“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”
Journal excerpt dated September 3, 1986, Canton. My first time backpacking and being away from home:
“We haven’t seen many Westerners and we are being gawked at, pointed at, and sometimes followed. At first it’s kind of fun to be such an oddity but after a while it becomes tiring. Or maybe I make myself tired because of too much inner effort to appear humble, to make an impression of good will. We went for a walk yesterday around the area near our hotel through a lovely park with sub-tropical vegetation, bright green lakes and bird chatter. Their garbage cans along the paths were jade green, ceramic, pagoda-styled receptacles. Neat. Then we meandered through the streets amid the constant tinkle of bicycle bells and staccato blurts of car horns. It’s mostly bicycles, thousands of them. And no skyscrapers, either. I think the tallest one we saw, and one which some Chinese were gasping upwards at, was about 15 storeys high. Every few blocks there are sidewalk bicycle repair shops. The advertising billboards are hand-painted. Nothing about the structures or roadways is uniform. The sidewalks are made of many slabs of cement, all of them tilted or sunken in. The roads are undulating, squishy surfaces. We walked through Renmin Park and saw many men sprawled all over in various positions of repose, doing the only sane thing in this oppressive, humid climate. And something really wonderful in one corner of the park. Men were putting their caged songbirds in the grass and sitting nearby as if it were a daily, restful activity, chatting among themselves as if comparing the song of their bird with the others.”
I once helped a stranger in the airport in Puerto Vallarta who was stranded for three days because she didn’t speak Spanish and her contact didn’t know she’d arrived. Shannon turned out to be a clairvoyant from New Jersey on her way to study with a Huichol shaman in the mountains of Jalisco. She gave me a “reading” and said I had one of the most open minds she’d ever seen. That she could actually be seeing my mind was a tad disconcerting but I accepted the compliment. My curiosity is voracious, I have an instinctual aversion to joining anything, and an abiding awareness of death, all of which have done a pretty good job of steering me clear of a “normal” life.
If I was skeptical of Shannon’s metaphysical prowess, it was removed three weeks later. By then I was staying in a small, family-run hotel in an area of Puerto Vallarta frequented by Mexican tourists. I was walking back to the hotel, turned a corner and there stood Shannon. “I knew I’d find you here!” she said. When we’d parted ways three weeks prior I hadn’t told here where I was going and though we had exchanged home addresses in case we ever wrote a letter, I assumed I’d never see her again. But there she was on that dusty street looking as pleased as pie. Turned out she had a necklace that she had blessed by the Huichol shaman which would keep me safe. I wore that necklace for years and never travel without it.
USA, especially NYC
Canada, especially British Columbia and the Arctic