Trippin’ as a Spiritual Experience
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
The strongest yearning I’ve ever felt was not for a per- son but for a place, a place I’ve never been.
In the Fall of 1996, I was invited on a business trip to the United Kingdom with a group of my favorite rocket scientists. I had a wonderful time with the research and development contingent of the Ministry of Defence, enjoying every moment of examining their prototypes and chatting over dinner with a couple of very handsome RAF pilots named—what else? — Trevor and Nigel.
The meetings were interesting, and I’ll always be grateful to the employee who kept a rare tray of ice cubes in her office fridge, “in case of Americans” like me who couldn’t fathom a hot carbonated Coke while everyone else had hot tea or coffee. That was fun, too—the way the Brits always have snacks during all their business meetings. Call it “tea and biscuits” if you wish, but I never went hungry during their Powerpoint presentations.
With every moment booked, there was no time for sight-seeing, unless you count staring out the foggy train window at the passing countryside and cemetery on the way to Farnborough every morning. The closest we came to sight- seeing was a visit to the Air Show area where we got an upclose look at—and our pictures taken with—the Thrust Super Sonic Car that set the Supersonic World Land-Speed Record of
763mph with its Rolls-Royce jet engines, so-cool cockpit, and aluminum wheels.
On the last day of planned meetings, my favorite scientist—who later became a UN weapons inspector for his expertise in biological warfare—told me my presence would not be required for the day’s meetings and suggested I see a little of London. I’d just started to examine my past lives and their effect on this one, so I had a few places in mind. I jumped on a tour bus and headed away from London to Stonehenge.
Our bus made three stops—Salisbury Cathedral, Stone- henge, and Bath—and I got to know the people on my bus. I was the youngest by a good 30 years, and the sight of retirees hobbling around England with their canes stuck with me. I decided then and there that I did not want to wait until my elder years to travel.
At Stonehenge, I’d so looked forward to walking amid the stones, only to learn that I would have to stand at a distance, behind a rope, like all the other tourists. I’d expected to feel overjoyed by the sight of such an important place in my past lives, but instead, I simply felt sad. I couldn’t explain it until years later when I saw a favorite house from my childhood and it was burned out, broken, destroyed. It was no more than a relic from the past, and it no longer belonged to me.
Then in Bath, I visited the Temple of Sulis and promptly took a wrong turn that separated me from my group while I purchased Scottish sweaters for my little girls. I lost my group and spent the next hours in a panic, finally locating my group as they drove away. I literally ran after my tour bus as it departed Bath.
On the bus, exhausted from my sprint and bruised from someone’s luggage that had fallen on my head, I sat wearily but pleasantly staring out at the beautiful countryside. At some point, we must have ventured close to Wales because as we started to make a turn on an isolated road, our tour guide pointed to the landscape in the distance.
“There,” she said, “you see the Black Mountains of Wales.”
I followed her gesture and turned to look. A familiarity clutched my heart and twisted. I watched as they grew smaller and smaller in the distance, and fought the urge to ask to be let off the bus to make my way to them. I have never, not with any lover and not even with my children, felt the rush of longing that called to me from those mountains.
Several years later, I had the opportunity to return to the United Kingdom, again on business and this time with my husband in tow—and armed with the knowledge of a few more past lives though my husband made great fun of those sentiments. We flew into Gatwick, visited the Tower of London and all the regular tourist spots, then took a train to Bristol cross- country for my meetings, along the way blinking at the too-vivid colors of the grass and flowers.
My meetings wrapped up a day early, and we spent the next morning making my pilgrimage to the Glastonbury Tor, one of my favorite places on Earth. After that, we took a bus into the edge of Wales but time was running out, we had a train to catch back to London for morning meetings at Whitehall, and I never got to see much of the landscape that had called to me before. Missing that opportunity was a huge disappointment because I’d spent four hours in a past-life regression to 6th century Wales and I wanted to see where I’d spent my life and love with a soulmate named Dwn, who’d been my High Priest in every sense of the word. Somehow, being there, maybe I’d discover clues to who Dwn was in this lifetime and whether he was my husband or someone else. I never found out, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t my husband in this lifetime.
For me, travel has never been about the tourist spots. It’s a spiritual experience of discovery, both about other people and cultures and about myself. I’d rather spend my vacation dollars exploring the Roman ruins of a 1600-year-old church or stone circles or any other “sacred” ground than some place with chintzy souvenirs.
And if I could go anywhere in the world? I’d like to see parts of Italy where my current novel-in-progress is set, which would be better if I could do that before I write the book but that’s not going to happen. And I’d like to visit the castles and wine country of France.
But mostly, I’d love to go back to England and visit Glastonbury and Stonehenge again, explore the nooks and crannies of rugged Wales, and most especially indulge myself in Scotland. So far, it’s eluded me, but I’ve wanted to visit Scotland since I was a tiny girl. It’s time for me to do that. Time to go. Time to save my money and make plans for my next spiritual travel adventure.
But for now, I don’t have the time or money. I’ll have to be a homebody a little longer. For now, I’ll allow myself a fantasy of second-best: me, sitting on the floor in front of the TV, watching Scotland on the Travel channel, with a buff hottie naked and hogtied on my floor with his head in my lap and me stroking his full head of hair.