Lessons learned from Travel

Travel has been a topic on many people’s minds this year, as so many of us have been grounded and have been unable to do a lot of travel. We might wonder about the future of travel, but I am hopeful because as humans we like movement. We like to see things, to experience things, and travel is one way of doing this. Due to increased globalization over the years, the world has gotten smaller. Many of us have loved ones in different places that aren’t a short drive away, and so we will travel again. The world will recover from this pandemic hopefully wiser, stronger, and with more innovations that make travel safer and accessible. Watch this week’s YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/mb5rOfHe9RM

I could talk endlessly about travel. It is one of my favorite things to do in this world—whether domestic or internationally. Some form of travel or movement has been with me throughout my life, at each stage, and I can tell you stories from my youth to more recently. In each case, I have always learned something, whether about myself, a situation, a place, or a person.

Before his death, one of my favorite people to watch travel around the world was Anthony Bourdain. He had what I thought was the best job. Travel to cool places, eat yummy food, and have equally delicious conversations with cool people. He left his mark on the world, and some of us won’t forget his words and his lessons. He said, “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.” I agree with this completely.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Jamaica, in the country. It was lush and beautiful, with places where the river met the sea. One would be tempted to think that everywhere in the world was like this. My first plane ride taught me that this was not the case. When I was a little girl, we moved from the Caribbean to Wisconsin. It was difficult to explain to other Jamaicans where Wisconsin was. North of Chicago, but not quite Canada, and cold! They literally had little pieces of ice falling from the sky—my first introductions to snow and black ice. I learned immediately that while all places have their beauty, that all places are not the same in appearance. There are just some places in the world that take your breath away in beauty.

Even though when I was younger, we did not have a lot of resources, my family always made sure that we went somewhere. We squished together in a vehicle listening to reggae and eating sandwiches my mom made; once we drove from Wisconsin to the Grand Canyon—stopping in each state along the way. My aunt woke us up at the crack of dawn to hike down into the Canyon. I remember seeing red dirt, beautiful birds, and the most amazing desert sunrise. The lessons from the dessert are not the same as the lessons from the sea.

One year we drove from Wisconsin to Florida. I learned just how massive and varied in landscape this country was. In high school, my friends and I took our senior trip by riding a Greyhound, with local stops to Disney world. I learned that music really can get you through a lot. I also took a college tour with Upward Bound where we visited several schools along the East Coast. I marveled at the big cities out East, and dreamt of visiting one day. The East Coast was much more fast paced than the Midwest. Later I would learn that the big city can shred midwestern values if you are not supremely grounded in yourself. But also that in every big city you will find people who still will share a smile and a good morning with you. (After coffee of course).

In middle school, I had a Spanish teacher, Senorita Winters. She had lived in parts of Latin America, Mexico, and Spain. When she showed us slides of Spain, I knew that I wanted to go there one day. Other teachers of mine also influenced my desire to travel. Some had used their summers to travel the world, others had studied in different countries. I ended up at a language high school partially fueled by a desire to travel one day. But I was by all means, a poor girl from Jamaica growing up in Milwaukee. Was this even a practical dream?

In college, I received the opportunity to travel internationally to somewhere that wasn’t Jamaica. I studied Spanish in the Dominican Republic, and I formally studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. I learned about mofongo, bachata, and more deeply about the interconnected history of the Caribbean. Going to Spain, was an experience that changed my entire life, and opened up my eyes to the wonderful possibilities that the world was my oyster. I had to immerse myself in the language, learn how to get around, and learn that even though my family was far away, they were still with me wherever I went.

My good friends including Melody—my sister for life—encouraged me, planned with me, and made a lot of things possible. I traveled in that semester all around Spain—Bilbao, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Palma de Mallorca, Toledo, Segovia, and more. Places I had only read about before suddenly came to life. I learned about history, culture, music, food, and the siesta life. We also traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, Italy, Morocco, and England, where I met some of my favorite relatives for the first time.

Each of those experiences changed me for the better. Later in my life, I would have the experience of traveling all over the United States, Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, Scotland, Mexico and Nigeria. I traveled to Italy with Catholic University and had the opportunity to do a solo trip to the beautiful town of Assisi. There I found a peace that passed understanding. There I made a prayer for my life, and understood why Elizabeth Gilbert chose Italy as one of her destinations in Eat, Pray, Love. I too learned about “il dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing.” While in Italy, my colleagues and I received a private tour of the Vatican’s Secret Archives and the Apolistic Library. I learned just how ancient some of the world could be.

