Wanderlust

by Jill Renee Feeler


The opportunity to travel to foreign lands safely and mindfully has offered so much more meaning, joy, connection and depth to my life and my sense of self. For those who love travel, presenting stories of adventures and experiences even when the budget is limited. 

Experiencing historical sites with time for yourself is an important part of allowing your travel to be personal and life-changing. With typical travel, it can be hard to get beyond the trained guides’ trusty binder, facts and figures. In this article I include tips for making your travel experiences, even more worth it.  

Growing up, my family did road trip vacations mainly to visit family, national parks or beautiful new areas my parents were interested in experiencing.  I do recall an epic multi-state ski trip to Colorado we did when I was five years old. It was a big investment for us, even though we drove from Minnesota. We saved money by getting groceries and eating meals in the hotel room. But it felt very special for our family of five, my parents passionate skiers, doing what they love and including my sisters and I in that love. It was multiple families from our hometown that made that trip. Wonderful memories of that for me, even now.

I flew in an airplane for the first time when I was 18, just after high school graduation, flying alone from Boise, Idaho in the Northwest of the US to St. Thomas V.I. I was on my way to visit an uncle who lived in paradise.  I didn’t know Uncle Tommy well but and he his partner were kind of enough to give me a place to stay for a high school graduation trip, solo.  I paid for the trip myself. It was so beautiful there and felt so exciting to go. I don’t think I realized how unique it was to travel like that alone. That was my first time seeing the ocean. My uncle and his partner, Ted and their close friends were welcoming, kind and incredibly fun. I had started dating Jeff just three months prior to the trip. I remember calling him to check in from the trip and one time was from a pay phone on the street (it was 1988, well before mobile phone technology. I was having fun with them in a dance club/bar that was filled with the local LGBTQ community. I grew up having many close male friends that were openly gay and we loved dance clubs, great music and dancing till after my curfew so this all felt comfortable and fun. Jeff and I had set a time for me to call which meant I was stepping away from the club to call him. At first, he seemed concerned we were at a club/bar and he wondered was I safe and were there unwanted suitors bothering me. I remember him being comforted and reassured when I told him, “No, babe, we are at the gay bar, having so much fun.”  A magical 10 days on the verge of my being an adult.

Jeff and I took flights back to Minnesota to visit my relatives a few times before we were married.  (We dated for 5 years, completing our college degrees, each of us living at home with our parents to save money and focus on our education).  After getting into our careers, and enjoying being a married couple, we continued to love travel but we also had other priorities. We continuously created ways to travel on a budget, just like my parents did with me and my sisters.  By our late 20s we were comfortable taking “big vacations” to Hawaii. We were still on a thin budget but our savvy friends found a discount travel site where we could stay in 2-3 star timeshare accommodations near the beach, basic amenities, no daily housekeeping, no concierge.  It was a basic timeshare apartment, usually with a kitchen and even washer and dryer. It was a clean and comfy place to stay while we fell in love with Hawaii.

Each of our professions eventually offered us opportunities for overseas travel and extended stay business trips.  Jeff traveled more extensively with his career. My business travel was less extensive.  It did offer me my first experience in Europe in 1998 at age 28.  I loved Europe right away.

I was later offered a 2-3 month project based in Germany. This was a few years before we started our family, allowing me to take this incredible opportunity.  Jeff was busy with his career and couldn’t join me but supported my decision to take the project, and move to Europe for a few months. It was strange to be married and with such distance between us. I remember his business travel taking him to Asia and then Italy during my overseas project.  I was using my weekends for rail trips to neighboring countries, experiencing as much as I could during my stay overseas. On the end of his trip was a stop in Rome.  We planned to meet in Venice for a rendezvous, having spent weeks apart. It was incredibly romantic. We still have an incredible fondness for Venice.

He visited for a couple of weeks.  We traveled around Germany and to France, Austria and Italy.  My co-workers, all European, were shocked at how far we ventured in just a couple weeks.  They knew we were only skimming the surface at each area. But, when you only have so much time, it is a common tourist strategy.

My high school French was definitely put to the test at a small sea side resort in Bandol, France. Some of the French appreciated my attempts, which were rough!  Learning a language in an American high school in the US is one thing. Speaking it and living it where it is their language, is entirely different, as many avid travelers know.  In the larger cities it is easier because the local’s ability to speak English is regularly better than the tourist’s ability to speak their language.

