Travel is, or can be, as much an inward as an outward experience, and mine proved to involve an important inner dimension. Cut off from all of my support systems, I was tested in some rather wild situations. I learned a great deal about myself – how to be alone, how to live according to an inner-determined course, how to stay in touch with the feminine qualities within me, how to expand my capacity to give and receive and how necessary it is to laugh at myself.
When I was twenty-nine years old, I had a great job in the high tech world, and was living in the beautiful hills of affluent Marin County just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. For my age, I had achieved everything our society tells us we’re supposed to want.
But I was unhappy. So I did something dramatic, scary and gutsy and it led me on an unorthodox path to fulfillment.
I gave up my job and with it the career that I had worked so hard to build. I was burnt out from years of hard work in sales and marketing for Xerox and Honeywell. I did not like the hard-driving, hard-shelled woman I had become or the life that I had made for myself.
I packed up my house, put all my belongings, including my car, into storage and took off for a year-long sojourn through Asia and then a second year traveling through Africa and Europe.
I traveled alone into remote corners of the world and my life was woven in and out of the lives of villagers, tribesmen, explorers, climbers and craftsmen. Unconventional methods of travel—from camels and elephants to back waterway barges and my own two feet—led my pilgrimage. One important and unexpected aspect of my travels was a growing involvement with Oriental spirituality. This lifelong Presbyterian wound up spending time in an Indian ashram studying meditation under a famous holy teacher.
When I began my journey, I found it very hard to say goodbye to my dearest friends and relatives, not to mention a promising career and a comfortable life. Returning was equally difficult. I had to bid the experience of travel itself farewell, to accept the limits of the trip, and to reorient myself toward a “normal” nine to five work life. I made a tremendous life change, reinventing myself, starting over in a new profession and with a new self-image.
My experience of going solo around the world is more than an adventure story. It is the inner journey of a successful contemporary career woman who confronts the flaws in the American dream and risks her identity, her financial future and sometimes her life to undergo a metamorphosis that enables her to start off in a new direction upon her return.
When I returned, I changed directions; I assumed responsibility for myself and started over again. Mine is the story of one young woman’s rite of passage.
Since my stories and articles about my travels have been published worldwide I have been flooded with letters and inquiries from women and men alike. I have been invited to lecture and have appeared on radio and television, including the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Two questions everyone asked me about my travel alone were:
“Did you get home sick?” and, “Did you find God?”
Yes, of course; and, It depends on what you mean by that.
Two things I did find for certain: myself and the man who would later become my husband.
Romance in Kathmandu
I was sitting on a low sofa in the lobby of the Kathmandu Guest House, having just returned from the trails of Annapurna. I hadn’t washed my hair in ten days; the last thing on my mind was romance.
Then, I saw his legs: long, lean and muscular. I learned that he was leaving the next morning for a month’s trek to Mt. Everest. Our paths crossed for one moment. Long enough to light a spark.
I continued my travels for another year. And, within days of my return to San Francisco, we met again at a mutual friend’s party.
Romance, then marriage, then children. It was meant to be.
More stories can be found in my book Smashbrothers Women.
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