Traveling also shows us who we could be. Part of the great damage and disservice of the institution of slavery is that for most people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, our ability to trace our ancestry is limited. I traveled to Nigeria once for the wedding of one of my best friends. While there, it was not uncommon for people to think that I looked like people from a certain tribe, and one lady swore I was related to someone she knew. I wondered if maybe I had ancestors from there? The food, music, and people reminded me of Jamaica and Jamaicans. But there was something else about seeing people so sure of themselves and their lineage. Proud to have descended from kings and queens that made the people walk with a sense of pride. Maybe it was by osmosis, but I felt that pride too.

Each mode of travel grants you a different perspective. Whether I have walked, taken a boat, driven in a car as driver or passenger, taken a train, or flown, the perspective has always shifted to accommodate each mode. Life can be the same way. Sometimes we see things when we are walking that we would not see from the plane. Sometimes we need to slow down to see clearly, and sometimes we need to elevate our thinking so that we put ourselves where we need to be.

Other important lessons:

  1. Travel pushes you outside of your comfort zone. There is so much goodness outside of your comfort zone. When you travel, you have already left the comfort of your pond for the great ocean. There are things for you to see and experience, and they are outside of the comfort zone.
  2. You learn how to be flexible. There is a saying that the tree that survives the windstorm is the one that learns how to bend with the wind. If you remain rigid and inflexible, you will snap like a tree in the wind. The pace moves differently in different places, and you have to adjust or risk frustration.
  3. You gain a new perspective. You see things done in different ways, you see people you would not normally see, and your whole sense of being attunes to the fact that there could be a different way or multiple ways of living, being, and doing life.
  4. Travel is healing. There have been several times in my life when I needed deep healing. Thanks to the lovely family and friends who accommodated me in those times, and let me sleep. When I need to heal, sleep is so vital. Like Tere, who provided me with food to eat-plantains and Milo, and words to nourish my heart and soul. Maybe it was a cool breeze in Jamaica, the cafes in Abuja, or the seas and stars of Bermuda, sometimes you do need to “get away.”
  5. Travel shows us how brave we really are. I have traveled to places by myself and wondered, am I being silly or am I really called to go to this place or do this thing. Travel will show you that you know more than you think and you have unbounded courage. It will also require that you rely on common sense.
  6. Like life, travel isn’t always easy. You might lose your luggage, or get lost yourself, or encounter an experience that isn’t the best. But what do you do? You get up, figure it out and keep going.
  7. Travel can teach you a lot about people. Want to know someone better? Travel somewhere with them that you have to stay overnight. You will learn a lot. Travel will also teach you that there are some really kind, beautiful souls out there across the world.
  8. Travel teaches us that the world is beautiful, and that people all over are generally dealing with the same issues. Love, purpose, finances, spirituality, and health. We are so different, yet so alike.

You might say, “Ah this would be great but I don’t have money to travel.” Well, not all trips are costly. Some travel is local, you can walk to it, and yes some requires planning and saving. I did a lot of travel as a young student with very limited resources. I sacrificed a lot but in the end, experiences and the memory of them stay with us always. I hope that if you want to go somewhere, that you are able to find a way, that it is a powerful and beautiful experience, and that you learn just how magical, amazing, and courageous you are. I hope when it is safe to travel again, that you will get your bag ready and let your soul guide you to where you need to go. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and if you feel inclined, please let me know what is on your travel bucket list! Thank you.

The Element of Air: Thinking things through….

The world is at an ingress—an ingress is an entry point. The word itself stems from the Latin word, “ingressus,” which also means “go in” or “to enter.” Most of us can feel it building, we know that the world has changed, never to go back to whatever it once was. But what will it become? I think the answer lies in each of us. We all have a responsibility to make the world what we would have it be. We can each visualize what that means for us and then take steps to make it so. For me, I hope for a world filled with more compassion, more empathy, more love, more joy, and just more kindness for one another.

The last few weeks we have done a deeper dive into the elements of water and earth. This week, we learn important lessons from the element of Air. Air is the sign of sunrise, spring, and new beginnings. Undoubtedly, the world—humanity is at an entry point in the process of beginning something major. What that is has to unfold, but it is my belief that none of us are here by accident. We are all here for this time because we are supposed to be. Either as witness or as participant to what is yet to unfold. 

Last week we entered into what is known as a Mercury Retrograde phase. This retrograde happening in the sign of Cancer will last until July 12th. Saturday, the 20th was also the beginning of the Summer Solstice, and today, Sunday the 21st the world will experience an annular eclipse at 0 degrees in the sign of Cancer. Whenever a sign is at the 0 degree—also known as the ingress, it is said that the sign is in a critical degree; when this happens, we can tell that something important and major is beginning.

