* Disclaimer: This is a really long post, more like a travel journal. If you are interested in the pictures goto Trip photography by clicking pictures. I have also written a much shorter article on some of the interesting events on my journey here. If you still want to browse this, feel free to use the menu.
In 2021 I embarked on a year long pilgrimage on road across the US, Canada and a plane to Costa Rica. Below I share what inspired the journey and some of the highlights of the trip and a few lessons that were learnt.
Use the table of contents to your right to browse through sections of this post.
If you just want to take a look at the pictures, click pictures.
The inner struggle
There were several elements that collectively conspired to turn the desire of a exploration that lasted a bit over half a year.
The pandemic if anything only exacerbated this latent desire. Earlier in 2018 I found myself thinking about either leaving my job or taking a break. Right before the pandemic hit I was about to take a leave of absence from work to go traveling. For the past 3-4 years I was no longer enjoying my work even though my colleagues were kind, the work environment was nice and I found the daily routine comfortable. I had also had chronic health issues for several years that I intuitively felt were related to how I was living my life. But convenience of our existing life can at times keep us fixed, not letting us explore our full potential.
My inner struggle was to bring in more clarity and courage to make the difficult decisions to let go of my existing life. The pandemic along with it brought a new crescendo to my chronic illness to the point that I was mostly in bed in pain and with fatigue. The few hours I had were spent in work and desperately trying to find solutions to my condition. It was a long and hard journey which involved few breakthroughs and a clarity that letting go of my life was the way forward. The breakthroughs came in the form of knowledge of herbal medicine where specific plants resolved certain issues in the body and secondly a deeper healing at the psychosomatic level where past traumas were purged out from deep within the psyche to the forefront to be re-experienced.
With a year of painstaking efforts, I finally felt that a new me was taking shape, the past year had just been a painful process of metamorphosis where old aspects of me died and new spring shoots took their place. I had little clarity of what was next but I had a strong feeling that I must become untethered.
I would like to talk a bit about three things that helped me flush out what the journey would look like and also to prepare me to take the plunge.
Early in 2020, spiritual teacher ‘Sadhguru’ had been driving across ‘Spiritual America’ referring to many native American territories on his motorcycle. Fortunately, visually captivating delights of his drive were shared in real time during the journey which was quite inspiring and uplifting. While pilgrimages are a part of older cultures I hadn’t heard the term ‘Spiritual America’ in United States. This discovery refined my purpose from doing a road trip to a pilgrimage exploring spiritually interesting parts of America. During his journey Sadhguru wrote a touching poem that described some of the motivations behind my journey
Of Roads and endless roads
of wheels that roll wearing
themselves down to transport
us to quench our nomadic lust.
Forests, Plains, Deserts, Mountains
and Oceanside all in a blur but imprinted, etched to change our lives with richness of this earth’s wealth of visual delights and climatic wonders
Nomadic lust shall forever keep you from Insanity of turning humans into heaps of things.
Reading the Surrender Experiment was beautifully timed. The book touched me deeply and instilled an attitude of openness and trust which guided my journey.
The book is the Michael Singer’s life journey where he becomes more and more attuned to a higher intelligence directing and shaping his life. The book weaves one event after another where Michael’s ability to courageously trust the Universe turned those events into remarkable synchronicities.
As per Carl Jung who coined the term, ‘Synchronicity’ is ‘circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection’. This points to an acausal connection that could be referred to as the universe or the divine.
Michael’s life seems analogous to flowing through a river in a boat, where one has the privilege to use the oars to move left and right or down the stream but it wouldn’t be wise to steer against the current. The current is the guiding current of life and it seems to always surprise us towards actualizing amazing possibilities that we couldn’t have imagined. Deep down I knew this was already what life was showing me but somehow I wasn’t trusting enough yet. The book implanted the idea of living a life of surrender moment to moment, willing to be surprised by the mystery. I highlight some of these events during my trip by appending the word Synchronicity to the heading.
The infinite potential was another book which I had read for fun to prepare for an informal work presentation. The book is by the late quantum physicist Lothar Schafer. The book drew parallels from the realms of quantum mechanics and showed how they also applied to our human life. You might have heard how a particle such as an electron exhibits what in quantum mechanics is wave particle duality, meaning that the particle can behave either as a wave or a particle depending on how it is observed. When it is not observed the electron is a wave or a cloud of probabilities or possibilities. These possibilities are not random but are mathematical; they have a pattern and as per the author there is a hidden or immeasurable order. Even though it is immeasurable by any instrument this hidden order is real.
