July 2016. I had a month off from my job. I had to make the most of it.
Earlier in the year, I’d found a book at the library called, Sacred Places Around the World: 108 Destinations.
Because I live in the US, I looked for ideas of trips I could take that would allow me to visit family 1500 miles away, but still be able to experience something profound and special.
I already recognized that traveling has great potential to send a person on a spiritual journey. (It could be that I’ve long been fascinated with them, too.)
I wouldn’t say every trip can do that.
I mean, it’s possible, but harder to connect with your inner self if you go with a bunch of friends to a resort hotel in Cancun.
I say that because you have to get out of your comfort zone and an all-inclusive trip to a resort where you don’t ever really get to see the surrounding country isn’t exactly conducive to soul-searching travel, is it?
Planning a Road Trip
Since I was driving from North Carolina to Colorado, I wanted to make this trip special by visiting sacred places.
We also wanted to keep it economical for a few reasons: we’d be able to see more places, we had saved enough money to allow us to do this, but since I wasn’t working and getting paid, I also had to be careful with not overdoing the spending.
My husband and I decided to camp our way across the country, with the exception of the first night when we started our drive and didn’t know where or how far we’d get, and on the trip back when the two-day drive from Colorado to North Carolina would mean twenty-five hours of travel time.
We had destinations in mind, but we also resolved to be “open” to the journey.
It is, in fact, not our style to schedule everything.
If we were tired, we’d rest.
If we felt like doing something, we’d go do it.
If we needed to change our schedule, we did.
Using the 108 Destinations book, I found a place that I really wanted to visit: Bighorn Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Forest of Wyoming.
I’d never been to Wyoming before and we molded our trip around that destination.
We started out and after a stayover at a cheap hotel in Iowa (wow, it is FLAT there! That was surprising to me, given that I’ve always lived in one mountain range or another), we went to the Badlands in South Dakota. We stayed at a free campsite within the park.
The Badlands and Deadwood, South Dakota
We met people at our campsite, and the scenery was incredibly breathtaking: the rock formations and learning how our Native American Indian brothers and sisters survived there was pretty remarkable.
The Badlands are unlike any place I’d ever seen: it looked like what I’d imagine the surface of the moon to be.
Our next stop was Deadwood, South Dakota.
We stopped in the town, inspired to visit because of the famous television show. Normally I do not subscribe to such notions, but the spirit of the “Wild West” called to us both.
One place we had to go was Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where Calamity Jane and Wild Bill both are interred.
We also saw the gravesite of Seth Bullock, the town’s first sheriff. When I felt something “tap” my shoulder, I swear it was him who did it.
We camped in Spearfish Canyon that night and found the Little Spearfish mountain bike trail – just by chance! Those rock formations were also colorful and reminded me of the Appalachian Mountains, where I live now.
I learned I could live there.
The wildlife and beauty of the lush ferns and rainy skies made me leave a piece of my heart there.
That afternoon, we found ourselves at the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming – a crazy-interesting rock formation considered sacred by many Native tribes.
I also reminisced about how seeing rock climbers made me think about the Natives’ argument that it is sacrilegious to climb the rock: it’s like vandalizing their church.
My heart went out to the six nations of American Indians that had all lived by the tower at some point.
When I walked the trail around the tower, I felt a buzz of raised consciousness, and a connection to the earth that I didn’t even know I’d been craving.
I can completely understand why everyone should leave a place like this unspoiled by modern desires and demands.
Bighorn Medicine Wheel
After that, we began our ascent to the 10,000 ft. high site of Bighorn Medicine Wheel.
When we arrived high atop the Bighorn Mountains, something came over me. It was like my breath automatically went into meditation mode.
Husby and I decided to walk the mile and a half to the site instead of driving.
It became a little pilgrimage.
But the walk made us contemplate our journey and take in the scenery.
In that moment, I felt so insignificant and small, but so close to my Source and spirit – more than I think I ever had before.
When we arrived at the site, you follow the trail around the wheel. The rocks are laid out to follow the equinoxes and have been there 10,000 years or more.
I briefly spoke with the park ranger who said that people “just know this place is special. They just know it’s sacred, but no one can tell you an exact reason why.”
She was right.
My consciousness was buzzing with mindfulness and awareness, and I felt so alive. I felt a spiritual energy that I can only describe as a zinging feeling, like I was electrically charged with positive ions.
Somehow it made me think that if we can all connect with each other, and connect back to the earth, that we’ll be all right.
That is also part of the impetus in creating this website, too.
After leaving Bighorn, I felt a sense of nostalgia. I wanted to stay there, to drink in the sacred juice that told me that everything would be okay.
I only sipped a little of that proverbial spiritual juice so that it could power me for the next leg of my journey.
We arrived in Thermopolis late that afternoon and found a campsite with a wonderful pool of hot springs.
The healing waters, as they called them. Warm. Soothing. Salty. Smelling of minerals and sulphur.
After days of camping, the heated waters rolled over my body as it accepted a call to spirituality and to a life of wanting to spread love.
A Homeless Night
After leaving Thermopolis, we headed down to Colorado where we’d go see my family the next day. It was the night of July 3rd and we thought too late about how it would be extremely difficult to find a place to stay – camping or otherwise.
We searched for hours to no avail.
We ended up at a truck stop at 1am in the morning and the bright golden rays of the sun woke me up at 5am.
It was a restless night, but one that made me even more sympathetic to those that don’t have a safe place to stay.
It was a humbling experience: one that I welcome because I can always take away lessons.
The rest of the trip was spent in the familiar surroundings of my hometown and family. As much as I love spending time with them, I couldn’t help but think about the places we’d been.
How I’d Changed
The experiences and things that I saw – just in those few places we went – made me feel alive. We talked to people on their own journeys. We both remarked about the concept of “home.”
Home is such an interesting word. The saying “home is where the heart is,” rings true here.
Home is with family. With friends and loved ones. Home is wherever you are on the journey. Home is our planet and we just end up at different places on it.
I learned that I love that electric feeling of being close to the earth and with Source.
I learned that I love having reverence for others’ sacred places because I feel that sacredness in my own heart.
Home. Everywhere and in my heart. All at once.
This is why travel can help you to open up and experience profound spirituality. An intentional trip to a sacred place can change your life.