These events are joined with four other planets and our northern and southern nodes all in retrograde. You do not have to know exactly what this mean to realize that they are all huge cosmic events on their own. Although the retrograde and the solstice are in a water sign, they hold particular resonance to the lessons of the element of Air.

As the sign of the intellect and of higher thinking, air teaches us about the power of our thoughts. We realize that it is through our thoughts that anything in our world first comes into being. Once we think it, we can create it, and then it manifests in real life. When you want to build a house, or write a story, it all comes together in your thoughts first—then the blueprint or the outline, and then you take action and it manifest in this physical plane. What are some things that you want to manifest in real life? Think about these things with love, see them clearly in your mind, and then write this down on paper. Your vision is yours alone—that is why you got it. Your vision is important, and as a great spiritual teacher once said, “You must believe it before you can see it.” Most people want to see something before they believe it, but air teaches us that you do not have to see something to know that it is real. Your visions, your dreams, and your goals are absolutely real. Believe in them, take steps to bring them into reality, and you will see them.

Going back now to the Mercury Retrograde. When most people hear the term Mercury retrograde, they clamp up and groan—oh no, my technology is going to break down, my travel plans are going to go haywire, and uh I better not sign off on anything major. Why is this? In Roman Mythology, the God Mercury was known as the messenger god. He ruled over communication, technology, travel, commerce, and luck. He was also a notorious trickster, hence why sometimes in retrograde times, it feels like someone is playing a trick on you! Mercury’s Greek counterpart is Hermes, and his Egyptian counterpart was the God Thoth or Djehuty—God of Wisdom.

I hear the complaints about Mercury retrograde all the time, and my response is always the same. Treasure the time. It is a divine gift; it is a time to seek inner wisdom. It is a time to reset and to slow down. 2020 feels like one huge retrograde actually. So, what does it mean when a planet is in retrograde motion? We speak about the planets from an Earth centric perspective. The other planets orbit Earth at a different speed than they do the Sun. When this happens, it creates the illusion that a particular planet is moving in reverse compared to Earth. In reality the planet has not changed directions, it just appeared to do this from Earth’s perspective. 

One of the best analogies that I heard for Mercury Retrograde was this. If you drive your car every day, what is going to happen? Before long, it will need service—new tires, an oil change. Humans are the same way. We also need times of rest, time to recharge. When Mercury retrogrades and we suffer delays, we are sometimes forced to slow down, to see things from a different perspective, and to rest. Most astrologers suggest that in retrograde periods we should do things that begin with RE. REST. RECHARGE. REJUVENATE. REVISIT. REMIND. REVITALIZE. The list goes on. I have had some really amazing things happen in my own life during retrograde periods. When something does not go as planned, I chuckle and ask the divine what is it that I need to see? Imagine running down a path and missing all the jewels hiding alongside the road. Maybe if you were walking more slowly you would see the twinkling and gain a treasure for your personal treasure chest.

Retrogrades also carry lessons for the signs that they fall in. In this case, both the Solar Eclipse and the Mercury Retrograde fall in the sign of Cancer, a water sign. The sign of Cancer is associated with emotions, feelings, and the need for nurturing and care. These topics may come up for you in the next few weeks. Because of the Eclipse energy, you are also being encouraged to think about what you want to see manifest in your own life. Eclipse energy can be intense, and it can bring sudden transformative change. Sometimes we are not ready for the unexpected changes that life can bring. To pull air back into the discussion, you have probably heard the phrase, “Anyway the wind blows.” Sometimes eclipses can blow your life in a new direction. I have found though, that sometimes when we think things are falling apart, they are really falling together. So, what are the lessons from air that you can use to make the most of this retrograde and eclipse season?

  1. Visualize your life and the world the way you would like to see it. Spend a little time each day picturing the life that you want. This also gets better and easier with practice.
  2. Thing about anything “toxic” in your life that no longer serves you. Seek out better air. Allow the wind in the sails of your life ship to change direction.
  3. Check in with your breath. How are you breathing? Shallow? Calm? Do you need maintenance? If so, do not be afraid to rest, to nurture yourself, to rejuvenate, and to recharge.
  4. Read any contracts or anything major that you need to sign very carefully before making your final decisions. You can sign things in a retrograde, you just want to be extra careful and make sure you understand all terms clearly.
  5. Revisit goals or dreams that have been sitting off to the side. Apply the sharp energy of air—the brilliant intellect, the wisdom, the vision, and the desire to create something. Communicate clearly what you want to manifest in the physical plane and believe that it can and will happen. 

I hope for you that this retrograde and this eclipse season sparks beautiful and necessary changes in your life. May your personal retrograde and eclipse season gems light up your life in meaningful and positive ways.

Happy Summer Solstice 🙂