Destination: The World
Book: Life is a Trip:The Magic of Transformative Travel (NEW August 2010) by Judith Fein
I first met Judith Fein when I was on a press trip in Richmond Virginia. She and her husband Paul took off from the main group tramping through Civil War Battlefields to look for something out of the ordinary–the oldest Jewish cemetery in Virginia. That’s what they do, poor things–live in Santa Fe, travel the world in search of interesting stories, and write and photograph award winning articles.
(This is the 2nd of my offerings about women travel writers as the world goes ga-ga over the movie Eat, Pray, Love.)
Judith is half of the team that started the web site Your Life Is a Trip, where she and Ellen Barone enlist other travel writers to go beyond the usual go-there-do-this-do-that kind of travel writing.(And in full disclosure, I am one of the occasional contributors to that site.) Fein’s new book, Life is a Trip: the transformative magic of travel, tells about her experiences in cultures from South America to Southeast Asia, and how those experiences touched her life. She talked to ATL after returning from a trip where she learned Viking chants in Scandinavia–just your everyday travel experience for Judith Fein.
A Traveler’s Library: You talk about the subject “forgiveness” in your trip
to North Vietnam. Did you also visit South Vietnam? And if so, how did their
reaction to the war differ?
Judith Fein: Almost all of our time was spent in North Vietnam. In South Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City, there is a startling museum about what they call The American War. When we visited, there was a group of school children taking notes from exhibits. To them, the war was a remote event in history. Something that could show up on a test and be summed up in a few sentences. It was shocking to me. I asked several people how they felt about the war. They were forgiving. They wanted to put it behind them. The lesson about forgiveness was huge.
ATL: I think my favorite story was the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, where you became an apprentice to a Mexican curandera. But I wondered as I read the ending if you ever
felt that you let her down by not becoming a full time healer? After all,
she selected you as an apprentice, implying that you were learning the
JF: What a wonderful question. Why wonderful? Because it makes me ponder the effect of my decision on Ana. And then it makes me think about trust. Ana and I, who didn’t share a culture or language or history, somehow made a great leap together over the chasm of doubt, demands and expectations. We believed in each other. We have never had a conversation about whether or not I became a full-time healer. She generously provided me with the tools, and she believed I would know how to use those precious skills. I suppose you could say, Vera, that my life is about healing, even though I do not do it formally or full-time. I try to bring that energy to every interaction I have. And when I sat down to write my book, it sat down right along side of me.
ATL: To your knowledge did Ana train other “apprentices”? Is that a regular
To the best of my knowledge, Ana does not train apprentices. I know she spends a day or two with a group of nurses every year, initiating them into the world of native healing so they can understand the needs and beliefs of some of their patients.
ATL: Have all these experiences with self-discovery in diverse cultures made you look for similar opportunities within your own culture? Or is that another book?
JF: I always look for opportunities with diverse cultures. When I read the local paper, I wildly circle every event that involves another culture. I go to these events to observe, interact and learn. I go to be moved, changed, educated. But it doesn’t even have to be an event. When I stand in line at the movies, or meet a waitperson in a restaurant, I’m always excited when I meet someone from another culture. It’s an opportunity to expand into another reality; it’s a chance to grow.
This is where I usually asks authors to tell us about their own favorite travel book(s), but Judith answered that question for us some months ago in a guest post. Judith’s book was supplied by the publisher, Spirituality and Heath Books, for this review. Photos are courtesy of Paul Ross, and you can see more of his work by clicking on one of the photos.
And, readers, would you care to share the most transformative experience you have had in your travels? If that word is too scary, how about the most moving? Influential? Revealing?