Tags Posts tagged with "Spiritual Travel"

Spiritual Travel

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First, a caveat.  I’m in the travel business, and not the armchair, I’ll-book-your-trip-for-you type. I lead trips myself.  Trips to Bali, where bombs killed tourists less than a decade ago; to Spain, where thousands rioted in the streets against austerity measures; to Egypt, where the recent US embassy attack marked the latest in a long list of civilians clashing with government.  Why would I still go? Because it’s extremely safe, much safer than staying home. I lead spiritual tours, so we tend to avoid the politics to begin with, but they have instilled so much fear, I thought I would take a look at what causes ME to go abroad or stay home.
Questions to ask yourself before you cancel your trip: 
What’s really going on? 
The news cycle is short, thank goodness.  They focus on the hard-hitting story, the one that scares the most, and then they move onto the next one.  That’s their business; fear sells.  When I spoke with an NPR Reporter during the Egyptian revolution, and offered her a whole cruise ship full of American guests who were still having a great time, she told me it would be “irresponsible journalism” to put out that story when Anderson Cooper was getting punched in the jaw in Tahrir Square.  While I respected her business concerns, the truth for tourists was on board that cruise ship—nowhere near Cairo, let alone Tahrir.
What is the danger to my person?
If you stay out of the area of unrest, is there still a threat? If you’re going to a culture that despises Muslims, and you’re Muslim, you may be threatened no matter where you are, even if you just look a certain way.  On the other hand, during Occupy Wall Street, if you were six blocks away, you wouldn’t know there was a problem. Ask yourself, if this were happening on the streets of New York (or the biggest city in your country), would it affect my plans to go there? If the answer is no, you’re probably still safe.
What will my travel insurance cover?
It’s extremely unlikely that you will be killed or injured while traveling abroad. In fact, the statistics are minuscule compared to getting into a bad car accident at home (this does not deter the thousands of people who are terrified of flying, however).  Even if there is an issue involving civil unrest, what is more likely is that you will miss your flight or a connecting one, or your baggage won’t get routed properly. In this case, your travel insurance might not pay for the claim due to an exclusion, even if they cover direct acts of terrorism.  Check with the insurance company and read the fine print on your travel insurance.
Tips if you decide to go:
This can be a great time to travel! Bargains galore exist as hotels languish half-full and cruise ships sail with empty staterooms. Don’t be afraid to shop around for the best price, or to ask for a discount.  Even if you are paying full price (in Egypt, for example, the high-end hotels have not lowered their prices) you get the benefit of fewer fellow travelers. Groups are smaller and more intimate, resorts are quiet, and sights are less crowded.
One of our lovely groups in Bali
One of our lovely groups in Bali.

Consider a group tour. Spirit Quest Tours offers unique tours, but all group travel features safety in numbers.  When you’re not in your group, make sure to go out with a splinter group and not by yourself, especially if you’re a woman, and stay off the street at night unless you are sure it’s safe. Group travel is usually orchestrated so you can see the best of a country, not all its flaws.

Check the security offered on the tour. We just got back from an amazing spiritual trip to Guadalajara, just a couple months after a dozen decapitated bodies  were found. While we considered private security, it turned out it wasn’t necessary. But we always travel with private security in Egypt, as well as being registered as VIPs. This reassures our guests (the worst incident was that the guards had to break up a traffic skirmish) and it might do the same for you on your next tour.
Don’t listen to your family, your friends, or your co-workers.  Unless they do more than just watch the news (and even then, sometimes) they are likely just saying the same fear-based things they hear on television.  And when was the last time they took an international trip? They’re your dreams, not theirs.
Do listen to your own intuition. If you’ve got a bad feeling about the trip, don’t go. But make sure it’s your own feeling, and not your over-protective mother’s. We all owe it to ourselves to listen, and then to make our own decisions.
Greg with a local Egyptian in Tahrir Square, Nov. 26, 2011
Greg with a local Egyptian in Tahrir Square, Nov. 26, 2011

Make friends with the locals. We have met some of the most amazing people abroad, and still call many of them our friends today. This is your opportunity to experience people one-on-one, and you will find that in almost every country, you have things in common, and that they are men and women trying to make the best out of life, just like you are.  We were once invited in for tea in Egypt to a farmer’s hut. He had absolutely nothing by American standards, but he still opened his home to us and shared his meager fare. This was an honor for him, and an unforgettable experience for us.

