My sister and I arrived in Athens midafternoon on Lamas, the feast day of the first harvest. A blast of dry heat greeted us as we left the airport and surveyed the barren brown hills. It transported me to my childhood when I’d lived in distant and exotic climates, and I felt the old excitement of being abroad again.

Going to Greece had long been a dream of mine. It was a spiritual pilgrimage, a Hajj to be undertaken at least once in a lifetime. Greece figured prominently in the college classes on the Goddess I had taught for ten years, but I’d only known it through the books and slides I lectured from. I longed to see its sacred sites in person.

Our hotel was at the base of the Acropolis, within a block of the Acropolis Museum, a stunning work of modern architecture that quotes the structure of the Parthenon.  The Parthenon and Erechtheon had been stripped of their bas reliefs and engravings—even the famed Karatydids– were now housed in the museum, either already or soon to be replaced by copies on the temples.

Continue reading “TRAVELOGUE INTO HISTORY: MY BIG FAT GREEK ODYSSEY (Part 1) by Sally Mansfield Abbott”

Sometimes You Can Go Home Again. . . Because I Did by Elisabeth Schilling

I am tired and a bit emotionally exhausted, yet hopeful and in calm spirits as I have returned from my 8 months of traveling through Europe. I left in a rather dramatic impulsivity with little planning other than to leave the States for as long as I could and focus on writing poetry. I suppose I wanted to stay indefinitely, but now I realize that there are good and bad elements to everywhere.

In Basque Country, the beaches were beautiful but you might have to sunbathe in clouds of burning cigarette smoke because everyone seems to be lighting up everywhere you go. In Sicily, the history and fashion and food are intoxicating, but a lot of the buildings are crumbling and the landscape is parched in many places. In Ireland, it is green and lush, every corner a fairytale, but in the town centers, the air in winter is suffocating with the smoke of coal burning in houses as if it were London in the 1800s so much that I mostly refused to walk outside where I stayed. Continue reading “Sometimes You Can Go Home Again. . . Because I Did by Elisabeth Schilling”

Traveling Sexism by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

This summer I traveled quite a lot domestically. While I was in airports, on trains, waiting in lines, and going about my summer I kept coming across certain patterns and experiences which were becoming all too common and too significant to ignore; a mixture of overt and subtle sexism.

First it started out with one of my airport shuttle drivers wondering why I was traveling alone. While there is always room for small talk, I was struck with how – if I was male – that question would not have been asked. It reached the pinnacle when I was told by an older man to give up my seat for an elderly woman so he didn’t have to give up his seat – this was after he had stared at me for over 10 minutes when I first sat down using his eyes to voice his displeasure over me taking up two seats. Regardless of the fact that he, himself, was taking up 3.

Continue reading “Traveling Sexism by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Feminist Freedom: Finding, Following, and Painting Freya Stark by Angela Yarber

“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.” –Freya Stark

angelaOk. I’ll admit it. We all have our secret indulgences, don’t we? It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Shouldn’t we indulge a moment? After years of having my mind mired in the esoteric quandaries of the academy and the heart-yearnings of ministry, I needed an outlet, an escape. And when I couldn’t literally escape to some beautiful far-flung land via travel, I found my freedom nestled up with a good travel memoir. Travel essays, memoirs of finding oneself in another land, became my way of wandering, wondering, and learning about the world. A shelf full of dusty travel essays became my secret indulgence.

Along the way I decided to support feminist and women writers, pouring through every edition of The Best Women’s Travel Writing, sometimes in one sitting. Over and over I found these thoughtful writers referring back to one person, the pioneer of women’s travel, the founder of this far-flung freedom. Her name was Freya Stark. Years ago I began researching her life, reading The Passionate Nomad, and some of her many writings based on her travels all over the world.

Born in Paris in 1893, she was one of the first European women to travel and write about the Middle East, adding Arabic and Persian to the English, French, Italian, and Latin she already knew. There are tales of her riding camels through rebel territory, taking refuge in Bedouin camps, diving into shark-infested waters off the coast of Turkey simply because the water called to her and was too beautiful to avoid immersion, or in her old age (she lived to age 100), driving wildly in her hand-crafted “camper” through the Italian countryside. She lived boldly, going where few women had gone. She lived wildly, caring little about the restraints of decorum. She claimed, “It is the beckoning that counts, not the clicking latch behind you.” It’s no wonder that she inspired and empowered the many women travel writers that have followed in her fearless footsteps. Continue reading “Feminist Freedom: Finding, Following, and Painting Freya Stark by Angela Yarber”

Meditating on Oneness by Amy Wright Glenn

Utah native Amy Wright Glenn will talk about her book: "Birth, Breath, & Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula." Courtesy Amy Wright GlennAt the age of fourteen, I began to question the Mormon faith of my family. I embarked on a life long personal and scholarly quest for truth. While teaching comparative religion and philosophy, I was drawn to the work of supporting women through labor and holding compassionate space for the dying.

In my book, “Birth, Breath, and Death,” I share moving tales of birth and death while drawing on my work as a doula, hospital chaplain, and mother. I weave together these stories with philosophical reflections on truth, meaning, and Spirit.

This is an excerpt taken from the first chapter entitled “Search.”

I spent much of my early twenties traveling throughout The Middle East and India. I lost track of time gazing at an ancient copy of Homer’s Iliad at a museum in Cairo. I remember sleeping through a freezing cold night on Mt. Sinai and awakening to a brilliant sunrise over the Arabian Peninsula. I climbed the pyramids in Egypt and protested the Israeli occupation of the West Bank with Arab and Jewish women peace activists. For a year, I studied in Jerusalem. Later, I dedicated myself to the practice of meditation at an ashram in the Himalayas.

A lively mix of debate and discussion characterized my Hebrew University days. In the evenings, I worked illegally as a waitress in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Adorned in Roman attire, I served fantastic platters of Middle Eastern cuisine and performed folk songs and dance routines for photo-snapping tourists. I was nineteen and living in Jerusalem, a place saturated in religious symbolism. Known as Al-Quds in Arabic and Yerushalim in Hebrew, Jerusalem is a city renewed and ravaged due to contested paradigms of poetry and politics. Continue reading “Meditating on Oneness by Amy Wright Glenn”

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