Posted in Craft of writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Writing

THE HERO’S JOURNEY–The Path & Encounter (Step#3)

Raul and Patricia’ hometown, Lima, Peru, houses 11 million people—an urban environment by anyone’s definition. They and their three children have lived in multiple locations and cultures in the United States, Puerto Rico and Peru. For the Raul and Patricia it is a return home. The entire family returns as fluent bi-lingual, global citizens.Raul&Patricia

A surprise when I arrive—Lima is a desert location, recording an average of 1 and 1/2 inch of rain a year. It is not apparent, until we drive out of the built-environment (city) and into the natural-environment (mountainous countryside), what the desert actually looks like. It appears as moonscape, barren of any vegetation, except where someone had planted a green living thing and watered it.

PiscoSour&WineOur trip to visit them is a challenge for me, less so for Lynn. We have avoided urban areas as a deliberate choice to miss out on traffic, smog and big-city stress. We have each studied Spanish, but unfortunately have not mastered it. On the other hand, we have put ourselves in the world again and again to explore and meet others. We choose to do that again by visiting Raul and Patricia’s family, whom we met in Iowa years ago, now in Peru.

We celebrate our arrival with a Pisco Sour, Peru’s national cocktail. But Lynn cannot decide between it and a glass of wine. He has his own challenges.

A refresher on the Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell introduced the world to The Hero’s Journey. He discovered similarities of what happened in stories, fables, and fairy tales after years of study. He called these similar steps The Hero’s Journey. There are many ways to explain this layered epic journey; one way is to outline five stages, as Joseph Dispenza had done in The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey to Self-Discovery (2002):

  • the call to journey;
  • preparation for the journey;
  • the path and encounter;
  • the return;
  • and finally reflection in telling the tale to others at home.

HERO is meant, not as a male model; but an inclusive, universal archetype.

Archetype = a classic prototype

I have previously covered: Step 1: The Call and Step 2: The Preparation. Now, I introduce  Step 3: The Path and Encounter through our trip to Lima, Peru.

Our path took us from the airport to their home, to the university where Raul works, to their Regatta Club, to a full-service grocery store and local open market, to their church, and to the sights of the city and their favorite haunts (restaurants, bistros, and bars).

Our purpose for this trip was not so much to play tourist, but to become a part of the family for ten days and experience their life as much as possible in ten days. They allowed us to share their life, specifically asking us to come when their youngest would celebrate her first communion. Wow, what an invitation to a significant part of their life!


All3KidsEach of the three kids included us in their life in different ways. I’ll share our encounters with the two adult children Daniela, 25 and Ian, 20 at the time.

Daniela, the young professional working a day job, while creating her own business with a friend and earning a second bachelor’s degree in Business. She and her friend invite us to the garment market district, where they seek manufacturers of production for their beachwear line. They need fabric to make sample designs for a market fair. This includes a pattern designer, a seamstress, and the product finisher. They prefer to find all steps of manufacturing within one family, so they do not have to move their sample product from one manufacturer to the next.

With travel instruction from Daniela to look “local,” I tag along without purse, keys, money, except for a phone to take photos. Lynn and I need some soles (Peru’s currency) and ask Daniela if she can take us to a bank to get money exchanged. “Sure, we will do that on our way to the market district.”

We arrived in the market district and are looking for parking, when Daniela stops in the middle of a street. A man runs over to her car and she turns to us and says, “Where are your dollars?” Lynn pulls out a fifty dollar bill. She hands it to the man through her window. He exchanges the money, hands her the soles, then she gives them to Lynn. Both stunned, Lynn and I don’t even know how to ask, “What just happened?”

Daniela (far left) and her friend, Claudia negotiates with one of the manufacturers.


We learned from Daniela her take on the Peruvian economy. “The way we are going to grow the economy is not like most countries by building big companies; but we are a country of entrepreneurs, people starting small businesses online, out of their homes or cars. We are the future of Peru.”

On most days Daniela spends time with us before work over our mutual love of coffee and after work at a bistro or pub with a drink and/or supper. Once upon a time with our own daughter, we established “porch talks” when we discussed the mundane and the mandated parts of her life growing up. We found ourselves on the patio at their apartment discussing life, economics, politics, culture, work and college. Our “porch talks” became special time with each member of the family.

Ian, a typical college sophomore student, feels a bit insecure about college, his major, and even whether Peru is the place for him. You see, he is more an American than all the rest of the family, due to circumstances and perhaps his personality. Because Lynn and I have just recently retired from working with college students, we had several conversations about college course work, departmental requirements, peers and fitting in.Ian

Ian is studying architecture at a local university and feels his creativity is stymied by academic professors (like many other students perhaps). He feels like an outsider in a new university with his peers, left out of cliques and circles. We discussed who he is and what he wants to do.