Have fun! Chances are when you get there, you will realize that what seemed terrifying from afar is actually safe and lovely. If that’s the case, have a great time, and when you get home, make sure to spread the word. Terrorism wins when it instills fear in us, not when we kick it in the pants and become an ambassador of peace, by bringing an exchange of cultures to another country, now no longer foreign to us.

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It’s nearly midnight on the beach in Puerto Vallarta and I am crouched down over a small open pit, watching something that looks like a scene from Alien — strange pink flesh and lots of drippy goo.  Over the pit, right at my eye level, an enormous sea turtle is heeding the strongest call of nature and laying dozens of eggs, which drop down into the pit like tough, rubbery ping pong balls, bouncing a little before coming to rest on top of their future brothers and sisters.

I am surrounded by members of our spiritual tour group, each equally fascinated and all perfectly still as we watch this ancient ritual take place as if we aren’t even there.  Behind us hovers the biologist from Casa Magna, the gorgeous resort whose turtle rescue efforts amount to over 60,000 eggs in 2012, nearly 35% of the sea turtle rescue in Puerto Vallarta. He’s a young fellow, and tourists or not, he comes out seven nights a week to wait for the turtles to do their thing so he can collect their eggs.

His window is very narrow, just three hours, so the first thing he does is sweep the beach looking for signs of the wavy flat tracks the turtle flippers make as they move away from the surf and towards their urgent business. Once the turtles dig their pits and lay, which can take an hour or more, they sweep sand across the hole until their eggs are buried in a foot of fine blond sand, then lumber back towards to ocean to hope their progeny survives.  The biologist, clock ticking, is just as likely to pull the turtle off the open pit as soon as she has concluded the laying, so that he saves the trouble of having to dig up the eggs she has just buried.

He will bring the full cache back to an enclosed tennis court-like nursery at the Casa Magna Resort and bury them again, where they will hatch in 45 days.  At that time, they will be brought to the beach at sunset and handed out to all the Casa Magna guests gathering to take a miniscule part in this rescue effort, who will encourage their tiny turtles back into the sea, sending them off with prayers and good wishes for survival. I named my two hatchlings Peace and Grace, and whispered words of hope to them as I sent them off into the sea.

Unfortunately, despite everyone’s conscientious efforts, the statistics are not good. Just 1-2% of all the sea turtles will make it back to the beach in a few years to lay their own eggs. Even as we watch, a few of the hatchlings drown or give up before they even reach the water. Predators, even inadvertent ones such as man’s boats and ski jets, will all take their toll. Eventually, perhaps less than 2,000 of the over 170,000 sea turtles born here in Puerto Vallarta each year will live to adulthood.

For Casa Magna, this free program is just a part of their participation in helping maintain balance in Puerto Vallarta. For me, it’s a chance to unexpectedly connect with nature and experience something new, and despite the goo and the lack of sleep, I’m thrilled. Every night, the biologist will be here, ensuring the continued survival of these magnificent creatures, and I will sleep better, knowing that Grace and Peace—or their brothers and sisters—are swimming into their place in the world.

The sea turtle rescue takes place from June through December; visit Casa Magna January through May and you can enjoy spectacular whale watching instead.

I’m in the travel business, right? I’m also a bright cookie (I know this because my mother’s been telling me that my whole life).  So, really, WTF happened that I found myself on the phone with Delta, ten days before leaving for Bali, saying: “What do you mean we have a ten-hour layover in Tokyo? And we have to switch airports? How did this happen?” Though the Delta rep very politely told me that it was “unusual to marry segments like this” (airline-speak for when they pre-match legs of flights) she also sweetly informed me that a change would cost $1500 a ticket.  In other words, we were already screwed.  But this was just the prelude to airport hell.

