I took a journey to South East Asia from September to October. I had promised myself a big trip, as a present for turning 50. I had no expectations, and only two things planned. I had no idea, traveling for 28 hours would be so incredibly long… and ultimately tiring. I took a few days to turn my sleep schedule around, as I was 12 hours ahead of my time zone. But I did!!
When I travel, unless it is specifically to learn about shamanism, I don’t travel “as a shaman”. Which, I realize makes little sense, since what I am is inside me, and not a tool I can pick up and put down. So, let me explain. I do not actively seek out individuals to “heal” or “teach”. I do not seek out traditional healers to meet. I am just a regular tourist, with what I consider to be, an added perspective.
Traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia were eye openers, on different levels. The two countries, even though they share a border, are very unique to themselves. Once leaving the large city of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, I was able to see what Vietnam looked like, without 19 million people jostling me about. I traveled by train, which was slow, but offered many beautiful visions of the country side and the ocean views. There were not always English speaking people, and at times, places with zero English. And I confess, beyond the extremely important words, such as hello, bathroom, food, hostel, I speak no Vietnamese. I also confess, this was my very first travel experience for a month, completely alone, with a very small backpack. I carried everything I would need in a 35ltr backpack. I took a small one to remind me to travel with little or no impact. I could not buy many things, because I simply did not have the room in my back pack to accommodate much. I did send a few things home, via mail, from Vietnam, but not from Cambodia… their mail system simply did not exist.
My absolute respect goes out to people who traveled before the advent of Data and Cell Phones. Fortunately, every hostel, eatery or tourist site, had a place on a Map. And my taxi (often the back of a scooter) drivers can use a Map… 🙂 Yeah me. I had to use Google translate a few times… fortunately it was available. But, the people who traveled to these countries before, were true mavericks. Hats off… truly.
It was a challenge, at times, to travel alone. Tour guides and tour companies are not always interested in dealing with solo travelers. I did stay in different Hostels, and was very grateful to meet so many wonderful humans, all with interesting stories, and good advice to share. I was always the oldest in the hostel, and was always treated very respectfully. I did stay in small hotels, here and there, completely eliminating the opportunity to meet others. I found as the days went by, I became more and more silent. I even stopped talking to myself. Now, don’t be all surprised, we all talk to ourselves, and if you don’t… well, I am not quite sure what to say to that, except… yeah(??). I stopped journaling very early on. I found even writing to be “too loud” in my head. What I really needed was silence and time to contemplate my navel. What a luxury.
As I traveled from Vietnam to Cambodia, I found my pace also slowing down somewhat. Cambodia is a very slow, gentle (to an outsider) country. With a very horrible past, recent and ancient. My shamanic senses really came alive in Cambodia. Which I was not quite expecting. I was able to energetically sense the people more. I was able to tap into my intuition more accurately there. I felt even more alone there, but at such peace with my alone-ness I felt liberated.
Why am I writing this blog post? Good question. First to mark that I did it, at 50 I traveled alone,to countries where English was not a given, and my personal safety was not guaranteed. I felt the layers of my “western” life, slowly falling away from me. I felt the burdens I had, dripping off my body. I came back, still silent, very tired, but… freer. Traveling in 3rd World countries is, to me, so incredibly important. I am always really impressed with the ingenuity, of the people. They created, invented, machines from bit and pieces of everything. There is far less of the “toss it away” mentality, than in Canada. There were far more genuine smiles, than greet me here. There was far more generosity, than I encounter here. There were far less barriers to person, than I feel here. Despite not being able to speak the language, I understood (with my own limitations obviously) the people I met. I did not feel at home, or like I had found a home, but I went somewhere I felt truly comfortable being.
I hope to translate this peace into my practice. I felt ready to pick up my drum and my smudge and lite candles, to say my many prayers of gratitude for such a heart opening experience. Some days were incredibly hard, some experiences left me so angry I just wanted to fly home early. But, that is all part of travel. I am supposed to be uncomfortable and unsure. I am supposed to be able to navigate through the bad waters, to reach the good waters. I wanted to test myself. I came home with gratitude for all I have. For the simple liberties I have taken so for granted.
I came home, joyfully, to the people (that means you) in my home country. I wanted to share my thoughts, albeit, skimming the surface. I wanted to feel different when I came home, and I do.
Thank you for reading… I know there is more to come. I need to “unpack” my trip. Lay all the things I have brought home, onto the floor and examine them… piece by piece. What do I want, and what can I still release. Being in such poverty opens my eyes to the richness surrounding me…. every time.