However, on measurement, the possibilities of where an electron can be is actualized into a single location, also known as the collapse of the wave function. In the same way we humans are no different and constantly interact with the infinite potential and actualize various potentials here in this realm. The conclusion of the book is that if we are open and in tune with this hidden order also known as the infinite potential, we become empowered to creatively actualize a life which is harmonious, serendipitous and joyful for us and others.
The Covid era seemed to have made everyone interested in road trips so all the tools of the trade from Vans to RVs etc were at a high price point. I knew that I wanted to camp and be able to go off road so I ended up getting a Subaru Outback which in the price range seemed to be a vehicle built for going a bit off the beaten path. Interestingly, during this time the used car market was one of the highest historically triggered by part shortages and inflation which continues to be the case couple of years later.
Once I had the vehicle I wanted to do some work on it for storing my gear. This was intimidating as I am not really a handyman. I had to seek help from friends and family but in the end I had to learn quite a bit to get a basic trip ready vehicle done. Overall this was an enjoyable experience. Most of all I discovering a wide array a bit of tools and technology from solar panels to wood burning camp stoves, I must say that during these times I enjoyed hanging out at the tool section of several stores. Tools are a fascinating idea, as to how the correct tool makes a task unbelievably easier and how without it the most simple of tasks is an impossibility.
The Heat Zone
Starting in May 2021, from San Diego, CA towards Grand Canyon, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the dry heat persistently followed me, there were record breaking temperatures and fires on the way.
I had originally planned to camp at the Grand Canyon for few days but as I got there the sweltering heat too much to bear and I felt like I needed to escape it. I camped the night at the Canyon and got up super early to walk the Canyon Rim. Surprisingly the parks camp ground are super close to the Rim, you are essentially right there. What to say about the Grand Canyon it is a majestic site, a couple of times in my life, I have had dreams of jumping into a never ending abyss and being at the Grand Canyon felt very close to that.
Synchronicity at Santa Fe
As I ended up being at Santa Fe, the heat was still sweltering. Serendipitously I landed in a very interesting Airbnb. This time the host was a free spirited philosopher, carpenter, a novelist, a former pilot and yachtsman, and musician.
The house felt like a nexus of travelers who were on a journey searching for something deep. There were some interesting evenings in this house, deep dinner conversations and sharing of personal life histories with new friends who seemed like ancient. The conversation led to a friendship with a fellow traveler who had been untethered for many years and seemed more at home in this nomadic mode. It seemed obvious that I was placed there due to some deeper intelligence. This experience at the start of the trip energized me with inspiration and energy for the remainder of the trip. The message was you are on the right track, life supports you, go forward!
Entering the East Coast
Isha Institute of Inner Engineering & Falls Creek Falls, Tennessee
The Isha Institute of Inner Engineering is a mountain retreat center in McMinville, Tennesse. I have been there a few times and the experience has been beautiful. The hikes, the waterfalls and a concentration of people with the single motivation of personal and planetary well being is kind of a rare site. The place has some amazing ancient technologies of well being that are worth experiencing if one is open to them.
While visiting Isha Institute I camped at the beautiful Falls Creek Falls national park, which is laced with cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and lush timber trees.
Asheville, North Carolina
I had heard much about Asheville from friends as a hippy spiritual town in the conservative bible belt. It seem to fit that description. Being in the era of covid I didn’t get to experience the art scene in its full bloom which downtown Asheville is known for but I got experience the lush landscape, the mountains and thick forest. Known as the Blue Ridge Mountain region , it is known for its innovations in permaculture and traditional crafts for sustainable living. It is home to the annual Firefly gathering , which does many events on traditional crafts and skills.
It was one of two cities on my trip, the other one being Boulder, where I felt that the people of the town were happy and had spiritual depth. It took me a bit by surprise, when I started to notice this pattern more than a few times.
Atlanta was a short stop on the way as I headed to Savannah, Georgia. I stopped by at the whole foods and enjoyed a sumptuous meal, most of it was Indian. I had not seen so many African American people anywhere else in Northern America.
