“A Going and a Return”… such is the ‘heroic adventure journey’ potential in all travel.
I have certainly experienced many times feeling that I am a different person before and after a significant travel adventure has occurred.
Some years ago I took a road trip with a friend, from Buffalo, New York to Arizona. I was scouting out whether I might wish to move to Arizona to continue graduate studies; which, largely from this experience, I did! I travelled with an older lady friend from my spiritual group, Grace. In addition to aiming to visit Arizona State University—where later I attended grad school for 14 years—we wanted to visit Sedona, rather as a metaphorical pilgrimage at the time (1978).
In Effingham, Illinois, the Greyhound bus we were on broke down. Half the passengers shifted to another bus that would bypass Sedona, but we waited for one that would let us actually switch to a Trailways bus that would go right through the heart of Sedona. I met at this point a woman, Toni, who was on the same bus with her grandmother. We became immediate though temporary friends as kindred souls, our group of four forming a friendly set.
On the road to Sedona,
Where all is Sadhana…
(chorus from a song that expanded throughout the cross-country bus trip)
In Albuquerque a major drama began. After a break stop, we were to be leaving on the last Greyhound out of Albuquerque that night, around midnight. Grace met a woman who introduced herself as a police woman and said she was trying to apprehend a murderer trying to get out of New Mexico! She showed Grace her badge and me too, when Grace introduced me to her. As we went to get back on the bus, two men who had not purchased tickets at the normal ticketing window gave cash to the bus driver and got onto the bus. One of them, with a recently shaved head, sat in the front seat right in front of me and Grace. He draped a serape with a metallic bulge in its pocket over his seat, resting his head on the bulge. Then he slowly pulled out a cigarette (illegal in the 1st several rows of seats then), stared toward the bus driver, and muttered, “Goodbye New Mexico, forever!” The other man sat kitty-corner behind us on the other side of the bus, holding tightly to a paper bag.
This man met the description the police woman had shared with Grace, so she got off the bus to tell the lady about him. She came back saying the police woman was afraid to act because of all the other passengers. I got off and also tried to convince the police woman that this man fit her description. She said,” You’d better just get back on the bus.” As I did so, the bus driver gave me a look of warning, like “Don’t make waves.”
So the bus got rolling again and I turned around and whispered my suspicions about this man to Toni, who had been our major organizer when the bus had broken down in Illinois. Toni sent the message by relay whispers throughout the entire bus, until it reached the other man across and behind from us. Suddenly he started rustling that brown bag loudly, and coughing, to get the man we suspected’s attention. I was afraid then that I had jeopardized everyone on the bus, so I became very hyper-alert.
At a Winslow, AZ wayside café stop, the man with the bag stayed close to my and Toni’s group, sitting near enough to listen in on our conversation. Meanwhile Lurch (my name by then for the murder-suspect from the frontseat) never came into the café at all. He paced outside and at one point he turned to put his face—nose pressed!—up against the glass window to stare us down. Back onto the bus, and again a–this time–rather scared look of caution from the bus driver.
The next three hours I will never forget. It was around 2-5:30 AM on the bus. For fear that I had possibly endangered the passengers, I entered into one of the deepest contemplation/meditative experiences of my life. I sang a spiritual word and focused inwardly on connecting with inner guidance and illuminating the situation. Then something weird occurred. Around 5 or so, other passengers apparently started perceiving the possible threat as a joke. There was audible talk around the bus about “who was going to be the 1st person taken to the back lavatory on the bus and shot!” This was surreal conversation to me, as I continued to contemplate deeply. Something then changed in me; my state of consciousness shifted. I opened my eyes around 5:30 and looked out at the desert as we were approaching Flagstaff, with the sacred San Franscisco Peaks just ahead to our West. I said to Toni, “You know, people think that the Desert is dead and barren, but it isn’t. Look! It is teeming with Life!”
Lurch then audibly groaned. He turned his head slowly around and locked his sallow eyes onto mine; then he uttered slowly, “So, … how do you feel … about YOUR Life?”
Because my deep contemplation had brought me to a heightened level of consciousness, I simply beamed back at Lurch, held his gaze and answered brightly, “Hi! How Are You!” Lurch groaned again and turned to place his head back onto that metallic bulge in his serape pocket.
When we reached the Flagstaff bus station, Lurch and his friend got off, Lurch saying once again, “Goodbye, New Mexico, Forever!” I was ready to propel myself out ahead of him to get security if he would have tried anything on his way out. But we never saw him again.
We switched to a Trailways bus that took us for a touring route through Sedona. Once we rounded the bend opening onto the Red Rock majesty of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon, Language left me. I couldn’t speak, as if to utter a word to categorize a ‘mountain’ or ‘red sand’ would be to sever it from the WHOLE that this space and everything within it and around it, IS. Later I would understand this was a cosmic consciousness experience. Toni said, “It’s like Love; It cannot be contained.” She got it; I was speechless.
Here’s the poem from that day when I discovered a special Eagles’ Nest spot (as I call it) overlooking the canyon:
It is drawing me into Its depths
and will contain me,
Yet in that instant It shall free me
until me-ness dissolves beyond
Where Just IS-ness
Have you had a transformational travel experience? I invite you to share your insights and stories!