Zanskar Travels

Top of the World

Last year I saw a travel video about a beautiful remote place called Zanskar, in the Himalayas of India, bordering Tibet.  I knew when I saw this beautiful isolated place, that I would have to go there, so my travel plans have begun!

This trip is not for the ordinary traveler but for people who want to venture out of their boxes and far away from tourism or the well-trodden path, but prefer to experience rugged, raw nature where earth meets sky, and the life that you know has been left far behind.

In Zanskar, you can trek some of the highest mountain ranges on earth, visit spiritual remote Buddhist monasteries, camp under endless skies, or trek on a frozen river.  The journey to Zanskar requires several flights, long distant drives and lots of hiking.  If your dream is to explore where very few venture, Zanskar may be calling to you.

Through my initial research and travel inquiries, I have recently met a tour guide through Zanskar Travel, that offers to make each travelers dream come true.  They specialize in individualizing each trip, so whatever you seek, whether it’s to experience a new culture, hike some of the highest mountain peaks on earth, or seeking spiritual enlightenment, they will create a truly unique experience for you in personal ways that is rarely found anymore.

One of my goals is to travel to some of the of the most beautiful remote places on earth and although my next trip is hiking Death Valley, my trip to Zanskar is starting to become a reality.  I would love to hear from anyone who has traveled here or has plans to do so in the near future.


For more information about Zanskar Travel contact:




Mexico’s Interior World

I knew when I made the decision to travel deep into Mexico’s interior world, that I would be making a journey into a relatively unknown territory.  Las Grutas Tolantongo is far off the beaten path and has been described as the womb of Mexico, a rare location where you can enter into and become one with the earth’s elements. Tolantongo is also unknown by many Mexicans, as it’s so rural, that mostly locals venture into the Valle de Mezquital in the state of Hildago.  My journey began with three flights, three rural buses out of Mexico City and covered over a thousand miles.

Everyone said I was putting my safety at risk by traveling by bus to such a remote place, but I knew I had to go to this magical place of thermal hot springs, underground caves, and waterfalls. I also knew that fear would not prevent me from reaching my destination.  My passion for traveling off the beaten path and having new experiences far outweighed other people’s fears.  Although this trip had several unknown factors that I could not plan for, I knew that I had to feel the fear and go anyway.

A good friend of mine was also interested in traveling with me, but it was only after we booked the flights that we discovered that there was no direct path there.  The hotel that we were staying in is owned by approximately 160 Mexican families, and it did not take reservations.  We simply had to show up that same morning and see if we could get a room. It was taking a huge risk after such a long journey, but we were willing to take the gamble, making the journey an even more unknown adventure. The more we read about traveling to Tolontango, the more obstacles we found. Neither one of us spoke Spanish and assumed that there would be English speaking people along the way to guide us. which we later found out we were very wrong.  I did have an English to Spanish app, but because we were unable to get wifi or connection on most of the trip, I was unable to use it to help with translation.

Several people expressed their fears about me traveling in rural Mexico, which then caused my own fears to surface, but I did not want to live a fear-based life, so I released the fears and followed my own intuition and trusted that I would be safe.  People continued to express their fears to me about traveling right up until my departure but I knew that living in fear only resulted in regrets later in life.

After three connecting flights, we finally landed in Mexico City and spent the night in a sleep pod in the airport, a space capsule type hotel, where you had just enough room to lie down in and had people above and below you. In the morning, we traveled by bus to Pachuca, in northern Mexico. Communication was a struggle right from the beginning as we could not find anyone who spoke English. Somehow we managed to communicate that we wanted to travel to Ixmiquilpan, a city that we could not pronounce, our next destination.

A lovely older woman who spoke only Spanish attempted to help us find our bus in Pachuca. We laughed and used hand signals to express our destination in hopes of getting on the right bus as the bus station was huge and had hundreds of buses coming and going. The second bus we boarded had only a handful of passengers on it so we sprawled out taking several seats, but the bus stopped sporadically along the way, picking people up and soon became crowded.  I sat back in my seat and watched rural Mexico pass me by, fascinated by all the street vendors that climbed onboard to sell their food and wares along the way. Mexico is a colorful and lively place with street cafes and shops dotted along the countryside.

When we reached Ixmiquilpan, the elderly woman motioned that this was our stop.  We grabbed our bags and backpacks and followed her as we weaved our way through winding busy streets with colorful buildings, street vendors, and aromatic food stalls.  I quickly discovered how helpful and kind-natured Mexican people are as the older Mexican woman actually lead us to another bus that would drive us up into the mountains to our final destination, saving us “mucho” taxi expense. I was so grateful to this woman, that I thanked her numerous times, hugged her, and pulled out some money as a gift of appreciation, which she attempted to reject.  I was later horrified to discover that I had only given her a very small amount, the cost of approximately three bags of potato chips!  I hoped that she knew that I had good intentions.  Tip:  When traveling internationally, learn the value of the currency.  I thought I was giving her a monetary gift of value, but sadly gave an insulting amount of money.