Savanna is a beautiful town, being right at the coast. I was staying close to the beach and I had a special moment being on the beach with a mild thunderstorm at night and it was beautiful to walk at the beach. The city was humid and hot in the day and coming from the dry zone it was refreshing. Savannah is known for its old historical town buildings many of them from the slavery era. Somehow these monuments gave me the feeling of unresolved energy from that period and it made me feel uneasy and not very welcome. I heard from my kind host who was an artist and former California resident that this was an accurate description of the culture of the town itself.
The Mystery of Mountains
Synchronicity at Boulder, Colorado
On my way back to San Diego, I decided to take different route and ended up being in Denver, Boulder area. Even though I was in Boulder for just a couple of days the mountains and the feeling of the town felt inviting. It seemed like a place I would love to live in. People in this town like Asheville were surprisingly friendly. I had a couple of beautiful encounters of intimacy at whole foods, REI, and a Nepalese gift shop. The Whole Foods in Denver area was unique in that it had its own look and feel in addition to the local products which spoke to the creative energy there. During the trip I started to realize how much of Native American land was there in the United States, there was a lot. Boulder had a peculiarity which I noticed in a few places, the embracing of Native American people and their heritage. Visiting the town museum I got to learn how the people in in Colorado had made long efforts to preserve nature, rivers and their public lands.
As I explored the streets of the town, I felt I needed to prepare for my approaching Citizenship exam and also wished I had physical notebooks for exam preparation. I also was in the mode of exploring native American presence in Colorado. What happened next was a bit surprising. I entered into a beautiful library in downtown I saw on my walk. As I entered inside, I laid sights on a notice board with a hundred if not more notices, cards, etc. The first thing my eyes rested on was a notice for a citizenship test preparation class which was going to start in just 15 minutes. This startled me a bit, I felt the universe winking at me. I stepped right in and asked the folks at the kiosk if I could attend. They told me I could and that also this was the first class since pandemic had begun. As I entered a nice boardroom, I was welcomed by a very kind lady and five or six folks who were there to study. It felt nice to be among folks who were preparing for an important milestone in their life. Two very personal surprises awaited me in the classroom,
- The teacher choose to teach Native American History for the full hour with a custom map of Native American tribes across United States. This was surprising because the whole test 100 questions only has two questions (2%) about Native Americans and doesn’t require any study since the questions are fixed. It felt that my hearts desire was fulfilled.
- At the end of the class after an intimate conversation as I was about to leave the teacher told me to hang on and asked me if I had the exam prep booklets which I didn’t. She gave me two a long and abridged version and also her contact if I had any questions before the test. This was a deeply meaningful gesture to me.
Magic of Matu Tapila, Wyoming
On my way back to California I decided to take a different route drive through Montana and Wyoming and then through Oregon.
In Wyoming I got the opportunity to camp at the Matu Tapila which was also the UFO landing site in the 1977 science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg. I was inspired by Spiritual teacher Sadhguru to visit a sacred native American site, called Matu Tapila or Devils Tower. He had visited the site in 2020 and described it a powerful energy center and the likely basis of Native American spirituality.
I was able to camp for a couple of days with a powerful view of the roughly 900 ft tall lava tower. I made a few rounds of the tower both during day and night and it was a special feeling. The camping site is probably the best one I visited on my trip, specially due to its proximity to the tower.
Synchronicity at Mt. Shasta
I had wanted to go to Mt. Shasta for a little while, however, in all honesty I didn’t know much other than it is considered important by new age folks and Native Americans. I also had some friends who had been there in the years gone by and unsurprisingly I had missed out on at least two opportunities of being part of such a group visit.
So, this time Mt. Shasta was on the way. Having been in Matu Tapila (Devil’s tower) I didn’t have much expectation if any and just thought of spending a couple of hours and make my way to the Bay area to spend the night at my brother’s before making headway to San Diego where I had to be for a citizenship interview.
As I planned to head out to briefly touch Mt. Shasta, a meeting with a friend of mine who had recently moved out to Oregon from LA precipitated. It was a detour from Mt. Shasta and added an extra four hours of drive so I postponed my drive to Mt.Shasta in order to still be on track for my citizenship interview in San Diego.