When I had discovered my esoteric abilities in my late 30s we had two young girls, I was working part-time as a strategic analyst in a small tech firm and Jeff was also doing well in his career. As I explored my gifts for intuition, spiritual connection and offering new philosophical frameworks (the biggest of big ideas), I soon chose to pursue that work professionally. It went better than I could’ve imagined. My abilities were getting the attention from savvy professionals in the fields of consciousness, spirituality and mindfulness. I was focusing on sharing my gifts in a weekly podcast, at that time on blogtalkradio, which fed to apple podcasts and clients finding me across the globe. I realize how blessed I am at the timing and the attention I received, even just starting out. I know from my clients in the industry that are devotedly growing their business, just how fortunate I was.

During that time, Jeff and I started traveling to Mexico with our daughters, and sometimes with one of my sisters and her family and my parents. We fell in love with Mexico, the culture, the people, the Mayan history of the Yucatan and of course the climate and ocean.

Within that first 6 years in my work, I had already written two books and had offered very special weekend retreats in Park City, Utah.  It felt wonderful to get together with my audience, meet new friends that felt like forever friends, and sharing live at events.  I soon learned that some authors offer travel opportunities to their audiences, providing a way to connect more with their audience, create amazing travel opportunities and enjoy adventures to highly sought destinations around the globe.  I was easily drawn to that idea, offering my first travel experience in 2015 as a soulful connection to the Mayan energies, staying in Cancun with a well-designed itinerary. It was a huge success, my clients loved it and asked where we were going to next. Leaving behind my kids and Jeff at that stage of our family created an opportunity for them to bond and get to know themselves on another level. But, it was hard on my mommy levels to be away from them. Realizing the three of them were more than capable of surviving without me was a good reality check, if not humbling, as a very hands-on parent. I’ve always wanted the girls and even Jeff to know themselves in an individuated way, not just in connection to me or to us as a family. We are also our ones and I value that mindset, having benefited from having that myself.

A group of loyal travel buddies emerged and sometimes together on a trip, over a glass of wine at dinner or during conversations on the bus, we would contemplate where we should go next. On each trip there was a group of regulars and a group of new traveling friends, all blending together with a shared desire for loving connection, a sense of belonging and a desire to experience new places, people, cultures and living the history, the stories.  Eventually the idea of Egypt came up. It felt like a very big trip compared to the others I had done. I started considering it.

I enjoy long form podcasts and being open to new ways of looking at things. On a Joe Rogan podcast in probably 2016 I heard John Anthony West being interviewed. It was hearing John talk about Egypt, the mysteriousness, the other explanations for the pyramids and the questionable age of the Sphinx that I felt more personally led to go to Egypt. John talked about how many trips he had done there, including a trip with guests he was leading during the Arab Spring.

I discussed the idea with Jeff and he raised the safety concerns. I explored it further, understanding his concerns. We had faced similar concerns when we first traveled to Mexico. There were regular US State Department warnings about traveling to Mexico and yet our own research and talking with friends who regularly vacationed in Mexico offered a different perspective. When we were in Mexico we were aware of the risks but realized that tourists travel to Mexico from all over the world all the time, safely and without incident. Risks and danger are everywhere to some degree, including Hawaii, or Florida or California, etc. We’d already had enough experience traveling personally and professionally across the globe to understand those risks and weigh them accordingly alongside the actual travelers visiting safely every year.

But, Egypt was the middle east, and a muslim country. The legends were that those areas were especially risky and that they hated Americans. John told a different story. And I heard it. Do some Muslims, some Egyptians hate Americans, hate Christians and hate Jews?  Yes?  But so do some Americans.  I started to feel the fear-based stories of traveling to Egypt dissolve a bit, allowing me to more fully consider the idea. Jeff was still not in love with the idea, which I understood and respect.

Jeff and I have always been a terrific, supportive team. We each think for ourselves. We make decisions together. We each have our own careers and ways of doing things. We each parent our amazing daughters. And there are times where we see things differently. I don’t tend to tell him what to do when we see things differently, and the same for him.

I wanted to put together the trip to Egypt.  He didn’t like the idea due to perceived safety concerns but he wasn’t going to tell me know, recognizing this as my decision. I had his support to decide whether I would put together that trip for my clients, or not. And I knew his opinion, because I asked for it.

