Passport to Transformation

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Chuck Graham


ny avid traveler will tell you that there’s more to an excursion than seeing museums and taking a few photographs. 

Travel is, first and foremost, a journey of discovery. Exploring new sights and sounds, of course; perhaps testing out some different cuisine. But the more profound experiences tend to be internal. The psychic landscape seems to shift when we wander beyond the mundane and familiar, and the most memorable journeys are often those that change us in ways we didn’t expect.

Like any social media maven, Michael Sullivan went into her tropical vacation fully expecting to document every toe in the sand and ocean sunset for consumption by her many followers on Facebook and Instagram. When a freak accident left her sans smartphone and its incessant pleas for updates, logins and constant connection to virtual reality, she dropped out of the tech world and into the moment – her actual reality. Prevented from feeding the digital beast, she found nourishment for her soul instead.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, Tree Bernstein traveled to a small community in southern Cambodia to teach English. She found herself schooled as well, in the slow pace and unpretentious living of rural Khmer country, where fishermen, weavers and rice farmers plied their trades in much the same way that they had for generations. The modern age hadn’t bypassed this part of the world so much as it had been softly folded into it. Tradition, like the Cambodian people, endures.

Completing Iceland’s Ring Road, Chuck Graham found adventure every step of the way, each one completely different from the next. One moment he was soaking in a backyard hot spring, the next, paddling out to an iceberg. The sheer enormity of the landscape — its volcanoes and icebergs, glacier-shaped coastline, high plunging waterfalls — and the juxtapositions that make this land of fire and ice so spectacular carved memories as intricate as the fjords he explored.

Leslie Westbrook’s wanderings kept her comparatively closer to home, but were deeply inspiring nonetheless. The contemporary art on display in California’s historical hotels (each an impressive work of art in and of itself) was a visual feast, as sublime as the haute cuisine served in the establishments’ fine restaurants. Who knew a hotel interior (or, in one particular instance, exterior) could be as engaging as a far-flung museum?

Which just goes to show that the journey isn’t always about the distance traveled. Whether you roam near or far, there’s always the opportunity to find something new, unexpected or significant in its impact. Travel is as much a state of mind as mileage. 


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