There was a time when I felt I had “been there and done that,” cynical and with the weight of the world on my shoulders. My universe had become very small and I felt bitter, resentful and without purpose. I didn’t like myself and I didn’t like you either.
Then, a series of serendipitous events — which certainly didn’t seem so at the time! — provoked a degree of humility in me that allowed me to see life a little differently. These experiences gradually transformed my outlook and enabled me to feel connection and synchronicity instead of isolation and anger.
I began to be aware of other people’s kindnesses — as well as their pain. I began to appreciate our similarities and learn from our differences. I began to feel gratitude for the wisdom of the “teachers” who crossed my path and I started to believe that I too had something meaningful to offer others. My vision went from black-and-white to technicolor, imbuing my days (most of them at least!) with rich new shades of gratitude, grace, connection and synchronicity.
I began to recognize that I had more options in life than I had previously understood and, giddily, I started to exercise them. In 2008, in one of the scariest but most liberating decisions of my 48 years, I left a 25-year career that had defined me to “follow my bliss.”
I didn’t happen to know what my bliss was at that juncture . . . but came to realize it was connecting with myself, others and a sense of wonder through travel, photography and writing. These activities allow me to change my perspective, see the beauty in the everyday, ‘focus’ on the moment at hand and become more mindful. Ironically, it is through being a stranger in a strange land that I have gone from feeling like a perennial outsider to today knowing a greater sense of belonging, trust and acceptance. The desire to share with others my journey of discovery, and to foster the cultural understanding and goodwill shown to me, led to the creation of www.ViewfromthePier.com.
The fledgling site was inspired in 2008 by an $11.99 software program that my husband Tom gave me as a present, one that was an 11th hour grab at CVS on Christmas Eve! That low-tech gift enabled me to create pages using both text and images and I started matching photos from my travels with uplifting quotations. I spent the holiday in my PJs happily playing with positivity at a time in my life when I particularly needed it.
Since then, ViewfromthePier.com has grown to include blog essays, an extensive photo gallery, monthly interviews, a guest column, destination articles, movies . . . and more! Just goes to show you where baby steps can lead!
I am most open to learning when traveling. When taking a trip, I am in an induced state of anticipation and curiosity. I embark expecting to be in new surroundings, see things I haven’t seen before, hear different accents, taste exotic dishes, smell unusual aromas. I am more attuned and receptive to other ways of doing things and seeing life. And, of course, one of the greatest windows into the soul of a culture is its people.
Travel gives me the freedom to let down my guard, be a kid again and say to the people I meet “I don’t understand — can you explain?” and then have the time and space to let a “foreign” outlook seep in and marinate a little bit.
The people I meet open my eyes to new ways of seeing the world, while also reminding me of the universal nature of the human condition. Ironically, often the lessons imparted to me while I am on the road have absolutely nothing to do with from which continent the “teacher” presented to me hails.
I have learned how someone from the jungle has dealt with an ill parent, how someone from an island has tried not to be so hard on himself, how someone from the desert discerned what his calling was, how someone from the fjords found acceptance, how someone from the mountains relied on his faith in a time of self-doubt.
Collectively, travel, writing and photography have become a calling for me. Through writing about my experiences, I am able to re-live and share the many epiphanies along my journey with others who have the same yearning for a sense of awe and affinity. The very quality that makes an image or insight timeless is the chord it strikes in all of us. In choosing to “sing my part” by writing about my experiences, I have to really reflect on what the reverberations are, to resonate them outward with a clarity that rings true.
My intention is to not only to convey my own perspective of distant lands, but to provide a platform for residents of different cultures to offer their vantage point on their homeland, and the beliefs and customs that are part of their heritage. With my “Peer to Pier” interviews, I seek to to shine a spotlight on some of the remarkable people I have met and be able to channel their cultural traditions and spiritual practices, as well as their personal accounts of awakenings, courage and integrity. I have been privileged to have conversations with people ranging from a Mayan shaman to an Icelandic artist to a Kenyan eco architect; all of these dialogues offer a window into the landscape, history and traditions of a given locality, as well as an opportunity to see the “Other” in ourselves.
ViewfromthePier is also a forum for other travelers to share their experiences. As someone who long felt I didn’t have a voice, I want to encourage others to express themselves. The “Guest Room” column offers a collection of wonderful stories that span a spectrum of styles — travelogue, memoir, fable, essay — and are alternately poignant, funny, and thought-provoking. The main criteria for submissions is only that a piece focus on the “Power of Place;” destinations featured have run the gamut from Armenia to Venice, by way of Belize and Sri Lanka.
Last but not least, my vagabond ways make me a better person when I am at home. In my everyday life, I can tend to expect things to be a certain way — and often be an unhappy camper when they’re not! As travel has broadened by horizons, it has also broadened my mind. Today, it can occur to me (sometimes!) to be more patient, curious, and receptive to the unexpected even when stuck in traffic on my way to the grocery store.
I’m never quite certain where the path is leading, but it’s always interesting and I invite you along.
If you have found something on the site to be especially meaningful, please share your thoughts in the comment box on that page. You’re also welcome to email me at [email protected].
I look forward to sharing our travels and discoveries. Please visit often.