Seeking Solitude

As a traveler, I am always seeking solitude in beautiful natural locations where I can leave life as I know it far behind.  Quite unexpectedly on a recent trip to Cape Cod, I found seclusion on a beautiful remote beach where the rest of the world ceased to exist.

After trekking for several miles on sandy coastal dunes, I found a deserted spot perched high up on an ocean cliff where the only sound heard was that of crashing waves on a rocky seashore, and where seals joyfully played in the ocean’s surf.

The Atlantic wind carried my mind a million miles away as I imagined what it would be like to spend a year on this secluded shore in a world that is overrun with people.

Cape Cod is a popular tourist spot, but thanks to a local who was also seeking solitude, I was led to some beautiful remote places that are kept hidden from passing travelers.

Brutal & Beautiful Death Valley

If you want to explore a magical place of gemstone mountains, waterfalls, narrow slot canyons, salt flats and majestic sand dunes, take a journey into the remote world of Death Valley.  This journey is for the adventurous spirit, one who is seeking a new experience of endurance and solitude in a world where the average temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I had no idea when I decided to go hiking and camping in Death Valley that I was traveling deeply into an unknown world, a land so uniquely different and beautiful that it often left me breathless as I hiked up mountain peaks, practiced yoga watching the sunrise in the barren desert, rock scrambled through narrow slot canyons, hiked to a beautiful green waterfall and ran laughing down giant sand dunes.

I will never forget the sound of silence I experienced in Death Valley.  A silence that I have never known before that created a stillness deep within my soul; a remote world where only the sound of your heartbeat and the whispering winds can be heard.

If you are not into camping, there is a lodge in Death Valley where you can stay that has a swimming pool and hotel amenities where you don’t have to rough it, but either way, it’s a place to experience if you are seeking a journey off the beaten path.

 

Mexican Sleeping Pods

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If you are traveling through Mexico City and need a nap or want a new sleeping experience, try one of their new sleeping pods located in Terminal 1 at Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez airport. The pods cost approximately $35.a night and include WiFi, TV, and air conditioning. Showers and lockers are also included along with complimentary socks and earplugs.

The pods are comfortable and clean and the mattresses and pillows are made of memory foam. Although the hotel provides earplugs, I did not use them and was kept awake all night due to people coming and going, opening and sliding doors all night long.  Other than that, I really enjoyed the new experience and felt safe, comfortable and cozy in the space like sleeping pod.

Izzzleep Aeropuerto Terminal 1

 

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.

Sacred Traveler’s Bucket List

There are travelers, and then there are sacred travelers, which I believe are those of us who have a deep connection to the earth and have a desire to experience it all, the deserts, mountains, oceans, and forests of the world.  We hear the call of faraway distant lands and have a love for their landscapes and people.

As a lover of travel, I dream of exploring the world.  Remote places like Zanskar, speak to my soul in a way that only a true traveler would understand.  I imagine standing in the Himalaya’s, on top of the world, eating meals cooked over an open fire and listening to the spiritual chants of the Buddhist monks, as I breathe in adventure, spirit, and life, with every breath I take.

I recall a few years ago when I was traveling to southern Texas, I was reading the book, “The Snow Leopard”, by Peter Matthiessen, which was about his adventures in Tibet in 1973.  A man sitting next to me said that he had also read the book and had traveled to Tibet and found it to be a mystical place.  When the flight ended, he turned to me and said, “I hope you get to Tibet.” I remember thinking, yes I need to get there…

The photo above is from my journey to Costa Rica.  Ironically Costa Rica was never a place that called to me, but I ended up going on a yoga retreat and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I hiked up a volcano, zip lined above the rainforest canopy, went white water rafting and swam in volcanic hot springs. This trip brought me back to life after a long and difficult year.

Sacred travelers also find passion in other people’s travel journeys. What’s your story?  What countries are on your travel bucket list? Where have you traveled to and why?  What are some of your favorite countries and travel experiences? Please share!

The Heart of Wisconsin

Stevens Point

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In the heart of Wisconsin lies an authentic healthy, and friendly community called Stevens Point. You could easily bypass this city while heading up to the Northwoods, but if you decide to stop, you will find a variety of interesting people and places to explore.

For outdoors enthusiasts, you can walk, hike or bike the Green Circle Trail which circles the city for a total of 27 miles.  The trail goes through woodlands, along the river, through city streets, and across marshlands.  Other outdoor activities include kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.

The farmers market downtown on the “Square” is compatible to any big city market offering a variety of healthy fruits and veggies, freshly made french bread and pastries, street musicians, cooking demonstrations, organically grown food and my favorite, bubble tea.

