.
I don’t think I ever ‘arrived’ anywhere, in a spiritual sense. I don’t think you are ever “done”. When I went to Peru I was given a mantra: Let go. Let go. One thing becomes another in the mother, in the mother (which was so perfect for what they call the land: pacha mama, which means earth mother).
Each place gave me something different. Each place left its own imprint. I became a person who trusts the process, trusts that one thing is always becoming another, and a person who listens in silence to what song spirit wants to sing through me.
There is a simplicity there, and simplicity is liberating: it makes even the most mundane thing holy.
Part III: Travel and Your Fearless Soul
I think that one of my greatest takeaways from seeing the world is understanding that great men (and women) wanted so badly to leave a legacy that they built it out of stone. The erected giant coliseums, great walls, and temples that are collapsing and being swallowed by forest. They are beautiful places to visit, but the greatest influences in my travels weren’t the places, they were the people.
People were amazing everywhere. There was a boy, Handik, who saw me struggling to order at a noodle house and he made sure I had a hot bowl of lunch. Then he showed me how to eat snails! There was a woman in Thailand, who rubbed peppermint oil on my tummy because I was curled up in a street market stall. Then she made this sweet, mother-like gesture that should go home and sleep. The hostel owner in Prague, who left tea by my bed when I was too sick to move. The American in the Andes, gave me his medicine because I was vomiting from bad water. These stories sound like I had a terrible experience! But it wasn't: it was beautiful. People, I believe, are inherently good and want to help each other be better.
My book, Your Fearless Soul, is not about what you do, it’s not even about who you are. It’s about how you change people and how you make them better. It needed to be written because, as a culture as a society, I believe we are losing sight of that.
When I set out to write - it was a lot like the whisper before a trip - I just knew had to write it (I had to buy that ticket!). I didn’t even know what I was writing at first, it came out so jumbled and confused. I kept tackling one thing at a time and doing the thing in front of me. Some days it would be one sentence, others, a whole chapter. A lot of times I'd get stuck because I hadn’t worked through the fear or loss that I was writing about. I hadn’t moved on from it. It was still haunting me and therefore still controlling me. I said, "Hello fear," and let it consume me. Then, we walked forward together, as friends.
Looking back, I see that I needed to write this book for me to heal. Your Fearless Soul is a lot about forgiveness - and that surprised even me! But forgiveness is really just letting go - letting go and letting one thing become another.
When you forgive, you create space for something new and beautiful to come in. You create a vacuum for destiny.