Review: Life is a Trip

A hollywood screenwriter turned travel journalist, Judith Fein knows how to find and tell a story. Her latest compilation, “Life is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel” highlights people and places that have been pivotal moments in her life. A true vagabond at heart, she isn’t content unless she is exploring the world and connecting with local cultures, allowing their histories, traditions, and ways of seeing the world to influence her own. She has been affected by a Newfoundland lighthouse-owner, a Guatemalan statue of a god which smokes and drinks, and she has assisted pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

She tells of a Maori elder who stopped a caravan of upset family members on the median of a highway and melted the tension by leading everyone into song, and how that experience led to her calming a dispute among friends by suggesting going for a walk. On the tiny island of Mog Mog in Micronesia, she was surprised to find a funeral tradition where the family and friends of a deceased man voiced both their good and bad memories of him in public. She came to understand that by doing so allowed negative emotions an outlet so that they don’t follow the dead into their grave, as it is forbidden to speak ill of the dead once they are buried.

She learned forgiveness in Vietnam, talking with people who suffered at the hands of Americans in the war, but who have chosen not to live in the past. In not holding her accountable for the political acts of her country, she was able to let go and find forgiveness within herself. By asking to be let in to a Mexican prison, she was able to see how inmates were reforming themselves through the creation of art. Elsewhere in Mexico, she was an apprentice to a local healer who taught her how to be a ‘curandera’, a good witch.

My favorite story was of how she and her husband found themselves cooped up and bored on a San Diego beach vacation. Reading a local paper at breakfast one morning, a small notice announced a Hmong New Year celebration nearby. One of the many hill tribes in the “Golden Triangle” that comprises parts of northern Burma, Thailand, and Laos. I learned about them during my recent trip to Thailand, and Fein was as fascinated by their simple courting ritual of playing catch as I was. In this story, she touched upon the key that drives a vagabond’s passion;

For days, I had been mired in depression, disengagement, and listlessness. How extraordinary that one state of being had so rapidly morphed into another. I marveled at how other cultures drew me out of myself, into a world that was larger and infinitely more interesting than the malaise inside of me. I was filled with admiration for the Hmong, who had overcome such adversity. I was grateful that, once again, I was excited by learning, by contact with people whose life experiences and culture were so different from my own.

Posted by | Comments Off on Review: Life is a Trip  | October 7, 2010
Category: Lifestyle Design, Travel Writing

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