Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Travel’s Priceless Souvenir


“I’ve orchestrated my life around travel because nothing else truncates imaginary woes or realigns perspective so stealthily.” ~ 💗Luggage Lady

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Two weeks after graduating college, I tucked a second-class Eurail pass into an overloaded backpack and jetted off to Europe. I saw the opportunity as a luxurious postponement of reality, but my ‘delusions of glamour’ shattered the moment that plane skidded to a halt. Far from lavish, the summer of ’88 revamped my sheltered mindset and fortified my coddled heart. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars (and my parents) for this gift.

Twenty-seven years and 56 countries later, here are a few introspective observations:

🌎 Hunkering in Dachau, Germany’s dank concentration camp gas chamber, death’s stench lingered in my imagination. Sickened by such incomprehensible horror, I focused on those who’d somehow survived the senseless carnage, praying they’d gone on to lead wildly fulfilling, dignified lives — complete with every well-deserved amenity.

(I have never experienced true suffering and have no excuse whatsoever for not adding positivity in my brief time here.) 

🌎 Swaying on unsteady legs in an African AIDS orphanage, jet-lagged and longing for caffeine, the guide announced the arrival of his American friends and the children swarmed. Frail arms clung to my knees, giant eyes gazing upward. I bit my cheek until I tasted blood to keep the pooling tears from falling and knelt down to join them.

(I know nothing of hardship. Overfed, overwatered, and otherwise overindulged — I have absolutely nothing to complain about — ever!)

🌎 When my Guatemalan tour guide asked if he could show me his new house, I agreed but worried what he’d be omitting from our tour as a result. I can barely recall the rain forest, but touring his minuscule cinderblock home, as he proudly pointed to the concrete floor and explained how he’d had dirt flooring his entire life, is something I’ll never forget. Shame prickled in my gut for all the creature comforts I had — and took for granted. Yet, there he stood, with his shy wife and cooing baby at his side, all of them beaming.

(How few material possessions we need! Family, love, friends, and the dreams we build together represent real wealth.)

🌎 I’d already been advised not to wander out of this Turkish port town’s tourist area and shooed from a mosque. Instead of visiting the woman’s designated prayer trailer, I roamed the residential back streets. My heart froze when I heard voices chanting, “American, American.” Before I knew it, a giggling boy and girl were grabbing my hands — just wanting to say hello.

(Political and religious zealots may capture the headlines and fuel fears aplenty, but they rarely represent the spirit of the people.)

🌎 As we prepared to sail away from Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands my husband smacked his empty back pocket and gasped. He’d forgotten his wallet in a massage parlor the previous night. The cynic in me thought we were more likely to be struck by lightning than to ever see the contents of that wallet again. Not only did he get it back, but when he offered a tip of gratitude, the business owner vehemently declined, saying, “You come back and visit me again — that will be my thanks.”

(Most people are good and decent and moral — and cynicism is such an unattractive waste of energy!)

🌎 Beyond the rear gardens of St Petersburg’s Summer Palace, my husband spotted his ideal food venue: a shish kabob cart packed with locals. Turned out, the chef/owner was Armenian and thrilled to have Americans patronizing his establishment. He brought a complimentary sampler platter to our table and sat down. The only problem? His English was extremely limited and, as you can probably guess, we didn’t speak a lick of Armenian. But, boy oh boy, did we ever have a blast communicating about his family and how he ended up in Russia, where we were from and what we did for a living…

(The desire to share one’s story is universal. Cultivate magical connections whenever possible.)

🌎 A darling travel mate was inspiring some Cuban school children to smile for our photographs. She shouted, “Cheese!” Seeing their confusion, she repeated the word in Spanish: “Queso!” Her sweet, albeit — completely lost in translation —  effort sent our group into giggling fits. The vision of middle-aged gringos practically rolling on the ground elicited enormous grins from the kids. Mission accomplished!

(A friendly demeanor and hearty helping of humor can overcome just about any barrier.)

🌎 Whether marveling over the Inca’s artistry at Machu Picchu or rocketing across the sky at roughly 600 mph, I can’t help but stand in awe of mankind’s ingenuity. From architecture to innovation, brilliance abounds! 

(Next time I start flapping my jaw about spotty internet coverage, or shrinking airplane seats, or any other deemed ‘inconvenience’ — may I honor humanity’s achievements by respectfully clamping my teeth over my tongue.)

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Travel’s Priceless Souvenir??

The empowering realization that we awaken our best selves each time we stretch outside our comfort zones and engage another, whether interacting globally or within one’s community: Greeting, smiling, listening, learning, and appreciating the diverse souls populating our planet, while celebrating how similar we truly are — hearts beating and breaking, just the same.

Machu Picchu -- WOW!

(photo from our Machu Picchu 42-mile hiking adventure 2013)

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43 thoughts on “Travel’s Priceless Souvenir

  1. Kimberly on said:

    Shauna, Thank you for this…it is so true! I just returned from Hungary, Germany and Switzerland. This could not have come at a better time! Love and miss you, Kim Easel

    Sent from my iPad


    • Seeing your name here warmed the deepest part of my soul. Thank you for taking your precious time to visit my blog. I look forward to seeing more pictures from your wonderful journey — welcome home my darling friend!! Miss u too. xoxo

  2. Love this post!! Wonderful lessons delivered 🙂

  3. Simply a lovely post with poignant vignettes leaving me wanting to experience more. Such stories puts smiles on faces and makes eyes well up. Inspiration abounds!

