Would you like a chance to win a $100 amazon.com voucher?
Women on the Road News now has nearly 7000 subscribers and www.women-on-the-road.com receives 1500 unique visitors a day, so I need to better understand why you visit and what you'd like to read about.
I know your time is valuable and I wouldn't dream of wasting it so if you could take literally two minutes to answer this brief survey, I'll add your name to the draw for the Amazon gift voucher. Just one thing - you need to answer before midnight in your time zone on Sunday 20 May. And now... back to the business of travel.
Tell me, do you ever feel the need to slow down on your travels? Or try something less social, more introspective - perhaps deeper? Sometimes travel gets to be too much and you need a break. Or maybe the entire reason for your trip is to find some peace of mind.
What to do? Where to go? There's a lot out there so here are just a few things you might consider if slowing down and looking inward are on your mind...
Travel to sacred places
Some places have sacred or mystical significance and attract travelers seeking solace or introspection. Travel to sacred sites include those created by people, like Stonehenge or Machu Picchu, or natural ones like Uluru or Mount Kailash. By visiting these sacred places you'll be taking part in centuries of tradition or evolution.
Buddhist meditation retreats
Sometimes it's good for the soul to simply stop along the way. In Thailand, a popular travel break is the Suan Mokkh monastery in the South. It has a variety of programs but the most popular is the 10-day silent retreat. I know (very talkative) people who have tried it and have been awed by both the process and the results.
Become one with nature
If you love nature, you may want to get closer to it, even for a few days. You can watch wolves or whales or gorillas or stay in the rainforest for a while. Whatever you choose, experiencing nature intimately can leave you changed. I spent a month in the Amazon rainforest and came away appreciating the delicate balance between people and their environment. I also feel that watching wild animals provides a type of mystical experience - at least it has done for me.
Go on a pilgrimage
One of way of getting in touch with your spiritual side while continuing to travel is to follow some of the better-known pilgrimage routes - the Camino, for example, or the Hajj. I haven't done this but I will - the Camino (Swiss route) passes almost in front of my house. I have many friends who have undertaken pilgrimages, and they wouldn't exchange that experience for anything.
Try some ayurvedic treatments
Eating too much junk, having crazy hours or being on the road too long can wear you down so if you have a few weeks to spare in India or Sri Lanka, why not try the hot oil treatments, massages, special diets and mental relaxation that are all part of this ancient Indian science? You'll come out cleansed, inside and out. Kerala is a great place for ayurveda retreats - these are the government-approved treatment centers in the province.
Visit an ashram in India
This was already a popular pastime decades ago (remember the sixties?) The movie Eat, Pray, Love just reminded us that serenity could be found this way. Before you pick up and go, here are some guidelines on how to choose the right ashram, one that is suited to your needs.
Enjoy a yoga retreat
If an ashram is too intense for you but your heart is set on Asia, this is also an ideal place for yoga retreats. You'll practice your art (from rank beginner to pro) and retreats often include meditation, breathing, as well as other introspective activities, perhaps centered around music or dance. Here's a list of yoga retreats to get you started.
Join a drum circle
This is an increasingly popular practice which many people would call spiritual, since it involves becoming part of a community whose rhythm will lead you to introspection. You'll find them almost everywhere now - start with drumcircles.net, with broad information on the entire spectrum of drumming. I love African drums - and if they're in Africa, so much the better!
Join a personal development workshop
Just go into any bookstore and look under self-help - and you'll find plenty of titles that deal with your particular issues. Chances are the author (or her followers or assistants) also runs workshops, which can range from building self-confidence to overcoming addictions to fixing broken relationships to life coaching. These often take place in different countries - maybe right where you happen to be going.
Take advantage of England's sometime spooky reputation
Haunted houses and forests, out of body experiences, discussions with the departed... If this is your inclination, you should explore the College of Psychic Studies or the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain and check out their lectures and short courses, which take place all over Great Britain.
This is a bit trickier and although Native American beliefs are popular trying to take part in these traditions isn't necessarily a good idea. Your best bet would be to look at powwows.com, which has introductory information for people interested in pursuing Native American traditions.
A note of caution about spiritual travel...
Choosing an experience that promises much on the spiritual level requires a bit of care. Do your research: find out who is running it, whether they are qualified, if it's safe, and what experience others have had with it. I have a friend who enrolled with a seemingly benign organization only to discover it was actually a sect.