At the final bus station in Ixmiquilpan, we jumped onboard the minibus which took us high up into the mountains.  The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful.  The roads eventually turned to dirt and potholes as we climbed higher into the mountains.  We nervously looked down the mountainside as we traveled on the bumpy rugged roads, noticing that there were no rails or barriers from driving off the cliff.  At times our hands clutched our seats tightly as we met oncoming traffic on narrow mountain roads that were barely enough for two vehicles to pass, giving a sigh of relief that was short lived.

Other than the fear of driving off the mountainside, the bus ride was fun and lively with loud Mexican music playing and happy local people traveling to their own destinations along the way.  Eventually, what was supposed to have been a 45-minute drive turned into a two-hour drive, we finally arrived at Las Grutas, a magical hidden world of underground thermal caves, hot springs, and waterfalls.

We arrived on Saturday and because it was the weekend, it was a busy time for locals, so we put our name on a list for a hotel room and had to wait until 2:00pm to see if we had a place to stay.  To our delight, we were given the last room, so we made our way down the mountainside to our hotel room which was basic with no tv or wifi.  We immediately put on our bathing suits and headed for the thermal waters which were right outside our door.  We jumped into the tranquil blue river, feeling the warmth and purity of the natural mineral waters, which washed away all the stress that we had gathered from our journeys.  The long trip and uncertain factors were gone as we simply let go and became one with the natural elements of this beautiful location.

The next two days were spent relaxing, swimming and floating in the tranquil hot springs and thermal waters, while also exploring and hiking the mountains.  To our excitement, we discovered several thermal caves that we did not know existed.  Hot waterfalls poured from rocks deep within the caves and created a healing massage of body, mind, and spirit. There were also several dark caves that connected to the larger cave where people ventured in by swimming with headlamps or flashlights.  I had a natural curiosity and wanted to go into the black cave so I held onto the back of a man that worked there, as we swam deeper into the underground dark cave only to discover another secret world of waterfalls and bats!  Having a real fear of bats, I wanted out immediately and retreated back to my favorite spot where a gentle waterfall ran down the heated rocks, creating a warm place that I could nestle deeply into the mountainside feeling at one with nature.

We spent several days in the water and exploring the mountains.  We discovered beautiful hot springs that were carved into the mountainside that hung off the cliffs with the most beautiful view of the green valleys and passing clouds.  I felt I had truly found Mexican heaven on earth.

After a good long mindless soak in numerous hot springs, we saw a suspension bridge that wobbled high above the valley, crossing waterfalls and connecting to more hot springs and underground thermal caves and the other side.  Not being fearful of heights, I had fun crossing the bridge as others held on tightly, while some intentionally attempted to shake the bridge as hard as they could.

Our days were spent renewing our body, minds, and spirits.  Tolantongo provided a well-earned retreat, an escape from the world around us.  We were also able to connect with wonderful people along the way which confirmed my belief that the world is full of good people!  On the way back we met an American woman who was traveling alone and also spoke Spanish, so thanks to her, we were able to travel easily back to Mexico City and to the Airport without all of the communication problems that we experienced on the journey there.

Leaving Las Grutas was difficult.  I have traveled to several beautiful places on earth, but Tolontongo was a place where I truly was able to go within myself as well as within the earth, where I found healing, peace and experienced the magic of Mexico.  I understood why it is called the “womb” of Mexico, as I felt like I had spent time in the earth’s womb and it had nurtured my heart and soul.

If your looking to travel off the beaten path and can let go of control, scheduling and planning, then take a trip to Las Grutas, Tolantongo, it’s an experience where you quite literally go with the flow!

Mexico City

Mexican Sleeping Pods
If your traveling through Mexico City and need a nap or want a new sleep experience, try one of their new sleep pods located in Terminal 1 of the airport. They cost approximately $35.a night and include WiFi, TV, and air. Showers and lockers are also included along with complimentary socks and earplugs.

There is a huge variety of food stalls and restaurants nearby to feast on.

Pros and Cons

The pods are comfortable and clean and the mattresses and pillows are made of memory foam.

If your a light sleeper, use ear plugs (I didn’t although they provided them) and it was like the night of a thousand and one doors. Because these pods are located in a busy international airport, people are coming and going 24/7. All I heard all night long were doors opening and closing. Other than that, I really liked the pods.