    • As always, YOU put a smile on my face, John! Thanks too for your perfect description “poignant vignettes.” I struggled with what to call them for so long, when I could have just asked you!

  4. oh, i just love that quote at the top. That is so true!!

  5. Wow, priceless treasures indeed Shauna!!! 🙂
    I applaud the spirit of joy and adventure you bring to life. Truthfully, I wish I had “organized my life around travel”. The little travel I’ve done, stirred my heart, joy and compassion. Like you I realize how blessed we are, with universal desires and differences that make life more interesting.

    Hugs my wise, wandering muse.

  6. I love, love, love this post, Shauna! You have captured the joy and blessing of having an open mind and empathetic heart beautifully. Happy travels!

  7. great perspective indeed!!

  8. Thanks for this beautifully written reminder. I will keep this to remind myself how lucky I am. 🌹🌷🌹

  9. My dear LL, You are the embodiment of grace….which vitalizes and illuminates every word and wise lesson you so generously share here, inspiring us all to soar to new heights. I feel so grateful and blessed to have you and your enormous heart and insight in my life, lighting it up time after time. Hugs to you, with deepest admiration and love

    • p.s. Will you be submitting this terrific piece to a travel magazine? I hope so!

    • When I write of universal goodness and magical connections, YOUR amazing love and benevolent spirit serve as treasured examples. My theme song for you has become “I Hope You Dance” because YOU are the true galvanizer, having lifted countless upward, again and again. Whenever I’m floundering (which is often), I hear your sweet voice:

      “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
      I hope you dance….I hope you dance.”

      Love and tear-filled gratitude coming your way… XO

      • Wow. I was crying in my cereal this morning when I read your deeply kind and touching words. Thanks so much for this generous, amazing tribute, my friend. I only hope I can live up to it! xoxo

  10. What a beautiful post of reflection and lessons. You have captured all of the humility and adventure that awaits all of us who love to travel. Thank you for sharing! xo

    • Lovely to see you here, Liz! You are such an inspiration for travel. I had no idea you moved back to Sweden…I wish you and your love every happiness and continued life adventure!! 😘

  11. Priceless souvenirs indeed Shauna. I realize I have many these too. The AIDS orphanage visit brought back memories of the one I often visited in Uganda. Wonderful reflections!

    • Thank you, Tiny! Coming from such a world traveler extraordinaire, I’m so happy you enjoyed this! Aren’t you writing a book about your time in Africa, etc? I’d love to read it!! 🙂

      • Yes, the book is in works. I have a full manuscript now, but it needs lots of work still – in one block of time yet to be carved out 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement to get to it!

  12. Hi LuggageLady. Maybe I like the area in which I was born. Though I did got to florida in 1991 and around a few places in europe. I doubt I could travel far not liking planes ships or customs. The farthest I have been in recent years is Jersey Uk to see one of my daughters and grand children. So do most of my sight seeing on the internet. Good luck on your travels. Thank you so much for liking my poem Family Gathering! Be Safe and Well. The Foureyed Poet.

    • I’m grateful you always take the time to comment on my posts, FP!! You are absolutely correct — travel is NOT for everyone. Whatever pathway leads a person to a state of appreciation and compassion is the only journey that matters. Thank you for your kind wishes and spellbinding tales!!!

  13. Such a well worded and heart warming post!! It made me count my blessings!! 🙂 Thank you for writing this

  14. How I truly enjoyed your post, and had tears in my eyes at some points. I really admire the way you think and write. Thank you for this Gift you gave me today. You are so right. We have so much and don’t even realize it. Bless you for writing from your Heart. Love, Amy

    • My Dearest Amy, Thank YOU for being my treasure gift tonight!!! We are blessed, indeed — and, with every magical connection, I realize and appreciate this more and more. 💗

      • This magical connection is happening more frequently, which to me, does not cease to amaze me. I am finding kindred souls, I am seeing synchronicity in thoughts, and I am seeing Love pouring forth in such a manner that leaves me stunned. Our Light is so Bright, and together, with all of those who Walk in Love, we will change this world! (((HUGS))) Amy

  15. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words on said:

    Souvenirs of the Hearts Sight, shown within humility and Grace….
    an absolute wonderful post…I think your words have immortalized what truly Matters in this world of ours…
    Thank you for sharing the mages imprinted on your heart with us…
    I really enjoyed each one…
    Take Care..You Matter…

  16. Wowsza, I love the stories and lessons you’ve shared with us! What a truly remarkable life you’ve led! ♥

  17. I missed this when it first came around, but think it’s terrific. Would it be okay if I reblogged it?

  18. Reblogged this on Christine's Collection and commented:
    In this post Shauna shares some of the precious insights she’s gleaned through traveling. Even if we never leave home, I believe we can get glimpses of these truths ourselves.

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