In love with travel books

Published: August 5th 2007
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Apart from arranging visas, train tickets, travel insurance and vaccinations, I am currently devouring travel books by the kilo. A book that has really touched me recently in its profundity was Daniel Odier's 'Tantric Quest - An Encounter with Absolute Love'. It is set in the Himalayas and describes the author's quest in the late 1960's to find a tantric master who could help him where texts and intellectual searching could no longer take him. He discovered Shivaic tantrism, a spiritual path that seeks to transcend ego and rediscover the divine by embracing the passions. After many months of futile searching, he meets Devi, a great female yogi who agrees to teach him. It's a most fascinating and moving account on many levels. There is a passage that really spoke to me - one day, Devi and Daniel go into town to buy supplies, and come across a shanty town inhabited by decomposing lepers. Upon seeing the people's suffering, Daniel remarks 'it's terrible'. Devi responds with the following words: 'It's terrible' doesn't mean anything. It's an escape. You are paralyzed by fear and disgust. Get down, move among them, take them in your arms, open your heart. I will come back to find you tomorrow.' Daniel does as he is told and starts to vomit violently. Suddenly, somebody brings him water, a shoulder comes to rest upon his back - and he realizes that suddenly he, not them, is the one who needs help. 'We were human beings', he writes, 'everything was reversed'. He spends the night with the lepers, amongst rats, eats and drinks with them, and it is only then, when he has given of himself and connected with them on a human level, that he can truly open his heart. The book is full of such profound observations and experiences, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Daniel Odier now teaches tantra all over the world:

At the moment, I am reading 'Wild - an elemental journey' by Jay Griffiths. She has travelled all over the world, such as in the Amazon and the Arctic, and met with indigenous people and shamans. Very inspirational and passionate, if a bit self-righteous and contradictory in places.

Other books that are and have inspired me are 'Holy Cow!' by Sarah MacDonald and 'Arousing the Goddess - Love and Sex in the Buddhist Ruins of India' by Tim Ward. I'm actually reading quite a lot of books about India right now, which is strange, considering I'm not actually planning to go there. But maybe the Universe has something else in store for me, and I'll go there after all. Que sera, sera!

Probably the most important book in making my decision whether to go travelling or not must have been 'The Alchemist' by Paolo Coelho. It just jumped off the bookshelf at me at the right time. I read that and knew I had to go. There aren't many books that have touched me that deeply or made a life-changing impact on my life, but this, together with some of Hermann Hesse's books, is one.


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