Upon our departure home from the airport in Bali, we received the first blow.  Luggage could only be checked by Delta’s partner airline, KLM, to Singapore.  Because of the airport switch in Tokyo. The lovely attendant couldn’t issue us those boarding passes, either.  Which was fine.  Last time we did this route, we nearly missed our return connection because the Delta transit desk in Singapore insisted on issuing us new boarding passes two hours before departure (at 4am). Sigh. Three easy flying hours later, we arrived in Changi airport at 11pm and popped by the transit counter to see what we could do to change our tickets. No one from Delta was there, but there was a woman behind the desk. “Oh, yes,” she assured me, her lips pursing as she nodded languorously, “there is still staff at the Delta check-in counter upstairs.”  We would go through immigration, pick up our bags, exit through customs, and go right up to departures.

Only when we got to the luggage carousel, I asked a female guard, “Which way to Delta?”  The international gathering of customs guards stared at me carefully.  The woman, wearing the traditional Muslim head scarf, asked me to repeat my question.  Then there was a pow-wow in Malay (I think).

A tall Asian man of mixed descent smiled down at me.  “Delta’s closed.  They open at two o’clock.” I looked at the clock. It was 11:30pm.

“Are you sure?” He nodded. I tried to engage him again, as Greg pulled up with the bags on a small cart. “Well, we have our luggage, but we have a reservation at the transit hotel. And no boarding passes. Any way to get back upstairs without exiting immigration?”

The guard pointed back to the doors we had just come through. “That’s immigration, you’re already on the other side. And you can’t get back there without a boarding pass.”

Did I mention I’m in the travel business? I have waxed on about the wonders of Changi airport, Singapore’s modern and pampering layover heaven, with its free movie  butterfly sanctuarytheatre, orchid gardens and butterfly sanctuary, not to mention food halls, sleeping lounges, spas, and transit hotels in each of its three terminals. Well, I missed a crucial point until that night: all of its delights lie behind immigration.  We, on the other hand, were in the no-man’s land between immigration and customs.  Two minutes later, we were back upstairs, this time at the departures desk.  Here we learned two facts destined to make this night from hell even worse: 1) The online kiosks wouldn’t issue us boarding passes. Because of the airport switch. 2) The Delta counter wouldn’t open until 3:10am, exactly three hours before our flight. Yes, these are what we like to call “first world problems,” but in the moment, my spirituality (the part that reminds me to look on the bright side, that every breath is a gift) seemed overwhelmed by the small whininess of my humanity (the part that thought I would be getting six hours of sleep that night.  In a bed).

Whoever designed Changi airport for layovers forgot to include the departures section. There is an all-night coffee shop (with great service, BTW). There are a number of hard wooden benches, which by midnight were almost all occupied by other unfortunate travelers trying to catch a few winks, stretched out with a coat or sweater over them, or their arms crossed tightly on their chests as if to ward off the evils of airport travel.  We asked at the information desk and were told by the caffeinated little attendant that there was an observation deck upstairs that was quieter and where we could rest.  Encouraged, we headed upstairs to check it out. As I took a last look at all the people trying to sleep, it occurred to me that they should knock down one of the many Asian soup restaurants and replace it with a sleeping lounge.  They could charge a mint and people would still gladly pay.

Upstairs, we were SOL. The lights were bright, the benches so hard your shoulder ached as you lay down.  And the cleaning crew—I know these ladies don’t make much money, but does every step have to be a dragging shuffle echoing across a vast tile ocean? And the mechanics—does every lightbulb in Changi have to be checked on a ladder whose scraping feet must be dragged from pillar to post, complete with shouting to your fellow mechanic about something fun you will be doing together when you both get off work (at 4am)?  I am a spiritual person, I promise you, despite the number of times I snapped at my husband that night.  But by 2am, I wanted to throttle someone, anyone. By 2:45am, when I finally hoisted my miserable lump of self off my monk’s bench and, bleary-eyed, stumbled downstairs to the Delta counter with Greg, it was clear we could kill each other in a fit of sleepless pique.

Greg has been lauding Alaska Airlines’ Gold Membership program almost since its inception. A long-time member, he has flown Las Vegas to Seattle via three other cities to ensure he gets enough air miles to qualify. As Alaska’s strong partner, Delta affords him lots of extra privileges, like business class check-in.  This morning, standing in front of the desk at 3:12am, it was clear this would do us no good. “Sorry,” the plump attendant chirped, looking anything but, “there’s no flights available to anywhere from Narita. We’re all sold out.”

