Making Travel Mystical


Travel has always been an important part of my life. I had the good fortune to grow up in a family that lived abroad and enjoyed exploring foreign places. Some of these places included remote corners of Africa, Europe, South America and Australasia. But often I find the most mystical places much closer to home, often where I least expect them to be. In the North Woods of Wisconsin where my family is from, you can find a village of inhabited gingerbread houses— if you know where to look. And there is a mansion near where I was born in Carthage, Missouri that is haunted by a trio of lost children. I’ve also encountered talking trees behind my grandmother’s house in Northern California. And, of course, the Gnomes in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

The key is to “travel right” and be on the lookout for mystic opportunities. Whether you’re traveling to the Nome Kingdom, or Nome, Alaska, I offer the following suggested protocol to make your travels a mystical experience:

  1. Before you go, get the oldest, most condensed travel book for your destination that you can find. The really important sights don’t change, but our perception of them over time does. Most guides written today feel it important to tell you why a particular place is important. But real importance is something one should experience for themselves, not be told about. If you have the history, your active imagination is your best guide
  2. Bring two personal items, no more, no less. I recommend totems, mystic navigational tools, heirlooms, gemstones, or stuffed companions. Choose wisely.
  3. Have the right map. This is the sort of map you might see a local using—London’s A to Z is one such example. Better yet, find small-scaled maps tucked in your travel guide. It needn’t include every road and landmark; if you can’t get lost, you’re not really traveling.
  4. Pack lots of thick, wooly socks.
  5. Carry a knapsack. Make sure it is more inclined to be called a “knapsack” than a “backpack.” Keeping it small will help you pack small. Remember, when planning, pack half the clothes and twice the money you expect you’ll need and you’ll have a happier time of it.
  6. Know what you are going to see before you depart, and then throw expectations away once you’ve arrived. Setting intention is an important part of an authentic experience. And authentic discovery comes to those who can embrace the unexpected by knowing what was to be expected in the first place.
  7. Alternate new food and familiar comfort food every other meal.
  8. Be vigilant for new friendships. You have nothing to lose approaching a potential comrade to share in your experience. Sometimes a friendship of one hour on the road stays with you the rest of your life, even if you never cross paths or communicate again.
  9. Take one good picture. If you frame one memorable picture from every trip, you’ll amass quite a collection that evokes much more than scrap books or photo albums ever could. Wait for your picture— you’ll know the opportunity when it presents itself. When you’ve captured your shot, put the camera away and go back to experiencing the present.
  10. Decide if you’ll return. This is not based on cost or probability, but on the connection you feel while you’re there. If you feel it pulling you back before you’ve left, you can safely leave some sights unseen until your next visit. If you feel no connection, consult your checklist of important landmarks and make your way to the end.