The picture you see above is the only picture taken of me during my 13-month solo trip, age 19, traveling in the East. Here is my story and how it helped me to bring me to where I am now.
In 1973, after a four-day backpacking hike from Tuolumne Meadows to the Yosemite Valley, my two girlfriends and I were illegally camping right above the valley overlooking the majestic El Capitan and Veil Falls.
I guess the Universe/God/Source/Creator did not mind our illegal actions. Nor did the Source of all life mind that I had left the Christian church at age 16 and that I was an agnostic at age 18.
Because I distinctly sensed this message emanating from some unknown place:
“You need to travel and get out of the United States.”
One year later, after an amazing number of setbacks which would take a book to describe, I was on the plane to Paris, France. Nineteen years old, alone, with a one-way ticket and a backpack. No plans except to visit my sister in Germany and $1000 in my hidden pouch where I kept my money and passport. (Traveler’s checks, of course!)
I got on a train and went straight to Mannheim, Germany, where my sister was working at an army base. After spending 3 weeks in Germany, including hitchhiking and walking in the beautiful Odenwald forest, I felt a sense of uneasiness.
“This isn’t what I expected. Something is missing,” I confided in my sister. Plus, I was spending money a lot faster than I expected.
“You should go to India–it is cheap and exotic,” was her swift and emphatic reply.
“Okay, how do I get there,” I asked.
“Just take the Orient Express to Istanbul, and then find a freak (hippie) bus that will take you to Afghanistan. From there, you can figure out how to get to India.”
With those simple directions, within days I was on my way to Istanbul. And I found my way to India after six months. No, I did not get lost. I just wasn’t in a hurry. Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were such awesome places to visit. I took my time.
I knew I wanted to be a traveler, not a tourist. I visited some of the main tourist sites like the Taj Majal, but for the most part, I focused on spiritual and nature centers and stayed with local people who were constantly inviting me to stay with them. Mostly Muslims, these hospitable folks enriched my life immensely–none of them were rich.
Some of them were very poor, yet they shared their food and dwellings with me generously.
The highlight of my stay in India was seeing Sai Baba, an Indian guru who did magic tricks in front of the hundreds of people who came to see him. I doubted his tricks somewhat, but I interviewed a lot of people who said that Sai Baba had done miracles for them. I was convinced that there was something beyond the material universe I was experiencing, and I opened myself up to believing in God again.
After 4 close calls where I could have easily been raped and killed, scary rides in the “public transport” where going over the steep banks seemed more likely than making a safe journey, and having a bout with hepatitis where I barely made it to a hospital in Iran, I decided to return home.
A total of 13 months of adventures which I wrote about in my Travels to the East book which I will someday sell on Amazon left me with a revelation which changed my life forever.
You see, when I got that revelation on that wondrous, star-studded night in Yosemite, when I was only 18 years old, my philosophy for life was “if it feels good do it.”
All I cared about was that I felt good, and I was losing my sense of conscience as I cheated on my boyfriend simultaneously having an affair with a married professor.
I had grown up with a very tender conscience and was always into service, but influences in college left me in a totally different state of mind and heart.
So on the plane trip back to America, weary and not sure what I was going to do next, I had another revelation.
“The only way you are going to be happy is to serve and use your gifts and talents joyfully.”
I was so blessed to return home as a completely changed human being, committed to living outside what I now know was the matrix, although we didn’t call it that in the late seventies.
For the past 42 years I have been searching for my niche, and 2 years ago, thanks to my wondrous friend Bo, I became an animal rights activist and now am fulfilling my 42-year-old dream of building a community.
I feel so grateful. I also found Jesus to be my friend and guide. I am not a Christian, but I love him and I believe that he was the one who guided me through all the challenges that lead me safely home. He continues to guide me, and I am so glad that I don’t have to believe he is the only way. Love is my religion.
I sense that Vegan Utopia Ecovillage is going to be taking off quickly now that I finally know who I am and what I want to do when I grow up! I hope to help young people get off to a faster start than I did–for after my awakening, it took me 40 years to really get clear.
And when I got the revelation–that the only way I would be happy was to serve–I now know that I am to serve all of life–animals, people, plants, the earth. My mission is to help all of life thrive. I feel so grateful to all of the people, some of you who are reading this, who have helped me to realize how I really wanted to serve, focusing on love-based animal rights activism which will effect positive changes for all of life.