After the meeting on the Oregon coast I took the 101 S highway to head straight to the Bay but two hours into the journey the 101 was closed off due to a landslide for 3-4 hours. I quickly decided to head to I-5 S, an alternative route that put me two hours behind on my destination to the bay area.
After getting on the I-5, shortly thereafter I felt hungry and asked the magical vehicle I was driving in to find me the nearest organic restaurant. As I stopped at this restaurant at the kiosk I saw chocolate bars with Mt. Shasta written on them with a picture of a snow covered mountain. This piqued my interest a bit and inquired about the quality of the chocolate and ended up buying a few of these. Next I saw a second shop connected to the store with pictures of several spiritual masters on the wall. I knew quite a few of them and inquired about them. The cashier connected me to the restaurant owner where we had a good connection and learnt a lot about camping and climbing shasta. It turned out in this conversation that I was right next to the town of Shasta. As I took my food and got out of the shop, it seemed like a high serendipity on how I got routed to Shasta serendipitously and also got a lot of information about the mountain itself. It took me a few minutes to see the bigger picture and decide to camp there at Shasta. I ended up visiting a natural spring from the Sacramento River. I filled up some water there and also decided to sit and meditate. I felt a charged atmosphere there and found it easier to settle in.The place had a lot of spiritual seekers and travelers. A friendly visitor told me about the campgrounds and following his instructions I ended up camping on panther meadows at the base of Shasta Mountain at nearly 8000 ft. The mountain was pretty smokey from the forest fires and as I pitched my tent in the early night I felt a wave of lightheadedness and nausea overtake me. I also felt the fear of death creep in and panic soon ensued. I wanted to tell the nearest campers that I needed help. However, I noticed that the closest campers were singing a song and enjoying a bonfire. I felt that my mind was bluffing and so I accepted my fate and ended up lying down in my tent. It was a strange night, although I slept I was in the twilight zone, neither sleep nor awake, I felt energy coursing through the body. In the morning I was fresh and ready for the journey ahead. I climbed up the mountain a bit and took in some incredible views. I met a rugged older woman who had been in the mountains for quite some time and we were in some deep transformational process of hers. It was a brief but deep conversation where we shared our thoughts on good and evil and that which is beyond both. I felt reassured to hear her conviction on the truth that transcends all that’s good and bad in this world, especially in these troubled times. The night was spent with my brothers in San Francisco and I had a meeting that evening with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in six or seven years. We had been friends previous to my spiritual journey started in a conscious way and we were both in academia and science. He had recently experimented with a mild dose of psychedelics which seemed quite illuminating to him and he was curious to try more. We had a meaningful conversation about life which then veered off to the nature of reality. I shared my Shasta experience which to me was uncanny and full of synchronicity which seemed to defy the normal chain of cause and effect and space time. His response was somewhat irritated and he pointed out the small world hypothesis and that the odds of such an event were rather high and it was not an anomaly. I could see myself arguing this position a few years back and I was glad that I was more open and trusting to the surprise of the nature of our existence. My teacher often speaks of such events as God winking at you and to me this explanation brings a peace of mind and an elation of spirit which is a nourishment we all seek.
As I shared this with a dear friend, he told me that had I not made the choice of camping in Shasta that night, I would have regretted that. I really feel that to be the case!
Back to West Coast
On my way to California I stopped by in Eugene. I had a couple of good friends close by to the town so I got a nice airbnb and explored the town for a few days. I learnt from my kind hosts that Corovalis a neighboring smaller town was much more boutique and had less of the bigger stores and the bigger city vibes. I made a note of that and looked forward to exploring it at another time.
What startled me about Eugene was the big trees, perhaps a few hundred years old at times.
While just around the corner from Eugene Corvallis is a beautiful college town. No high rises, great farmer markets and co-ops, The downtown was nice as it has boutique shops and none of the big chains. It seemed to be full of the much needed human and artistic touch in everything. I have lost my taste for big cities and the hustle and bustle, environmental degradation and all kinds of pollution.
I had some great Airbnb hosts in this town where I learnt that there is a strong presence of artistic people in this town. I discovered two unique paintings in the genre of religion and fantasy that deeply touched me. The two pieces are ‘Once upon a time’ by James Christensen and ‘Kokopelli’ the Native American fertility deity by Kathy Cooney.