For that first trip, I arranged a private, custom tour through a major, global travel organization, knowing they had handled hundreds of such trips in Egypt and would have details figured out. Why reinvent the wheel?  The first trip to Egypt with clients was in Feb 2018. We had about 20 people which was perfect.  The global travel company delivered as promised and it was an incredibly successful trip. I fell in love with Egypt. I think we all did. Smiles all around, every day from all of us, whether we were cruising along the Nile, star struck by our sunset camel ride with the Great Pyramids in the background or just enjoying each other. We have the same Egyptologist with us throughout the trip, allowing us to make a new friend, and learn more personally about life and living in Egypt. One thing we all reflected on after a few days was that time felt different in Egypt. One day before felt like weeks ago. It was almost surreal, other worldly, as if we were living outside of the convention of time while we were together in Egypt. Was it the company of each other? Was it the place?  Maybe a bit of both. I do know it added to an already magical experience.

Sensing how special the trip itinerary was, I knew we would benefit from together time with our Egyptologist at the sites but also having time to explore, feel, wonder and wander on our own. On that first trip, I had to fight for that personal time at the historic sites. Trained, professional, well-educated guides are dedicated to offering you their knowledge, their stories and their passion at these incredible places. They could lecture for hours and hours at each site. And they will if given the chance. On most tours of historic places, whether it be Pompeii, Sacre Coeur, Ephesus, or Cairo, I find guides have a binder, a desire to teach and a passion to share. It took a few days before I chose to be more assertive with our Egyptologist on that first trip, needing her to understand that we were, perhaps a unique group, that were also at these timeless spaces to feel ourselves, to create and have our own experiences in these places. We weren’t all there for the recorded version of history. And John Anthony West had opened my eyes and heart that those recorded versions are not always a settled upon as they seem. I established boundaries in which at each site she would have 30% of our allotted time at the site, and we would have the other 70% together as a group but also individually for those who desired a personal experience. I asked her to be available for any questions anyone may have or even to offer a more conventional tour of the site for any guests that desired it. When we first tried out this model, she had her 30% first and then we would be set free for our 70%. It didn’t happen as planned. It was as if she couldn’t help herself from taking the full time at each site. I realized the guides have almost a set tape of information they feel trained to share at each site. Asking her to condense that to 30% was something she was either unwilling or possibly unable to do. I as the trip creator and my guests as travelers were compassionate towards her position and her passion. And we were also holding space that this was our trip, too. We didn’t want the standard trip to Egypt and the conventional stories of its history. We wanted our own personal experience, too. I knew, with my gifts and abilities, that there was much more to Egypt, these lands, these sites, than the conventional, recorded narrative. And I was also there to uncover, and revel in, those other, undiscovered layers.  I was proactive as needed and it was worth it. We did have our own experience as well as get sampler content of the conventional wisdom. It created some tension with the Egyptologist at times. I will admit, I began to somewhat loathe her trusty binder of static, lifeless images, which felt completely unnecessary given that we’ve come half way around the world to see, to smell, to feel ourselves in the actual places.  I would let my mind imagine her somehow losing her binder. Perhaps it would fall overboard on our Nile cruise, or get left behind at the Temple of the Hathors in Dendera.  She never lost the binder so it was up to me to create those boundaries, daily.  Being a leader and creator of new space, and fresh experiences often requires the proactive and well-voiced position of boundaries, which I was willing to do, lovingly, but firmly, as needed.

During our individual time, I left it up to my amazing fellow travelers to decide if they wanted to wander, explore and discuss sensations and ideas about these spaces with me or whether they wanted to have an even more personal, individual wandering. One of my favorite places in Egypt is the Temple of the Hathors in a very small town of Dendera. Most shorter, week long trips to Egypt don’t include it given it’s location. The main color of the glyphs in this temple is an ocean-like blue.  It is spectacular.  There are narrow, water-worn stone steps that go to an upper level which has rooftop terrace and additional adjacent rooms. On one of these rooms there is a ceiling that is fully occupied by a glyph of a woman sitting at a 90 degree angle with rays coming from her mouth. It feels like it speaks to you, beckoning you to lie on the stone floor and just look up at her, in silence, with her, which is most of us did, completely inspired on our own, in our wanderings. At this temple there is also a basement level accessible by the site guardian unlocking a metal door to its stairway.  Our guide, bless her, knew we would love this special area and she brought us directly to the site guardian in charge of that floor gate, asking him to open it up, just for our group. He did. The stairway is narrow and requires crouching down very low to enter the underground area, especially for my 5’10” frame. I went first followed by each of my guests. Once down there you can stand fully. We felt instantly transported. It was completely silent. We felt the glyphs covering the walls were handing us energy, like secret codes, for something to be, to know, to unlock.  But not to be unlocked or understood via our minds, rather from our hearts, our consciousness and/or our souls. We wandered and savored the special access. I will never forget it.