The Stevens Point Sculpture Park is a fabulous place for art lovers where you can find artwork and sculptures from artists all over the country.  A unique and interesting blend of creativity can be found in the Sculpture Park.  You can also find one of my creations, “The Healing Labyrinth”.  (Separate Post for more information about the Healing Labyrinth).

Emy J’s

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There are several great restaurants to satisfy your palate but one of my favorites is Emy J’s, a healthy place with a variety of tastey food focusing on fair trade with locally produced ingredients.  Organic and fair trade coffee is roasted on site.  They specialize in smoothies, coffee drinks and ice cream, which is also made in Wisconsin. Emy J’s is environmentally friendly and uses solar power to cut down on waste. The staff have great attitudes and are very friendly; the place is buzzing with good vibes.

Emy J’s has a healthy variety of food for everyone.  Being vegan, I can always find something to eat as they usually offer one vegan soup daily and have ‘Meatless Monday’s’.

KC (photo above) has been the manager of Emy J’s for six years.  He always has a smile on his face and makes you feel welcome.  I can always tell when people love their jobs, and KC obviously does as his positive, friendly attitude matches the healthy vibrant food.

Next time you’re in Stevens Point, check out Emy J’s, you won’t be disappointed.  Interesting people, healthy food and great energy.  What more can you ask for?

Good food + good friends = Great Experience!

 

 

Exploring the Northwoods

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Exploring the Northwoods

The Northwoods is an amazing place in the world where you can explore both the woodlands and lakeside while visiting several different towns along the way.  I recently had the opportunity to explore Bayfield, WI, where I found unique shops and restaurants and quirky interesting places of interests.  The people were friendly and there was something interesting around every corner.

The Fat Radish

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Being Vegan can often be difficult when traveling, especially to smaller towns or remote locations.  I didn’t expect to find any health food stores or vegan restaurants in the Northwoods, so I was excited and surprised to find, The Fat Radish.  They offered both vegan and vegetarian food as well as meat dishes.  The Fat Radish had a great laid back atmosphere with a variety of unique and creative details like using mason jars for drinking glasses, glass coffee cups for candle holders and using fruit pint baskets for bread.  The food was wonderful and fresh.  I ordered vegan pesto noodles one night and had a veggie loaf with potatoes and garbanzo bean gravy.  It was delicious.  So if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may want to check this place out next time you are traveling through Bayfield.

Rabideaux’s Orchard

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There are several fresh fruit Orchards in the Northwoods where you can sample tasty peaches and apples.  I stopped at Rabideaxu’s Orchard where the owner said she had lived on the orchard for 50 years.  They grow a variety of apples including Honey Crisp and Cortland and Bartlett Pears.  The apples and pears ripped by late September.  I was able to sample Colorado peaches, which were amazing and juicy.   They also make fresh homemade jams and jellies.

My recipe for Vegan Grilled Coconut Cream Peaches:

Cut peaches in half and remove the pit.

Place peaches on grill cut side down and grill for 3-5 minutes.

1 can coconut cream – Chill coconut cream and 1 teaspoon of vanilla – whisk until creamy

Place 1 tablespoon coconut cream on peach and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Yummy!

Follow Your Own Path

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The Journey Begins

Being a Licensed Professional Counselor, I am always recommending that people move out of their comfort zone and take risks in life.  For many years, I have focused on my career and took little time off to travel or to explore with the exception of my one yearly trip to southern Florida.  I realized that my own life had become stagnant and that I needed to have more life adventurous.  I knew that in order for me to continue in my practice, I had to follow my own guidance and get out of my own comfort zone.

For years I wanted to hike the Grand Canyon with my son, but he had little to no interest. Finally, I asked a friend of mine to go, which she said yes, but every time we talked about dates, I had numerous reasons why I couldn’t go.  At the time, they all seemed valid, but when she told me one day that she had booked a trip to go with several other women, I knew that I could not wait any longer to follow one of my dreams, so I decided to travel solo and booked a four-day hiking tour to Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon.

Fear and Panic

After I booked my trip, I was bursting with excitement.  I was traveling solo and meeting up with a group of strangers to spend four days hiking beautiful Havasu Falls. For several days the excitement continued to grow and then eventually fear and worry started to set in.

What was I thinking? What was I doing? I was traveling over a thousand miles to spend four days with complete strangers and sleep in a tent. I didn’t even like camping! I just wanted to hike, not thinking about all the other factors of a Grand Canyon trip.

Then I started to think of ways to back out of the trip. I still had time to get a partial refund.  I could always go another time or wait until someone would travel with me. I could just not go, but I knew I had to move through the fear and do it. This was after all, what I taught people do.  I knew that if you don’t take chances in life or have new experiences that you could be left with many regrets.