Greg lowered his voice to a near-whisper.  “We fly tens of thousands of miles on Delta each year. We book our guests on Delta, bringing you even more business. Are you telling me there’s nothing at all? Not even in business class? How about we speak to a supervisor.”

She shook her head, firm. “You can speak to one, but it’s not going to do you any good. You’d have to buy new tickets. And who married these segments, anyway?”

I was too tired to argue.  I clutched at Greg’s sleeve. At least with boarding passes, we could get into the good side of Changi. Where there were beds, showers, internet access, and eventually, a plane that would take us out of this hell. He grabbed the boarding passes and we stomped over to stand in the screening line. Greg was muttering about never flying Delta again.  I didn’t blame him. At least this was one thing we could agree on.

The next morning in Tokyo, we paid nearly $80 for two tickets for the bus to take us from the elderly Narita to Tokyo’s other airport, its infinitely prettier sister, Haneda.  Standing in line, we started talking with a honeymooning couple.  They too had been in Bali. “Yeah,” they told us, “we were so shocked about having to change airports. Delta never said anything on their web site about it. We didn’t figure it out until three days before we left, and by then it was too late to do anything.”

I kept my mouth shut. We had just realized we had enough time to go into Tokyo and have sushi before the plane left.  My spiritual parts were kicking into high gear. Today was a sunny new day and I was about to leave my travel hell behind me.

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 A new perspective on Egyptian TourismOnce again, Egypt has been in recent news; this time for an attack in the Sinai that has absolutely nothing to do with tourism, but is reported as yet another reason for tourists to stay home. The recent kidnapping of an American minister and two other tourists by Bedouin intent on gaining prison release of a family member was also widely reported, though the kidnappees themselves stated that they were treated as honored guests and released quickly.

Egypt’s tourist traffic, once the envy of many countries, has suffered as much as an eighty percent dropoff in the last twenty months, following the January, 2011 revolutionSpirit Quest Tour group between the paws that paved the way for the fall of many dictators in the region, most prominent among them Egypt’s Hosni Mubarek and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.  Yet my own personal experience, leading tours there both pre-and post-revolution, was anything but radical.  We found Egypt’s people largely bewildered by the brilliant spotlight shone on it by the world press, and frustrated by the microscope their occasional crime was subjected to.

Last month’s massacre at a Colorado Batman premiere, for example, also made world news, as did last week’s unfortunate murders at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Yet in neither case did people stop going to the movies or to their places of worship; they didn’t even avoid the Batman movie, which might have been a logical choice for a drop in box office. In some countries, violence is an everyday occurrence, whether that’s because of war or high crime. The painful truth is that safety is an illusion no matter where you are, and that none of us wants to become a victim. It’s by staying home, whether from Egypt or a movie, that we are all vitcimized and the perpetrators really succeed.Sail the timeless Nile

Though no travelers were harmed in the making of Egypt’s revolution, tourism continues to maintain nearly record lows in the country of the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and dozens of the best-preserved temples of the Second Great Age— Pharaonic and pre-Pharaonic history.

So for those thousands who feel the inexplicable desire to travel to Egypt, that underlying tug of the heart that cannot be fully understood until you are gazing up at these stone wonders, it’s time to set aside fear, take advantage of a temporary lull in the tourism machine, and visit this remarkable land.  Wander the temples the way they were meant to be seen, in quiet and in reverence, and sail the timeless Nile. Make the choice to live the life you want to live.Visit the Pyramids of Egypt

While you’re there, feel free to bargain with the street vendors and shopkeepers—they enjoy the banter and the game—but be sure to leave some of your money with them. It is this injection of our cash that they rely on, as tourism makes up a vast part of Egypt’s economy. Don’t worry if you hear an occasional report of an incident; it’s the only one in the whole country.  Our news media is making sure you have all the juicy details.