Later on in our wanderings of this very unique temple, I recall sitting quietly on a stone slab in a room with an open window, the glyphs energy streaming at me from all the walls and the ceiling. I reflected that I’d be back, to Egypt and to this place. I imagined easily never tiring of the entire trip, nor this temple, even if I returned 7 times. It would never get old.

And it hasn’t.

My second trip was in Jan 2020, luckily timed just before the covid 19 global experience. Having learned so much from our first trip, our second trip was even better, even more smooth and more polished than the first. We now do a private nile cruise, with 5-star accommodations, top quality transportation including personal airport transfers at Cairo.  Of course we still include a well-trained, professional Egyptologist.  But we now in advance establish the parameters of their role relative to our desired experience, even selecting them for this ability and willingness to be flexible, and leave behind the binder. As usual, she, too, became a life-long friend.

Trip number three is approaching.

Do you love to travel? Is Egypt calling you? Are you desiring to go but wanting to make sure any safety concerns have been addressed, particularly if you are American?  Do you enjoy one-of-a kind custom travel? Let me show you Egypt, beyond the conventional history, outside of the guide’s beloved binder, so you can feel it, in your self, in your soul. This is the Egypt you will feel yourself in.

We take all the safety measures you’d expect to enjoy and feel comfortable, with a well designed itinerary, where you have enough time to truly experience such a timeless place. We travel in a small group with a maximum of 25 guests, including me. I welcome those that are deeply steeped in my work and those that are just wanting a welcoming, loving, fun group of smiley travelers with deep questions, curious minds and loving hearts.

Also, I never met anyone on my travels to the middle east who hated Americans. We are regularly asked by smiling, friendly locals, “where are you from,” in solid, understandable English (thank you Sponge Bob).  Our travelers join together from all over. Even when the Americans tell them where we are from, they smile, warmly, in a very welcoming way. It makes you happy you made the trip, to see for yourself, that we are all just people, with families, and lives and challenges and dreams for a better tomorrow. Seeing that, in person, smiling back at them, helps you feel like you are a direct participant in making all of our dreams, as humans on Earth, come true.

Email me if you’d like more details and I’ll include below some related links for our upcoming trip to Egypt as well.

Cheers to those courageous enough to make dreams come true, ours and others,

Jill

Accessible Enlightenment for the Real World

Egypt March 30 to April 13, 2022 details at this link (designed to open in new tab).

Email me at jill@jillreneefeeler.com

P.S. This is an aside for any of my fellow Americans who tend to be self deprecating that most of us only know one language. I do sense Americans are not very successful at teaching others languages, for many reasons. I say this not only from my own high school french experience but also from the litany of Spanish language efforts my daughters experienced.  When we got to Mexico as a young family, it was clear their hours and hours of dedicated Spanish lessons weren’t enough to understand nor speak even basic Spanish.  Good to know.  I don’t regret the foreign language efforts we offered them, including as pre-schoolers. I do have very adjusted expectations of what those lessons will actually deliver.  I learned a significant reason for why foreign-speaking individuals learn English so much more readily and successfully than Americans learn foreign languages.  This is because of the popular export of American television and movies.  The advantage this gives others to learn English, and speak it very well, makes so much sense.  I met a man in Petra who sells oils and spices who taught himself more than 8 languages. We bought so much from him on our visit to his shop that he developed more to us at our hotel the next day. We invited him to join us and our guide for a drink at the beautiful outdoor bar of our hotel (Hotel Petra).  My traveling guests and I asked him for more details and he sheepishly admitted that he learned English from Sponge Bob Square Pants.  His English was amazing!  We had no difficulty communicating with him. He’d never visited outside the Middle East. US exports such as Sponge Bob Square Pants, Friends, Beverly Hills 90210 and now YouTubers and of course American movies exported and popular around the world help others learn English in a way that we cannot learn their languages. If I want to learn another language I will instead seek out a series I know well that is dubbed in that language.  Seinfeld dubbed in Italian, please!  I don’t think I can do Telenovela, although it would be probably get me much, much farther than any foreign language education I can get here in the States.  I might be wrong, but I also may not be.  We have our strengths. I just don’t think teaching foreign languages is one of them.  Foreign movies and television is not as widely consumed. Thankfully, the present situation allows more and more English speakers to communicate, no matter where we are.