Having overcome fears and obstacles in the past, I had flown to Greece and backpacked throughout Europe. I had lived in England for 12 years. I had many great and wonderful travel experiences behind me, but had not had any new travel experiences in over a decade.

What was I waiting for? I knew that there would always be a reason not to travel but I had to come up with reasons to go. I had to use my own guidance and ask myself the same questions that I ask my clients.

What if you don’t go? Will you regret it? What is the best and worst case scenario? What will you gain from the experience? What will you learn? How will you grow as a person? The positives outweighed the negatives. Fear can be a powerful energy field, but one that only gets bigger and stronger if not broken through. At the time, I had no idea that hiking Havasu Falls was going to be one of the greatest adventures of my lifetime.

Second Thoughts and Sweet Surprises

The morning of the flight, my friend took me to the airport.  In the car, fear emerged I starting to have second thoughts.  I started thinking, I could turn around at Minneapolis, I could fly to Phoenix and check it out.  I could actually travel to Flagstaff and spend the night and then fly back, but I knew that I wouldn’t return until the trip was done.  I just kept taking one step at a time, one destination to the next.  I focused on the journey itself, not the destination.

When I arrived in Phoenix, I waited for my shuttle to Flagstaff and met a Brazilian man who was also traveling solo on the same hiking trip as myself but going out the day before.  We spent three wonderful hours together traveling, sharing travel photos and life stories. He was also traveling solo and his friends told him that he was, “Crazy” to go to the Grand Canyon alone.  He also had a passion for travel and adventure.  At the hotel, we sadly parted ways.  I had felt that I had made a connection with him and wished we were hiking the Grand Canyon together, but we said our goodbyes, both of us setting out on our own journeys.  For three enjoyable hours, our lives were shared in a limousine shuttle speeding across the desert sands of Phoenix, Arizona.

Mindfulness and Nature

That same night, I met the travel guide and five other group members.  Everyone seemed relatively in good spirits and the next morning we all piled into a small van and headed towards Havasu Falls.

Having never been to the Grand Canyon before, I was amazed at the beauty and vastness of this great place. I foolishly brought Nike shoes to hike in and thought that my typical five mile hiking excursions in Central Wisconsin would be comparable to the Grand Canyon. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was too late. My journey had begun.

As we hiked down into the canyon, I couldn’t believe the beauty I saw around each corner. We spent seven hours hiking to village of Supai where the only way out was by hiking, horseback or helicopter.  After another hour, we made it to our campsite and saw Havasu Falls, magnificent aquamarine blue waterfall, set amidst the red canyon walls.  One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

After a long day of hiking on rocky and sandy trails, we had finally made it to our destination.

Once there, I had a moment of fear when I realized I couldn’t just get out of there, we were so remote, so far away and so cut off from civilization that it scared me, but after working through the fear, a sense of peace and serenity set in and I started to feel completely free and in the moment that everything, the life I knew and left behind was completely gone. I spent the next four days living completely in the moment, true mindfulness at its core.

Solo Traveler Finds Group Happiness

I knew immediately that I had met a really interesting and funny group of people.  We quickly bonded.  We laughed and hiked together and made shadow puppets on the walls of the canyon walls at night. We lead each other through rivers, up giant rock cliffs and down rock and ladder chains next to Mooney falls. We walked through fields of grape vines and ate picnic lunches next to beautiful green rivers.

We swam in five different waterfalls and met people from all over the country, all happy and hiking, making their own way through the trails.  We helped each other climb, we rested together when tired. We joked with each other and shared our life paths. Complete strangers conjoined deep within the canyon walls to forever share a wonderful life experience where spirit and nature joined forces.

Once I faced my fear and moved through it, I experienced one of the most wonderful trips and adventures of my life. I would never again wait for someone to travel with.  Fear of traveling alone or with strangers was gone.

I also learned that I could hike almost 40 miles in four days and climb down rock cliffs holding onto wet chains and ladders and I could test myself in a way that I had never done before.

A Soul’s Journey

When the day arrived to leave, I felt a deep sadness that I had never known before. I had visited and explored one of the most beautiful places on earth and may never again go back.  I had experienced a soul connection to this beautiful and majestic place, and grew as a person.

I became stronger emotionally, mentally and physically and came back with a greater appreciation for life and our short journey on earth. I also came back with a travel bug that I had never known before.  Now I continually seek destinations where I can again begin a new journey, not only a physical journey, but a life journey.

Havasu Falls will always hold a special place in my soul.

This article was originally published at gonomad.com

http://www.gonomad.com/47-womens/6059-the-grand-canyon-travel-your-own-path