Izzzleep Aeropuerto Terminal 1


24 Hours in Asheville

Traveling solo, I recently spent 24 hours in Asheville, NC.  Not sure what to do alone, I contemplated several options, but then came across, “Asheville Wellness Tours”, and thought that would be an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

Asheville Wellness Tours provided several alternative experiences including the art of tea drinking, essential oil and herb making, meditation in a beautiful salt cave, sound therapy with gongs and Tibetan bowls, and honey tasting at a local specialized shop.

The tour began with a 45-minute session at Asheville Salt Cave, a golden womb-like cave filled with beautiful pure pink salt crystals.  We were lead into meditation as we rested on pillows and bolsters on the salt covered floor, listening to sounds of the waterfall, breathing in negatively charged ions, turning inward and away from the chaos of the external world around us.

Following the salt cave, we walked to Skinny Beats Sound Shop and was lead into a sound healing session with gongs and Tibetan bowls that took us on a vibrational journey that was beyond words to describe. I was given a “taster” of sound healing that I knew I would have to return to.

Next, we were given an introductory explanation of herbs and essential oils at herbiary, which offers natural remedies for every kind of alignment imaginable, including emotional and psychological disorders.

From the herbiary, we walked to Asheville Bee Charmer, for honey tasting, where I was given several different types of honey to try, including sage honey, a favorite of mine.

Lastly, we ended the tour at Dobra Tea, where we shared in Japanese style, “Clear Communication Tea.”  This tea was reported to promote clear communication with our inner self, exactly what I needed! The Wellness Guide explained that the tea ceremony involved inhaling the aroma, before tasting the tea, and encouraged us to share an authentic wellness intention that we wanted to incorporate into our daily lives.

The tea ceremony was a perfect ending to an adventurous day in self-exploration and holistic wellness.  My guide was an inspirational and enthusiastic yoga instructor who did a wonderful job guiding me through the city and sharing all that Asheville has to offer.

When the tour finished, we parted ways, and I decided to explore the streets of Asheville on my own.  Quite unexpectedly, I came across an interesting young man sitting on the street writing poetry.

Ben was plucking away on his vintage typewriter.  A sign, “NAME A WORD or TOPIC.  GET A POEM”, hung from his table. Being a creative writer myself, I couldn’t resist. I contemplated what word to select, and finally decided on the word “therapy.”

Ben sat in silence for a few moments, and then inserted a piece of paper into his old typewriter and began typing.  Once in awhile, he would stop to ponder, rubbing his head in contemplation. Ben was oblivious to the ongoing foot traffic of people that were walking past him as he pounded away on his typewriter, lost in a world of words.  After about 10 minutes, Ben completed my poem and asked if he could read, “Therapy” to me.

I was amazed at how insightful and creative the poem was, especially considering that it had been written on the spot. Ben’s poem touched upon the heaviness we can carry in life, referring to our emotional pains, and “to unpack the boxes long locked-up.” (poem below)

After reading my poem, Ben told me that he had been in San Francisco years ago, and had traded a book for a Lynn Gentry poem. Ben was busking for his upcoming wedding, which explained another sign he had, “Wedding Funds”.  I thanked Ben for his creative, insightful poem, and thought how clever he was, using his gifts and talents in a way that inspired other people.

Asheville has a lot to offer in terms of the unique, alternative, or creative. If you’re looking to explore Asheville, check out Asheville Wellness Tours, who offers several options including hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains, followed by Yoga, and if you have a love for words or poetry, don’t forget to look for Ben, who can be found in front of Woolworths, on Haywood Street.


Asheville Wellness Tours

Ben is starting his own upcoming blog:

Strangers Poems Project



Sit within a circle

& spin a thread of narrative–


we are here to help you

with the heavy lifting—


to unpack boxes long locked-up,

to turn & turn each artifact


over in our hands, to examine

without judgment each dog-earned page


within the books that weigh

so much. trust is a rope ladder


which we are still building,

you hold it from the top & choose


when it’s to be lowered. but human

help comes with limitations. take


the next train west & sit among

the redwoods. five hundred years


of listening unmarred by loose lips.

we wait & learn the craft of patience

by example.

Adventures in Community Service

Community Service?  What’s in it for me?

On a recent Yoga retreat trip in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to do many fun-filled activities including, white water rafting, zip lining above the rainforest canopy, soaking in hot springs, hiking up a volcano and exploring an organic echo farm.  Costa Rica also offered me a different experience, a community service opportunity, that at first, I decided to decline.  My immediate thought was that I wanted to have fun and not work on vacation.  After several days of contemplation, I slowly changed my mind and that decision changed my views about life and the importance of giving back.