Going to the farmers market and various shops it was clear that Oregon is invested in the ecology of its food. The citizens seem passionate about healthy organic foods and products.
Synchronicity in Portland
I don’t have much to say about Portland as I spent just two days there. It was a big city with an interesting downtown. I made a stop at the famous Powell’s bookstore which was probably one of the biggest bookstores I ever came across. It was also packed and super busy. I made my way to the philosophy section and was impressed with the huge collection , almost like a library. My eyes settled on a book with the title of ‘Akashic Field’ a term I had heard before and know a bit about. I read a bit and ended up googling the author Ervin László who is a Hungarian philosopher and originally a classical pianist. Later that evening while meeting a dear friend I came across a book that had the phrase ‘Akashic Field’ in its title, ‘Tryptamine Palace: A journey from Burning man to the Akashic field ‘ . It piqued my interest and I ended up borrowing it, since then I have read it twice. It shares the bold spiritual adventures of one late James Oroc with the king of psychedelics 5 MEO DMT, also known as the spirit molecule. James had quite the personality that suited the extreme edge of this medicine that’s extracted from the venom of the Sonoran desert toad. He was a competitive para glider and died in a para gliding accident in 2020.
I probably will write a separate post about this excellent book.
This is somewhat refreshing as the online retailers brought the demise of the brick and mortar bookstores, although that’s probably not true anymore. The independent bookstores have definitely made a pivot in different directions, more focused towards the local communities they address along the same lines as with the food revolution individuals are also supporting independent bookstores, appreciating local artisans and writers.
The Jungle – Costa Rica
In November I spent a month at Costa Rica. I had been hearing about Costa Rica from friends and people and finally my friends who had just moved there for the 2nd time inspired me to take a leap. It was a leap of trust because I just felt that the logistics were aligned and I had heard too many messages about Costa Rica that it was now or never. It was probably one of the best decisions I made.
One of the hallmarks of Costa Rica was the jungle and nature. It was at its most glorious and powerful. One of the surprising effects of it was the impact on my sleep timings. I have had insomnia for years but the first day I got there I felt a pull to sleep at 8-9 pm and waking up between 330-430 am, which allowed me to do some great morning meditations. An hour before sunrise is considered an auspicious time for meditation as per many eastern traditions due to a flux in lunar and solar rhythms. From my circadian rhythm and meditative absorption there was really something to it.
Not surprisingly the Jungle is as powerful as it could be, but for me it brought in quite a bit of fear. I didn’t know what was in the jungle which now was very present. The sounds, the weather, everything demanded a different kind of presence. In hindsight my discomfort was a blessing in disguise. I knew that I had to overcome my hesitance from what felt unfamiliar and at the middle of my journey I had a vision which felt like an initiation to the jungle Goddess Tara, taking me to a new level of comfort to explore the waterfalls, the fauna, the cloud forests, hot springs and more.
In Costa Rica, there are quite a strong presence of expats and the locals are friendly. Being a fruitarian of sorts, I fell in love with Costa Rica, a land of abundant exotic fruits.
Some of the other towns and cities I drove through were Spokane, which was a very beautiful town. Driving through Montana was enjoyable, the drive was full of expansive views, small mountains and streams. As I drove through Montana and Wyoming I realized the presence of Native American land all over. As I headed to Canada I drove through Kelowna in British Columbia and Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta.
Throughout my trip from West Coast of United States to the East Coast and then to Canada, I was followed by extreme temperatures, fires and flooding. There were huge fires in Northern California, British Columbia, Oregon and Colorado. A couple of months after my drive through British Columbia there was some serious flooding that brought the supply chain to a halt for weeks.
That Feeling of being home
At times in this trip, I acutely missed the feeling of home. I asked a friend on a call if he felt at home and he said, ‘as close as a feeling of home you can find in this world.’ Something felt happy to hear that. The home can never be found outside; it has to be inside. I continue to be challenged by this sense of lack from time to time. It has made me appreciate sense of community, a creatively engaged life and intimate relationships. But at the same time I know that these very structures also mask that emptiness. I continue to strive for fullness in life and maybe I will bring it to the next adventure!