The Not So Sacred Valley: Part II

Several weeks ago I published an article called “The Not So Sacred Valley: Decolonizing Plant Medicine in Pisac Peru,” that generated an outpouring of emotions, ranging from gratitude and praise, to anger and bitterness. This was honestly unexpected. It was read by 5,000+ people- more than anything else I’ve ever written. The response, and the ensuing shit-storm of online debate, has been wonderful. After much reflection, here’s my thoughts on the matter.

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12 Hours in Ethiopia

I feel like I have been here before. Sitting in the Addis Ababa Restaurant, a landmark for traditional food in Ethiopia’s capital city, people shout and joke, laughing together. A playfully communal spirit flows through the air, heavily seasoned with the rustic scents of berebere and shiro spices, cooked meat and fermentation.

It could have been that the local tej, or honey wine, was getting to my head, or that my 3am departure from Cairo was now making me delirious, but I felt in this moment, a deep sense of happiness and peace that defied explanation.

I am in Africa, I thought. I am surrounded by strange smells, drunken strangers, and questionable concoctions that may invert my stomach. And somehow, I feel truly at home.

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The Not So Sacred Valley: Decolonizing Plant Medicine in Pisac, Peru

On an exceptionally sunny morning in Pisac, set in the Sacred Valley of Peru, I look out my window at the four blissed-out travelers sprawled whimsically across the grass.

They attended a full-moon Ayahuasca ceremony the night before, led by the well-loved “Sacred Valley Tribe,” an international group of musicians and neo-shamanic facilitators known throughout the area, and the world.

“It was beautiful,” my British friend tells me. “About 80 people in the room, and not a hint of darkness or bad vibes. It was just amazing.”

He frolics off, and rejoins his medicine sister, a young woman, laying on the grass in the fetal position, wrapped in a blanket, staring intently into space.

There is a joke, that in Pisac, if you can play guitar, you can pour Ayahuasca.

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The Myth of Return: Coming Home Without Going Back

For me, it felt like a deep exhale. Returning to the place I call home, indeed the very city and house in which I was born and grew up, has often brought with it a multitude of insecurities and doubts. Am I giving up? Will I get stuck here? Will I have to settle for some soul-crushing job? Am I starting over? What am I missing? What will others think?

Returning back to one’s origins, to where it all began, is an essential aspect of every rite of passage- of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and of Paulo Coelho’s classic tale, The Alchemist (one of my favorites, for obvious reasons)

Indeed, return might be the most essential, and most difficult part of the whole endeavor itself. A journey is never complete until the hero comes back.

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Inspiring Travel Alchemists to Watch – 2017

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” -Henry David Thoreau

What is a “travel alchemist?” A person, who through passion, vision, and strength of spirit, is able to transform the raw and unruly experiences of world travel into something of value and benefit to themselves, and to the world around them.

As a traveler, one of the hardest things to find is a true sense of community. We are consistently uprooted, blown about the edges of the globe, landing in remote regions where nobody knows our name. The past few years, its been rare if I even unpack by bags at all.

Yet sometimes we converge, and develop bonds of kinship grounded in  mutual appreciation for each other’s path, mission, and work. Other times we meet only once, maybe at a hostel, a festival, or a conference, and stay connected for years.

This year’s list of Inspiring Travel Alchemists is all about community. Most of these folks I’ve met in person somewhere along the way, or have heard of them and their work through the grapevine of inspiration that the Internet can often become.

Everyone featured here is doing amazing things to uplift and build community in ways that leave me feeling not just good, but excited about the world. The people you find before you are world-class examples of how travelers can be transformational leaders and change makers in a world that needs all the help it can get.

Entrepreneurs, activists, filmmakers, event producers, photographers, writers- we all choose our unique paths through which our gifts are most easily able to shine. The question is: what will you do to transform the world’s problems into gold?

Trust your journey, follow your passion, take action, and in the words of Thoreau…

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The Power of Story: How Travel Creates Hope and Meaning

This is my first post in several months. I’ve been going through a lot these past few months, as I’m sure a lot of you have as well. Unfortunately for me, that meant my writing was placed in the background, which is never a good idea.

So, in the spirit of personal and creative liberation, I’m going to be changing up my format a bit, and opt for more personal, less polished blog posts. My aim is to achieve a deeper level of authentic sharing, and to simultaneously dismantle perfectionism and other limiting patterns.

Thanks for reading, for caring, and for your support. In the words of a dear friend and teacher, “trust the process.”

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Standing Rock and the Battle for the American Soul

Right now there is a battle being fought for the American soul. Its not on the political stage, an imploded and hollow spectacle, or on the increasingly out of touch economic front. And while climate change is certainly the most wide-reaching issue of our age, its not there either.

Its being fought on the cold prairies of the Dakotas, where long ago our country buried a part of its humanity that, in order to move forward together, we must all face.

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History’s Most Epic Travelers: A Booklist

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

-Winston Churchill

No matter how much we think we’ve seen or done in our travels or our life, someone has done it before. They’ve probably even written a book about it. And they probably did it during a time when it was a hell of a lot more dangerous and difficult then it is now.

Thankfully, many of these intrepid voyagers survived, and transformed what they saw into important works that have stood the test of time.

Proceeding from most ancient to most current, the booklist you find before you contains the stories of the most daring, original, and insightful travelers that history has seen.

Merchants, scientists, captains, gentlemen, ladies, writers- each a prolific wanderer in their own right, each a thousand memories and voices waiting to be shared.

So get cozy, light a candle, and bust out your Gandalf pipe and brandy snifter (Oh yes, thats right). Here’s a booklist of history’s most epic travelers. Enjoy!

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