Two of my favorite journeys in life were spent walking 500 miles to the cathedral in Santiago. On both trips, I was fortunate to realize that the adventure began when the thought entered my mind and ended at the church steps. Many pilgrims spent too much time focused on arriving and miss the magnificent moments that happen between the steps. It is like living life just to die.
In July of 2014, I was speaking at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival. One of the perks was a free pass to see the other presentations. This was a very big stage for me and I was the lowest man on the totem pole. Five of my contemporaries were NYT bestselling authors and had all appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was really looking forward to hearing Arielle Ford. I arrived early and began chatting with the man next to me. About half way through her presentation, she introduced her husband. Guess who was sitting next to me?
After the event, I gave him a book and told him about my walk. One of his friends had walked the trail and he suggested that I find her on Facebook. After returning to my room, I typed her name into the FB friend pool and was amazed to see that we were already pals.
Laurie is a very special person and was living in Washington DC. About six months ago, she took a gigantic leap and moved to India to become the executive assistant for a prominent spiritual leader. Two weeks ago, she sent me a short message that said, “I really like it here and think that you should visit.”
I googled Rishikesh and discovered a city of about 100,000 people in northern India by the Himalayas. Wikipedia hooked me on two fronts. First, it described the city as the yoga capital of the world and then informed me that The Beatles visited the city to learn about meditation. Yes, this is where the sitar met Norwegian Wood on The Red Album. At that moment, I decided to spend a month living in an ashram on the Ganges River.
I tried to book a flight on the same day but found that travel to India requires a tourist visa. The questionnaire was complicated. About the only thing they did not require were the exact dimensions of my manhood. I overnighted the documents and began the waiting process. About a week later, I received an email explaining that personal checks were not an accepted form of payment. I was relieved to discover that a visa card was an appropriate form of payment for a visa and entered my digits on-line.
A few days later, I logged into the website and discovered that my application was on hold pending payment. I dialed 1-800-India and navigated through the endless numeric questions in hopes of speaking to a human. 1 for visa applications, 1 for existing applications, 1 for status updates, and 5 for the San Francisco office. The nice Indian man at the other end of the line informed me that my payment had been received, but I failed to provide a copy of my receipt. My file would pass to the next step after I sent a physical or electronic copy of my receipt. Laughter filled my head when he told me to download this document from their website and then email it back to them. Every few days, I dial the magic number and enter 1-1-1-5. About ten days ago, they assured me that there was movement and asked me to call back the next day for confirmation. I followed his instructions and learned that India is closed on the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.
Laurie and I have shared many fun messages about this situation. She recently reminded me that this was an opportunity for her to discover more restaurants for my visit. We both know that I will be in India when I am meant to be there. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the humorous moments in this journey.