After several days of fun-filled adventures and relaxing yoga, my group was given the opportunity to paint a local’s house in exchange for a homemade Costa Rican meal, made and prepared by the owner of the home. Although I have painted the inside of my own home on several occasions, I had never painted the exterior of a house and immediately felt overwhelmed.  I’m not a professional house painter and the thought of painting an entire house presented as a huge job.  I wasn’t in Costa Rica to work, I was there for rest and relaxation, but part of me felt that if I didn’t go and participate that I would be missing out on an opportunity of a new kind, so I reluctantly agreed to go.

Our group of Yogis piled into a minivan and traveled for miles on rugged dirt covered roads to a nearby village, where we parked outside of our destination, a dilapidated blue house desperately in need of new paint.  We had traveled to Costa Rica at the end of the rainy season.  The skies were gray and it rained the entire week we were there, giving me a new understanding of the term, “Rainforest.”

We jumped out of the van and covered ourselves with plastic raincoats as we split into groups as the interpreter explained the process with the homeowner standing nearby attempting to guide and direct us to old worn out trays and buckets of paint.  I grabbed a tray of paint and chose the side of the house that had a large termite nest on it, although at the time, I had no idea as to what it was.  The paint was watery, thin and runny and ran down the sides of the house.  We painted all day in the moist humid rain.  The homeowner had tarps hung around the sides trying to shelter us from the rain.  When we got to the termite’s nest at the end of the house, we were instructed to paint around it, which I found very amusing.  Having little knowledge of termites or their nests, I assumed that having one stuck to the side of your house, was probably not a good thing!.

At the end of the day, when we had finished painting the house, the owners invited us inside for a wonderful, tasty meal of rice and beans, followed by freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee.  They were very grateful for our help and we, in turn, were very grateful for their hospitality and wonderful Costa Rican meal.  During the meal, we heard their personal story through the Interpreter.  The man whose house that we had painted, had been severely injured one day as he walked along the roadside and a large metal rod fell from a passing truck, causing him significant injuries.  Since then, he had been unable to work.  I was so grateful that I was able to help someone in need, a complete stranger, who had no health insurance and no means of providing for himself or his family anymore and had to rely on friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers.

With full bellies and heartfelt goodbye’s, we piled back into the minivan and took the long, rugged journey back to our Echo Farm.  I sat in quiet contemplation as I thought about how I had almost missed out on an opportunity to help someone in need, and if I had, I would have never had known how gratifying it was to give back in a way that I had never experienced before.  I gained insight into how by helping others gave me a greater purpose in my own life.  Although the paint job that we did on the house, was really poor, as none of us were professional painters, the owner was very happy with the end result and although he couldn’t speak English, his smile alone was worth more than a day of self-centered adventures or excursions but provided me with an opportunity to connect with others in a way I had never experienced before.

Life in Kefalonia

I recently found old photos of my first backpacking trip which began in Athens, Greece, and ended in London, England.  Like many new travelers, I was excited and filled with adventure as I traveled through Greece, Italy, Austria, France, and England, by foot, ferry and train.

My first memory was of the huge backpack that I struggled to carry.  I remember Athens was hot and crowded as my backpack appeared to grow larger and heavier with each and every step I took.  I found myself throwing shirts, shorts, and dresses into city garbage cans along the way, leaving a trail of my identity on the streets of Athens.

I boarded a bus to the coast and then jumped onto a boat to Kefalonia, an island in the Ionian Sea, west of mainland Greece.  At that time, it was not a tourist destination but an untraveled location, unspoiled by commercialism and tourism.  I immediately fell in love with Kefalonia and the relaxed, laid-back lifestyle.  My days were spent riding a moped around the island exploring the green mountains, and swimming in beautiful azure blue seas. Evenings were spent strolling along the shore, eating at cafe’s and connecting with the locals.

I remember thinking that I had found a paradise, a place where time was irrelevant and life was simple and minimal.  The island created a sense of stillness within me, as I fell in love with the island and its people.  Eventually, it was time to pick up my backpack and move on again. The rest of Europe called to be explored, but Kefalonia had settled in my spirit in an unexpected way.

From Kefalonia I took a ferry to Italy where I traveled by train to Venice and spent a few days on the canals, exploring a completely different world of water, gondolas and Italian food.

The journey continued on to Austria, France, and then eventually a ferry to Dover, England, where I lived for the next twelve years.

Sometimes when we travel, we are so focused on the next destination that we don’t really experience the place or present moment that we are in.  I remember that on the island of Kefalonia, I settled into a lifestyle that I had never known before.  It was a place where body, mind and soul, all felt at peace, and everyday life became meaningful in a way that it hadn’t before.

I still dream of my short life on Kefalonia, and although I haven’t been back in many years, I suspect that its probably changed and has become a popular tourist destination now, but it’s true essence of its beautify and people are still there and will forever be a part of my journey as a new traveler.