Tirta Empul
Tirta EmpulA visit to the holy springs of Tirta Empul is a glimpse inside Bali’s spiritual heart. Almost devoid of tourists but brimming with locals come to take the holy waters, Tirta Empul is at once crowded, joyful, raucous, and deeply uplifting.

Tirta Empul, the “Ganges” of Bali, is a centuries-old place of purification. The legend is that the god Wisnu refreshed the embattled humans fighting a demon army by striking a rock, causing the waters to pour forth. The Balinese have been returning ever since.

On a typical visit, we arrive with our group late morning, and spend fifteen minutes in the parking lot on a sarong-tying lesson. Sarong Tying Lesson It’s important to get it right because we are not here as mere observers; like the Balinese, we will be immersing ourselves in the spring waters which pour out of carved spouts, dousing us with a fervent cleansing of water and Spirit.

We receive a few curious glances from the locals as we troupe towards the locker room; our color-burst sarongs and white shirts tied with narrow sashes telegraph our intentions. For about fifty cents each, we lock our belongings in a wooden wall and make our way through the dozens of Balinese in various states of undress—both men and women alike in this unisex space—the wet, muddy tile floor reeking of the thousands of worshippers who have passed through before us, and back out into the clean air of the sunlit afternoon.

Climbing the few steps through the carved portal into Tirta Empul’s springs, I am struck once again by the crazy jumble of humanity that abounds behind the main wall. Children screech as determined parents thrust their small heads under the rushing streams; Balinese men wade, shirtless, through the calm waters; women in full temple dress—their hands clasped in Namaste prayer—bob from spout to spout, all chattering and gossiping as if they were at market day.

Praying at Tirta EmpulTaking the scene in, our group moves to the top of the steps and takes off our shoes, thought by the Balinese to be unclean.  We sit or kneel on them as our guide sets out the offering baskets and lights joss sticks, handing one of both to each of us so we can pray, Balinese-style. We have learned  how to pray like the Balinese, a five-step approach where we thank emptiness, the sun, creation, offer blessings to the world, and then thank the emptiness once again, accompanied by the flinging or wearing of flowers.  At the last step, we receive rice grains in our mouths and on our foreheads; the seeds of God; as we chew them or they fall, they will remind us of the mysteries of creation.  Then, we gingerly step into the pool.

The stones under our feet are slippery and timeworn, covered by a soft green moss that feels somehow comforting. The Tirta Empul-Spirit Questerspool is, surprisingly, full of large koi who swim about the emerald water unperturbed by the hundreds of daily humans who come to worship here. The Balinese meet our eyes, friendly and smiling, glad to see us alongside them. I am grateful for their warmth and openness, their welcoming kindness for the strangers clumsily performing their rituals.

We stand in snaking lines, up to our waists in the cold water, warmed by the gentle sun. As I wait my turn, I remember the night we came at the full moon, especially sacred to the Balinese. It was pouring rain, and the moon was merely a theory as we entered the pool at midnight, already drenched. I watched an exorcism that night, as two Balinese men dragged a hollering, thrashing woman under the spouts. Two more men stood guard as they puffed on huge homemade cigarettes, expelling clouds of smoke into the already thick air. Eventually, she calmed, the demon apparently moved on to easier lodgings, and they escorted her under stream after stream as she was cleansed.

Now I watch as the members of our group move into position, each in turn dunking his or her head under the first stream. We look like Orthodox Jews davening as our heads Tirta Empul Ceremonydip neatly under the rushing water, from four to thirteen times per fountain. Each spout has Sanskrit words carved into its mouth, embodying the meaning of that fountain. To know what the word is, the Balinese say, your “third eye” (the eye of mysticism or intuition) must be open.  The water passes over these sacred words just before it sluices onto our heads. I murmur a quick gratitude blessing and duck my head. As I immerse myself under the cold water, I am shocked into full awareness, clarity washing over me along with the stream.

I turn to my right, and wade over to the next spout to repeat this sacred experience. The people in our group look a little dazed, their smiles brilliant as I pass by. I don’t know whether I will receive the gift of the words in these spouts, whether the water will cleanse or uplift me.  I only know that I feel truly alive in this moment, present and thankful.

