Wired and Tired

image016161616After the plane ride and a clean hotel in Bangkok, a long day on the mini bus. I met a German couple who agreed to share the cost of one as the driver promised a shorter ride than the bus. The towns and acres of agriculture fly past the windows faster than my eyes can grasp them—rubber trees, coconut palms, and lush tropical landscapes. Exquisite temples! There are old ladies in big hats with umbrellas on their motorbikes and new subdivisions of narrow two story houses. Bridgestone is everywhere – we assume harvesting rubber. Thailand reminds me of the Midwest in the 50s so much booming economy –more middle class—everywhere motorbikes and cars and all the fixing and tires and hubcap sales that go with them.

The roads are like little roller coasters up and down With all the cramming into small spaces, scrunching and being jolted awake by a bump in the road our incredible bodies hang together—bones still attached to muscles. I am in awe of them.

We are in the S town of Trad on our way to Cambodian border. First stop in this town was our favorite massage therapist who used to know cousin Alden –they were monks together in N. Thailand. And of course a good bowl of Thai soup for breakfast with its many textures and flavors–lemon grass, kaffir lim leaves, chillis, peanuts, lime, fish sauce and many undetermined ingredients.

Baan Jai Dee guesthouse offers no luxury accommodation. Traditional Thai construction with well varnished teak floors and walls so thin we can hear the neighbor sneeze. We come here because the proprietor is such a gem. She has framed many small pieces of Thai weaving and embroidery on the walls. Her husband collects books. There is a central room where people from all over the world congregate. Tomorrow hope to get a bus directly to Kompot, Cambodia.

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As We Leave the Ground

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January, 2013

San Francisco, CA

As We Leave the Ground—The Journey Begins

The seat belt clicks and I stash my books into the magazine pouch in the seat in front of me. The luggage compartment squeaks and rattles overhead. Newspapers crackle and I can hear the soft whispers of passengers around me.  Surrounded by strangers, I feel separate and a little scared.

David, my husband, is smiling from across the aisle. We chose to sit separate and have some space alone to unwind, listen to music and read. Already he has his headphones on—no one to disturb him. He is always so in the moment which is both admirable and annoying at times.

I am so glad to be leaving the complications of our stress filled modern lives and the huge expectations of “entitled” offspring. The financial collapse of so many of our friends and relatives in the past few years; the karma we all knew was coming but is not so easy to live with and be around. I feel worn down like my old carpets. There is so little fluff left in me. Both David and I need this rest.

The houses on the ground grow smaller and smaller. The urgency of the leaves that need raking, the dripping faucets that need fixing shrink in importance. The miniature cars below scurry along freeways going somewhere, who knows where. We soar higher and higher into the blue stillness until it all disappears. The details that were so important are either handled or no longer important. I can smell the coffee brewing, and a sigh of relief escapes my lips.

Traveling, to me, is not to escape the world or to indulge in luxury cruises or environments. It is more a way of embracing the world more fully.

The beauty of any flight is that we soon leave behind that sense of who we are—the I, me, mines. Our everyday existence fades as if in a dream– a glimpse of freedom—the adventure begins.

 

I’m a soul in wonder! I’m a soul in wonder!  Van Morrison

To see with new eyes

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“The heart of the question of our reason for a quest is how to renew our vision. To see with the eyes of the heart.”
Phil Cousineau from The Art of Pilgrimage

Most advertised travel in today’s modern world is “more of the same” indulgences in luxuries that make us feel we’ve been pampered enough to return to our stress filled lives. We may travel out of the country to see  the world, but surround ourselves in safe, clean environments and people of our own economic status and cultural persuasion.

I travel not to escape the world but to embrace it more fully. I like to challenge those fears that lie in wait in the back of my brain shouting ( whispering?), “You can’t do that. It’s too dangerous. It’s too expensive and you’re not good enough.”

There is a different relationship to time on the road, a freedom of thought I don’t usually have at home or don’t allow myself–encumbered with obligations, details, expectations, gardens, and relationships. As we get older it’s easy  to think smaller, safer, and our minds shrink in their capacities. I want to break away from stultifying old habits and the addiction to comforts that strangle us “To see with the eyes of the heart.”

Belief and experience are two very different things. A belief comes from something we’ve read in a book or heard on television or radio and accepted as fact. But it’s not enough. Experience is something actually perceived. If you had never tasted an orange, I could fool you about its characteristics; but if you had already eaten one, I could not deceive you. You would know, you would have had the experience of it.

There are those, especially in the West, who are skeptical about anything beyond a full stomach and a balanced checkbook. But there are places on this earth that are power spots, revered temples, places where great souls have walked and their essence remains like the perfume that lingers on a woman’s dress.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced it.

I’ve always had a longing for that deeper meaning in life I suppose I yearn for a certain transformation by traveling–enlightenment for lack of a better word. Pilgrimage was actually the motivation for travel as early as the 11th Century. Yes, it’s true that one doesn’t need to wander about the world in order to grow and develop his/her deeper spirituality. I don’t expect to achieve enlightenment by any stretch of the imagination, but the effort is still worth it; and besides, the food of Asia is worth every aching muscle, every annoying price negotiation, every hard mattress.

Postcards, receipts, even stories told can only convey an infinitesimal part of what I’ve encountered both in the world and within myself. It is a lonely feeling to come back to the ones I love and respect wanting to share some of that experience, but who has time to stop and listen?  I lie awake at night trying to piece together those memory bits sleeping in the grooves of my brain somewhere beyond understanding and just out of reach of the words to express. Memories that haunt my dreams–the Muslim call to prayer amidst the clamor of traffic and commerce in Kolkata–the ancient jacaranda tree I could see and smell from my hotel balcony-the children splashing and bathing on the ghats of the Ganges that felt strangely familiar.
There is something sacred waiting to be discovered in every journey even a trip to your local market.  If you’d like to travel with me, come on. My husband, David, and I are bound for Southeast Asia and India. I hope to take you along  in these blog posts.