— photos by Lois Brassart
How does spiritual travel differ from regular travel? It can involve a pilgrimage or group meditation, a quest to find one’s inner self in a new environment, or a shared encounter of nature or beauty in a foreign country that opens a deeper gateway to your Soul.
Sometimes, a regular trip can open into a spiritual one through a simple question or casual discussion. A retiree friend of mine, Lois Brassart, was amazed at how one question inspired a whole new connection and relationship with a fellow traveller. Lois was recently in Turkey for “a few weeks of adventure” with a group of strangers as part of an amateur photography trip. On the last day, she was chatting with one of the other trip participants, Cheryl from Australia. Here’s how Lois explains what happened:
“My story starts with Cheryl’s prompt, ‘Talk to me about your spiritual life’ and ends 12 hours later with ‘Do you and Bruce have rituals?’ We [Cheryl and I] learnt more about each other in that one day than we did in the whole two weeks together. Cheryl has lived an amazing life. She has met Mother Teresa. She intentionally built a home with a labyrinth in her backyard and she meditates. She really knows how to connect with people. She walks the talk and believes that we are all amazing people.”
Cheryl’s one comment created a deep, new link to Lois, who shared her own spiritual yearnings and beliefs with her new friend. Without that mutual enquiry, they might never have discovered each other’s inner essence. In Lois’ words: “Cheryl is a woman of rituals, a woman with deep understanding of us humans. I’m a human learning my way, a human who recently joined the ritual, spiritual world after a long stint in corporate life. Meeting Cheryl has made me braver and more willing to take baby steps toward risk.”
After meeting this kindred spirit, Lois says that she and Cheryl opened their hearts to themselves and others, which broke through any language barrier with locals. Previously, their group had emphasized snapping the perfect photo, rather than getting to know each other or the Turkish people.
Cheryl acknowledges the openness that Lois shared in off-the-beaten-track Turkish villages, where their group was invited to share many cups of chai with the locals. She says: “Lois is REAL – what a gift to the world. Turkish people recognized this fact and so did I. We learnt so much about these people with such generous hearts. Lois would, without exception, touch them with her interest in their garden or their family and of course, she would make them laugh.
“One day, we sat in a bakery, a little cave where women made the most wonderful bread for the community. We simply hung out with three generations of women and girls, used sign language, and laughed.”
Lois says of her new friendship with Cheryl: “I wondered if this was a fleeting connection. No! We are on email at least three times a week. We share photos, including hers of bees sitting on lavender and of oh-so-cute baby ducks. We share her stories of summer at Christmas and battling 43-degree [Celsius] temperatures and me explaining that I don’t want to go out in the cold and take photos. But I do go out and send along photos of raindrops and reflections in puddles.”
Cheryl, in turn, says that Lois’s love of learning enables their conversations to go in many different directions. Like Lois, she wondered if their new friendship would survive the distance and demands of life, yet has discovered that their conversation has grown even richer.
Lois has shared many resources with Cheryl, from the values and approach taken by local farmers’ markets, and a meditation for Thanksgiving, to stories about group preparations prior to travel to South Africa, and, of course, photographs.
Cheryl says: “I get so excited when I see a message from Lois because I know I will be nurtured, stimulated, and learn something new. I feel blessed to have found a kindred spirit and know that our connection will continue and our paths will cross again.”
The Internet allows Lois and Cheryl to deepen their connection despite the distance that separates them on different continents. Lois says: “We continue our relationship by keeping our hearts open to each other and sharing the beauty of our lives through photos taken miles and miles away, and through words of wonder.”
I experienced a similar connection with a New Delhi man, initially a stranger, while travelling in India for seven months. His one comment to me (an explanation about a photographic exhibition I was viewing) resulted in three hours of non-stop dialogue on a myriad of heartfelt topics. He was the first man, other than my spiritual mentor, with whom I shared my spiritual self.
We vowed that we would always remain in each other’s lives, and have maintained contact for 23 years between India and Canada. I’m writing about this relationship, and my path of personal discovery while travelling in India in my memoir No Letter in Your Pocket – Twenty Years Healing a Family Secret.
If you have a similar travel tale, please share it.
Click here to see Lois’ photo gallery of her Turkey trip.