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Sometimes in the life of a spiritual person come things that are really, really “of this world.” Things like “Mad Men,” chili cheese fries, and now, Klout.com. Klout is a potentially terrifying yet extremely awesome social media metric site that basically tells you how cool you are.  Not really.  Actually, it tells you how cool other people think you are by looking at many popular social media sites (not Pinterest, not yet, anyway) and aggregating how much you interact with others and how often you get reposted, retweeted, etc. Then it tells you, by giving you a score. Klout score over 40, you’re doing pretty well.  Klout score in the 70s? You’re probably the most influential person you know. My Klout score hovers in the low 50s at the moment, which probably means I’m spending too much time in front of my new MacBook Air. Pause for a) geek moment and b) major gratitude to Greg for getting it for me.  I had been living in 5-year-old computerland, which made things much too slow.
Why am I telling you all this? Because being a “valued member” of the Internet world of Klout comes with Perks. And last weekend, Chevy loaned me a new electric Volt to try out. Let’s skip how cool the very idea made me feel.  I thought it was a great choice for someone who is woo-woo. It’s electric, uses up way less gas than regular cars, and it’s considered one of the most eco-friendly cars to drive.  Hopefully you, my faithful readers, will get something valuable out of my unbiased opinion.

Chevy Volt 2011

The first thing I noticed was the plug. Yup, this one comes with its very own electrical outlet, and we plugged it into the garage (and when we got down to San Diego, in my aunt’s garage, too!) They have charging stations all down the West Coast, at places like malls and gas stations, but since it takes at least 4 hours to charge (at 240 volts) and usually at least 8 hours (at 120 volts) you’ve gotta be willing to hang out for a lot of hours. Suddenly, I was thinking of my car like my iPhone – leave it on overnight and then I’ll have the battery all day.

The electrical charge only gives you about 35 miles on the battery, and then it switches over to gas.  Unlike the recent hybrids, the gas drives the electric motor, but the only way to recharge the battery is to plug it back in; the engine doesn’t do the recharging for you. This seems like a drawback in theory, but during the four days we put the Volt through its paces, the only thing we noticed was that we could get down and back from San Diego on about a third less gas than normal (we drive an Acura CL when companies aren’t giving us cars).

In fact, when we did go shopping – my cousin wanted a charcoal grill to go with his four gas grills (really) – we visited at least six stores over three hours and used no gas. None. Zero. And still had battery to spare.  That was pretty wonderful.  If you are a commuter with less than a 30 mile one-way trip and access to an electrical outlet, this would perhaps be the coolest thing since you learned to drive.

Chevy Volt dashboard

The car itself is beautiful. The back seats are comfortable and roomy, the hatchback has a window cut into it where the trunk normally starts, so you get extra rear visibility, and the car is the quietest thing I’ve been in, well, since taking a Prius out for a spin. The dash features a large LCD screen (and a DVD player, presumably for catching up on Game of Thrones while stopped at red lights) that flips between the radio menu, energy output, and nav at the touch of a button.  It also offers you impromptu traffic reports whenever things start to slow, and an impressive backup camera mapping a wireframe of the car’s trajectory, whenever you pop it into reverse. Acceleration is good, and driving it is a silent dream.

Of course all this quiet got my math brain going. Sure the Volt only would raise my electric bill between $10-30 a month. But what about the big picture? The Volt’s sticker price is $40K (yes, you might be eligible to get up to $12K back in tax credits, but most of the woo-woo people I know run their own businesses, so they’re not exactly salaried).  If you save three-quarters of your gas bill a month, you might pocket around $2500 a year in gas. So that could be 4-6 more years that you have to drive it until it saves you the difference between the Volt and the Prius (which is saving you a ton of gas in the meantime). Is this a fair comparison? I’m not sure. Driving a Jaguar, a Honda, or a Kia is a choice that has more to do with perception than reality.

All I know is that on Sunday morning, when I went out to pick up coffee, the neighbors were standing in the driveway across the street gawking. They asked me what kind of car the Volt was, and then absolutely cooed over it. I’ve never had that happen before, though Greg does get some nice compliments on the Acura. And this morning, I miss the Volt sitting in the driveway, knowing that as long as I’m going less than 35 miles, I won’t be using any gas at all.

