All my life I’ve been traveling. I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon. Another country, another culture, another climate. At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s. At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s. After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL, listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States. I moved from place to place feeling like an alien. This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life. Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.
One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself: parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc. The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.
I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl. If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger. The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in. And I feel…free. I feel anonymous. I feel alive with possibility.
The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking. It’s been exhausting. Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean. I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off. I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home. In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home. I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share. I am home. I am my home. Wherever I choose to go, I will always be home.
That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else. I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.
My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester. Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.
This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van. His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.
By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life. Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school. I had no idea what to do or how to help him. Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me. What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.
As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment. What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road? What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler? As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up. Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.
Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan. Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life. He became motivated and finished 9th grade. He joined a gym and is working out daily. He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living. We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October. He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip. We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.
We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:
Vancouver to Baja from September through December.
Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.
Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening. People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31! Finances are an issue. I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.
I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes. And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do. I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.
Donations will go toward:
- Online Educational Consultant
- Used laptop
- School Supplies
- Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
NOTE: 5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens. This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.
There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway. As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him. Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017! #roadschool2017
I was twenty six years old when I saw
the Himalayan Mountain range for the first time.
I remember how abruptly
it rose from the rice paddies like
a row of hands signaling “STOP!”
“You shall not pass here.”
There is a reason the Hindus believe
their gods reside in the these mountains.
Only gods would smash a subcontinent into Asia
in an attempt to get the sky’s attention.
Only gods would pull the ether so close
and insist to be kissed by her.
It is the nature of gods to seek residence
in the openness of sky
and there I was flying in it,
catching a bird’s eye peek of peaks
that seemed to stretch all the way back
to my grandfather’s gaze
the first time he told me these things existted.
In those days his eyes
were my airplane windows
and I, a limb of his Bodhi tree
understood that he had grown up
where the Buddha breathed.
He had lotus blossom hands
His stories were prayer beads
he strung around my neck
so that he could pull me back
when he saw me drifting
too far from my purpose
For whatever reason,
he saw in me a need;
and aching for the sky
full of beings who knew her best,
Sepia toned images of hands pressed
together in prayer
Black and white photographs of monks
whose eyes arced like raven wings
gleefully taking to the wind
prayer wheels spinning
to the backdrop of India.
the cough of car horns choking
on exhaust, exhausting jaunts
through mazes of people
amazing in their arrangements
flowers arranged in doorsteps
side stepping copious piles of cow shit
squatting to shit over holes that belched urine smells
smelling jasmine and sandalwood
would travel by rickshaw, plane, train, and taxi
to watch Himalayan spine
unfurl in long stretches, morning stretching
over my yoga practice, bending over the jumbled
jenga of shoddy construction,
huddling over construction paper
giving crayons to children who’d never colored before
The color of saris bleeding into vision
like high definition dye, homeless man
dying on the street corner, dead guy by the piss wall,
the 5am call to prayer, the prayer beads, beads of sweat
protesting intense humidity, the soft
swirl of the pilgrim’s hands in the Ganges
stirring my memory
toward my grandfather
who came to me as if in a dream,
a beam of light planting a seed
that would grow to lead my back
to the land
of my awakening.
Vunerability and Truth…two of the most potent spaces to be in – combined anything is possible. It was in this spirit that my relationship with Nancy West McGuire was started. On this day, at this cafe, it was the right time for us to connect. Do you have any friends like that? Where you know each other peripherally, or see each other around, but for some reason you finally connect and you wonder “Why did this take so long?” Ahhh the mystery of life. I love it.
One of my absolute joys in life, and a reason I believe I’m here in human form, is to deeply connect with other human beings – on a heart level. Sitting down with a “stranger” and finding common ground with each other energizes me and makes me glad to be alive. It fills me up on a soul level. And guess what? Nancy loves that too! The more we shared, the more excited we got to recognize a kindred spirit in each other. We both had been event planners in past lives, we had gone to high school within 7 miles of each other, for decades each of one us has been drawn to different trainings and teachings to improve ourselves. We each have a reverence and curiosity for death and dying. It was a such a treat to meet and spend hours (!) talking and enjoying myself. The items to be discussed kept growing and tumbling out, it felt as natural and comfortable as seeing a friend after many years – a sister…a best friend from childhood…where had she been all my life?
The cherry on top of the sundae was that Nancy was passionate about India. Not only had she traveled there solo and lived there, but she was familiar with the one city that has been calling to me – Varanasi. The one city on the “Journey to India” itinerary that I haven’t been to, yet feel called to see. Nancy told me story after story about her days in Varanasi, about impromptu dance parties with women in the slums, about chartering a boat to take families down the Ganges to a park for an afternoon of play, of paying for children to go to the dentist for the first time and have their teeth cleaned and filled. To hear Nancy speak of Varanasi, is to see her come alive. She’s a strong woman with a large heart and she exudes confidence, competence and gregariousness. But the nectar is to watch Nancy soften when she speaks of Varanasi and the people there. She looks like a young girl, delighted with life, and sweet with vulnerability and truth. See for yourself:
I am so excited to announce that Nancy West McGuire and I have planned a women’s retreat to India. There are many incredible events planned as we visit New Delhi, Varanasi and Rishikesh as well as daily yoga and meditation classes. We’ve organized this event in collaboration with a known and trusted, professional Indian guide who brings us access to many experiences the average traveler wouldn’t be privy to. Click here for a detailed itinerary.
The trip dates are: October 12 – 22, 2013. For more information, please go to our Journey to India website. We would love to have you join us!