6. Your wife still has a conventional job with two weeks vacation a year. How do you manage to accommodate these different life-styles?
Having a two-week vacation is a travesty in today’s high stress world. How do other Western cultures manage to give workers six weeks off each year without falling apart? It’s long past time to change that paradigm…
To answer your question, as Cheryl put it so well in Tibet, “We’re not joined at the hip.” Like any healthy relationship, there is much we share and other aspects of our lives we develop on our own. Our longevity comes down to trust and giving each other freedom for self-realization. That said, she looks forward to the day when she can find the same freedom of the road.
Cheryl and Sadhu adrift on wild Tibetan pass.
Image © Brandon Wilson
7. How easy or difficult is it to come back from an extensive pilgrimage and go back to a more settled life-style? There must have been moments of culture shock when you are re-entering your life in North America.
It’s difficult. Each time I come home, I return a different person. Travel changes you and your perceptions of life and the world. Culture shock is inevitable—but it can be entertaining if you recognize it for its shape-shifting self.
8. What do travel in general, and pilgrimages specifically mean to you? Why do you choose long-term travel, and in particular pilgrimages?
Travel is like holding up a mirror to the world. If you are lucky, you will often find a reflection of yourself.
At the same time, travel enables us to look more clearly at our own culture from afar, and in doing so it more visibly shows our interconnectedness on this increasingly fragile planet. We are truly a global village. Nowadays, actions in once-distant lands cause reverberations worldwide. Smokestacks and global pollution affect us all. Violence, greed, ignorance and poverty are modern plagues and, if not stopped, may eventually lead to mutual destruction.
For me, a pilgrimage is a constant journey, each one building upon the last. Walking a pilgrimage reduces life to its essentials. It’s a chance to look within, as well as a time to communicate with a greater power. At the end of the day, all pilgrims rub sore feet, bandage blisters, take cold showers, and share food around the same table. As we share stories and dreams over that bottle of Rioja, we realize how similar we are, our hopes of peace, a homeland, health and security for our families, a better life for our children. Everything else is superfluous. In the final analysis, love is all there is.
Brandon Wilson, author/pilgrim, amid the poppies of Hungary.
Image © Brandon Wilson
9. What have you learned from your travels about life, people, politics and priorities?
That would take another book to answer. However, I talk a lot about these lessons of the trail in all my books, especially in Along the Templar Trail.
But briefly, I know that too often we delay celebrating our happiness, waiting for the major coup in life: buying the status car, a MacMansion on the hill, or the piña coladas of retirement. Instead, we need to savor the small victories along life’s way. Live your passion. As Mark Twain once said, “Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening…”
Listen more and talk less. The answers are out there, if only we can hear.
Realize what’s truly important in life and set-aside time for families, our friendships, ourselves.
Stand firm against fear mongers who would set us up, clanging swords against each other. Preserve the foundations of our democracy and guard against those who would dismantle it in the name of safety. Realize we are more alike than we are different, and that when all men are brothers, every war is a civil war.
Peace begins with each of us. In walking, we find a personal tranquility. Returning home, we share that peace with our families, at our jobs, and in our communities.
As I say in the book, “We are all pilgrims, each on their own path, each with their own story to tell. Walking is only the first step, but one we can each take to discover the peace within. In that way, eventually, war will become unconscionable. Darkness will be dispelled with light—one person, one step at a time.”
Monk at temple in Shigatse, Tibet.
Image © Brandon Wilson
10. What’s in store for Brandon Wilson in the next few months and years?
Rather than trying to demand, “This is what I want,” I try to patiently listen and wait like a surfer pausing for that perfect wave, knowing it will take me where I need to go. Yet honestly, even now I hear my walking stick calling from the corner.
Thank you, Brandon, for sharing your interesting life journey with us. Stay in touch and keep us informed about the next few steps in your journey.
Brandon Wilson’s books are available from your favorite bookstore or Internet bookseller. For previews and free pdf articles about the trails mentioned, visit: http://www.pilgrimstales.com. Photos from his walk to Jerusalem may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pJaLpWZWbU