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By Halle Eavelyn

Experiencing dawn at the Temple of Isis at Philae should be a part of everyone’s holidays in Egypt. However, usually only people going for spiritual travel will get to have this incredible opportunity. We take a bus from our cruise ship, arriving in the pitch black at the ticket booth, and then step onto a ferry that takes us over to the small island where the temple is located. Moved stone by stone when the Aswan Dam was built, the temple looks as if it has sat in the same spot for thousands of years.  Just before we dock in the darkness, our guide Emil motions to the boatman, who switches off the motor with a flick of his wrist. These holidays in Egypt are powerful, spiritual travel empowering the extra oomph that makes all the difference.
It is still, so still, the inky water lapping at our hull the only sound as we drift across the lake. Suddenly, looming like the outline of a mountain, the temple appears in the distance. Tears spring to the eyes of many of our guests — we don’t know why, but this place inexplicably moves us and for several on each tour it is their hands down favorite. Another signal and the motor pushes us through the water to the dock. Emil signals to me and on these holidays in Egypt I lead the spiritual travel group out of the boat and up through the outer temple walls. As always, my shoes come off the very second I hit the first wooden walkway. We move through the outer courtyard and into the inner chambers, headed towards the sanctuary and our pre-dawn ceremony. Pigeons hoot softly overhead. Cats – the island is home to several – sometimes yowl and purr at our legs as we walk, welcoming us into their temple. Isis would have appreciated this — felines were sacred to the ancients. No matter what everyone expected prior to this morning, these holidays in Egypt will be unforgettable, spiritual travel at its best. Moving sure-footed in the dark, the wood under my feet still warm from the sun the day before, I guide our group into the Holy of Holies and towards the Mysteries of Isis…

The Dawning: Egypt 2012 is from December 9-23, 2012, including 12/12/12 and 12/21/12


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This could be you!
Check out the video on YouTube!

Author Rachel Friedman
Author Rachel Friedman’s
travel memoir

The seasons go round and round sometimes without notice, but I like to pay attention. The Labor Day holiday reminds us that summer has almost ended and the school year will soon begin. This year my contemplation of beginnings and endings includes my Aunt Iris’s passing and Christopher Rowe’s (my friend Michelle’s son) untimely death at 4 years old.

Thinking of these transitions, I wonder what will I do for myself this year as both a family and community member, tasks that may give meaning to these seemingly unreasonable events.

In addition to Labor Day and school starts, September also brings with it Rosh Hashanah, literally the “Head of the Year.” Between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur are the ten days of awe which feel like a frozen moment in time, an opportunity, or maybe even a commandment to observe my direction in life. I often use these days to reflect on what I did and did not accomplish in the past year. Did I take advantage of all the opportunities that presented themselves in the past 365 days? Did I use my talents to create tikkun olam and help to repair the world or did I stand idly by as the world moved on around me.

Is there room for me in the Book of Life? September is a month of new beginnings and old questions for me.

And so Rachel Friedman’s The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost is a Jewish journey, a personal narrative of facing fears, transforming internal ideas and metamorphosing into an adulthood grounded in the art of wanderlust. Getting Lost is part travelogue and part personal transformation. This memoir combines the author’s personal journey and travel discoveries woven into her stories, along with her reflections about success, failure, life and the meaning of the aforementioned.

Most people do not ever realize, before traveling that is, that looking at a map of a foreign country in a language you don’t understand will lead you eventually back to yourself. As Ms. Friedman says in her book, “After all these travels, I find I no longer have that fear. Life feels full of opportunity and possibility—and maybe even adventure.”

When I travel, I too find that the journeys to the far reaches of the world lead me back to myself – but a new, more insightful self.

Find out if you too can take this road on September 6, 2011…Gather with travel veterans and Travel dreamers to Rachel Friedman read from her book. Plan to share your travel stories and travel dreams.

Meet Lisa Niver Rajna and author Rachel Friedman on Tuesday, September 6, 2011, 7:00pm at Traveler’s Bookcase 8375 West Third Street in Los Angeles.

For more information: www.wesaidgotravel.com
This article first appeared in Westside Today.

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