Would you like a chance to win a $100 amazon.com voucher? Think of how many travel books you could buy...
The last time I ran a survey was two years ago and traffic has grown so much since then that I need to connect with you all again and find out what you like and what you need.
Oh, did I say prize? Yes! Just for answering the survey - it really does take all of two minutes - you'll have a chance to win this $100 Amazon.com voucher if your name is chosen! (names will be chosen via random.org).
Worth a few minutes, don't you think? So please...
Recommended Books and Products
The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide (by Stephanie Lee) - The bestselling guide to traveling on your own for the first time. Filled with information, fun to read, and a quick download right into your inbox.
Video 101: Tips and Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling (by Lisa Lubin) - My other favorite download. Video is increasingly popular and Lisa, who has won three Emmies, shows you how easy it is to get it right.
My new Lumix DMC-LX5 - This is my new toy and I carry it with me everywhere. I'm not a good photographer but this amazing point-and-shoot (absolutely pro quality) makes it look like I am. Have a look at the Amazon customer reviews (click the Lumix link above to read what others have to say about it).
Travel News from across the Web
For food lovers...
Quito, Ecuador for Chocoholics
Guide to Eating Street Food in Egypt
Where to Get the Best Empanada in Argentina
Foods of Nova Scotia
51 Explicit Thai Food Pictures That Will Make Your Mouth Water
Cause of the Month
Illegal Logging: It's Not Just About Trees
Each year some 23 million acres of rainforest (93,000 square kilometers,or the equivalent of a football field every second) are destroyed, along with an estimated 50,000 species of plant and animal, many not even studied yet. At this rate, a quarter of the world's species may have disappeared in the next few decades.
Much of this destruction - 50%-90% in some countries - is the fault of illegal logging.
There's a lot of profit to be made in logging so big business is involved in it and increasingly, organized crime. Law enforcement is so weak or corrupt in timber producing countries that loggers are often willing to risk a fine in return for millions in potential profits. Importing countries, many of which have laws, don't always apply them due to high demand for wood products. Illegal logging, which often takes place in protected forests or parks, contributes to deforestation and biodiversity loss, of course, but it also breaks down legal systems and takes money from the poor by encouraging tax evasion and corruption. Indigenous people who want to protect their corner of rainforest - their home - are often harassed, and have on occasion been killed.
Rainforests play a key role in humanity's survival. They conserve the diversity of our species - biodiversity. They are home to indigenous people. They provide fuel, water, food and jobs. They regulate our ecosystems, acting as 'lungs' for the planet. Without trees, rain can't be absorbed by roots and returned to the atmosphere so the climate dries up, leading to drought. In some countries, trees are sacred. Trees hold back soil and without them, erosion takes place and floods and landslides become more common. Stumpy and cut forests dry out more quickly and can catch fire, like the widespread blazes that have already cut swathes across Indonesia and Brazil. And forests help stall climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide that is emitted by burning coal and other fossil fuels. Illegal logging has dramatic impacts. They are dwindling, and that's why many of them are protected by law, however ineffectually.
It's a sad thing to see a majestic 80-meter tree cut down to feed the plywood and chipboard industry, or to watch orangutans transported into captivity or worse, die, because their home - a protected forest - has been razed around them. At this rate, it's believed the 40,000 orangutans left in Borneo will disappear within 25 years, within most of our lifetimes. So will the trees, as centuries of growth are sacrificed for what - a bit of profit? What a waste.
To find out more about illegal logging and rainforest destruction:
The Observer Tree - Conservationist Miranda Gibson takes a stand against logging in Tasmania by climbing a tree platform and vowing to stay until the forest is protected.
Cambodian Logging Activist Shot Dead - Chut Wutty was one of the few remaining Cambodian activists willing to speak out against the rapid escalation of illegal logging and land grabbing in his country.
Greenpeace: Logging in the Amazon - Most logging in the Amazon is illegal.
Rainforest Action Network: Indonesia - The scale and pace of deforestation in Indonesia alone is so extreme it is having devastating consequences for species, communities and climate.
WWF: Logging in the Green Heart of Africa
Photo Story: Illegal Logging in Borneo
Illegal Logging Info
Threats to Orangutans
The Most Threatened Tribe on Earth
Lots of fun and interesting things you can do on the road to broaden your culture, stretch your mind, and provide you with a few tall tales to tell!
© Leyla Giray. All rights reserved. Women on the Road News is published monthly. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.