La Viajera (The Woman Traveler)

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Note: A few months ago I posted a story called The Traveler. The experiences in the article were mine, but I wrote the traveler as a man. A friend that has traveled with me around the world questioned this and challenged me to write a second piece as a woman traveler. What a fun challenge it has been! Here she is, La Viajera.

The sun emerges between passing clouds and transforms la viajera’s auburn hair into a fiery red. The wind carries her hair in nonsensical patterns of dancing flames. She does not try to contain it. She lifts her face to the sun and her heart to the sky. A smile rises from her chest and gently appears on her lips.

La viajera sees a clearing along the path where a large flat rock juts over the river, beckoning for her to rest. She sits and quickly tugs off her hiking boots, peels away her socks, and plunges her feet into the icy river. The pristine waters of Patagonia rush around the contours of her feet and between her toes. Cold penetrates her bones and provides relief against the miles of trails la viajera has covered today. A thundering roar catches her attention and she turns with just enough time to see a glacier calving upstream.

Her legs are depleted, but her soul is replenished. She feels the energy of the earth and the glory of being alive in the world. Here, thousands of miles south of her home and surrounded by unfamiliar landscapes, she is free.

She lays back on the rock. The warmth of the boulder seeps into her body while the icy water continues to barrel past her feet. She relaxes fully into the sunshine, breathing it in and radiating the light back out into the world around her.

This feeling of freedom and connection isn’t new for la viajera. It bubbled up when she explored a temple in Angkor Wat with a friend. A rickshaw driver waited somewhere on the other side of the temple, but he was patient and there was no hurry. They turned among ruins of sculptures and tumbling walls towards whatever captured their fancy. Curiosity drove their path forward.

And again when she cycled along one-lane farm roads through endless vineyards in Provence. La viajera got lost more times than she could count in that afternoon of biking, but it didn’t matter. The kindness of strangers and multifaceted communication of English, French, gestures and smiles reminded her of what is good in this world.

And the many times she packed up her Honda Civic and left for a week, a month, a year. The exhilaration of unknown destinations flooded every corner of her body as she drove away from home. Excitement, fear, and wonder merged to form an addictive elixir streaming through her veins. The open road temporarily satisfied this yearning, but it’s only a matter of time before the hunger for new lands flares up and demands attention.

But la viajera is not thinking about that today. Right now she is laying in the sun on a rock next to a river, eyes closed and heart beating in tune with the pulse of the earth beneath her.

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach working with people that want to have a meaningful career and live up to their own potential, but feel stuck in their job. See her home page to learn more. She is also the host of Destination Soul Shine, a community dedicated to nourishing your soul and making your spirit shine. Like Destination Soul Shine on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @destinationsoulshine for resources to inspire you to live a meaningful, healthy, creative life. 

The Traveler

Travel Photos

The traveler has a recognizable look. Hair in need of a trim, beard long enough that is doesn’t have to be shaved. The traveler wears a t-shirt, perhaps from a local brewery picked up in a small town along the way. Never one from Machu Picchu or the Eiffel Tower, although the traveler has certainly been to both of those places. His khaki’s hang on his hips, looking threadbare and comfortable; they could easily be slept in if needed. Well-worn but supportive sandals adorn the traveler’s feet; the type of shoes that would be equally comfortable hiking in Utah or meandering through Rome.

The backpack is a telltale sign of the traveler. But not just any pack. The traveler’s pack is frayed at the edge. The straps hang loosely from years of gravity pulling them towards the Earth. A carabineer dangles from one of those straps, ready to secure a water bottle, roll of duct tape, or a bag of snacks for the bus ride. The fabric, no matter the original color, is tinged with brown, the product of riding down dirt roads and through rainstorms on the roof of a bus.

When the traveler is faced with a delay in his travel plans, he calmly finds the quietest corner of the bus station, sets down his pack and uses it as a chair back, seat cushion, or pillow, depending on his preference that moment. He pulls out a worn paperback, maybe The Alchemist or Siddhartha, and reads in that corner, able to simultaneously blend in and ignore all of his surroundings. Hours may pass, but the traveler doesn’t get frustrated; it’s all part of the journey.

If the traveler finds himself in trouble, perhaps unexpectedly caught an airport in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night, there’s no need for concern. He simply looks around for the other travelers and asks what they are planning to do. Together they ride in a $2 taxi to the only hostel in the city that still has available beds. The travelers share a room for the night, unconcerned with sleeping next to strangers. In the morning they may part ways or perhaps they will continue on together, for a day, a week, a month. No need to plan, the traveler take each day as it comes, making decisions along the way.

If you’re on the road and happen to see the traveler, buy him a beer and ask him for a story. You will hear about the teenage boy that appeared in the dunes while he was camel trekking in the Thar Desert in India or the woman in Honduras that invited him to eat with her family and taught him to make tortillas. It will be well worth the few dollars you spent on the beer. Maybe you will continue your vacation to the Holiday Inn and sit by the fenced-in pool. Or maybe his stories will inspire you to buy a backpack, grow a beard, and become a traveler yourself.

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach working with people that want to have a meaningful career and live up to their own potential, but feel stuck in their job. See her home page to learn more. She is also the host of Destination Soul Shine, a community dedicated to nourishing your soul and making your spirit shine. Like Destination Soul Shine on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @destinationsoulshine for resources to inspire you to live a meaningful, healthy, creative life. 

A Different Perspective on Famous Sights

Seattle Space Needle in Chihuly Glass
Space Needle reflected in Chihuly Glass – Seattle, Washington

Taking pretty pictures is all well and good. The sun rising over the ocean, gardens of bright spring flowers, sweeping mountain vistas – nothing gets more likes on Facebook and Instagram than photos like these. Just a few days ago I spent 90 minutes walking around a frozen lake on the border of Canada enjoying the sunset and attempting (without great success) to get a pretty picture. But what I really love about photography is the unexpected angle – patterns that arise in nature and common objects, shadows that create interesting designs, a unique perspective on a building I see every day. Here is a small collection of those different perspectives.  Each photo is a famous sight from around the world with a twist on the point of view.  Enjoy!

Angkor Wat reflections
Morning reflections at Angkor Wat – Cambodia
Harbor Bridge reflected in the Sydney Opera House - Australia
Harbor Bridge reflected in the Sydney Opera House – Australia
Palais de Justice - Brussels, Belgium
Palais de Justice through a bus stop – Brussels, Belgium
Notre Dame - Paris
Rainy day reflections of Notre Dame – Paris, France
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
Autumn trees in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool – Washington DC