Lynn discusses the cultures Ian has lived in and why he thinks he is more American. Ian thinks out loud, “I’ve lived more of my life in the United States than in Peru. My first language is English, not Spanish. I’m part of this family, but everyone else feels more Peruvian than I do. And I feel excluded by classmates at college.”

Lynn asks, “Does you want to be included?”


“Then why let it bother you?”

Ian’s brow furrows. “I’ll have to think about that.” He is the kind to think hard and long about it. He is a soulful kind of person.

I visit with him about being a global citizen, like I did with my students previous.

“Because you have seen and experienced things that most Americans have not, this will make you an asset to employers and architectural design companies in the U.S.”

“Like what kind of things do you mean?” he asked.

“I have noticed several elements of design since arriving in Peru that I’ve never seen. And I’ve experienced things I never have before.”

“Like what?” Ian wants to know.

  • The toothbrush holder in the girls bathroom. (photo at bottom)
  • Daniela’s exchange of our $50 for 158 soles (their currency) from a man on the street from her car.
  • An appetizer of french fries with 2 sunny-side-up eggs and prosciutto
  • Another, mashed potatoes shaped into tiny square with tuna salad on top.
  • Experienced my first all “raw” meal at Punto Organico Restaurant.
  • Learned a new slogan, “PPP or the political power of products.”
  • Eaten a root vegetable, “olluco,”  similar to a potato, carrot and turnip, but not.
  • Men with mobile washing equipment cleaning cars in parking lot at the Regatta Club
  • Toilets have paper by the sink, not in stalls; I must get it before going into a stall.
  • An hour and a half out of the city the air turns to dust—no vegetation.
  • In a restaurant seats have a “purse clasp” I looped my purse strap through for security (photo below)
  • Vertical gardens  growing up the sides of apartment buildings 5+ stories high
  • Street signs for “telepizza” (pizza by phone) and “sofa cafe” (only sofas in cafe)
  • The buffet table setting with forks laid out with knives on their edge nested in the tines of forks. (photo below)
Purse on Chair
Toothbrush Holder
Knifes sitting in fork tines

Ian’s head begins to nod, when he realizes he too sees the world in general, as well as specifically architecture, buildings and structures in different ways. All this because of opportunity to view  different things in his world than many of his peers (and perhaps his professors, too).

College seems dull, not motivating at all. But he can see that his lack of fitting what the professor wants may be a lack on the part of the professor, not his.


Often the landscape and/or experiences of our travel offers metaphors to our inner lives. As an example, the desert territory I found in Lima. When my life feels dry and lifeless, I can remember the Peruvian ecosystem in coastal Lima and nearby mountains where citizens plant and water greenery to add life-giving lushness in the city or countryside. Meaning of metaphor: I can create my life and the things I want in it.

In another attempt to find metaphor from my travel for my own inner life, I can recall Daniela’s attempts to start a new business to add interest, motivation, and richness to her dull job. When I suggest to Ian that he use what he has experienced as a global citizen to create his own mark on the world, I can apply that advice to myself. Meaning of metaphor: I can use my unique travel experiences to understand characters in my novel to help me write them as well-rounded characters with inconsistencies and paradoxical behaviors.

As Dispenza states in The Way of the Traveler (page 83), “Travel transforms us … At the heart of that journey ‘out,’ we happen upon the deepest mysteries ‘within.” With the help of Daniela and Ian, I’m am being transformed.


QUESTION: What metaphors for your inner life have you encountered in your outward life of travel (whether to Timbuktu or to town meeting)?




Posted in Travel, Travel Writing, Writing

THE HERO’S JOURNEY – Preparation (Step #2)

Books on my desk checked out from the public library to prepare for my travels to Peru, include the following:

  1. Pizarro and the Conquest of the Incan Empire in World History, by Richard Worth, 2000.
    • I read this one cover to cover, but it was a short history book with 120 pages. I recognized the storyline from North American history – colonization, conquest, and capture. Same story, different names.
  2. Between the Lines: The Mystery of the Giant Ground Drawaing of Ancient Nasca, Peru by Anthony F. Aveni, 2000.
    • I read parts of this one, studied the photos and captions that told the story without details. At least I will know about Nasca when I get there.
  3. The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes, by Johan Reinhard (National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence), 2005.
    • I had not heard of the Ice Maiden before and found the story fascinating, especially through the eyes and hands of an archeologist and explorer. With only a limited time, I skimmed this for the gist of the discovery and recovery of the Ice Maiden. Fascinating. I’ll be pulling this from the library shelves when I get back. Again, I’ll know what folks are talking about when they reference the Ice Maiden.
  4. Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams, 2011.
    • I never got to this one, but because I will not see Machu Picchu, I decided I could read it in the future.
  5. Genesis, first volume in Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy, 1982 in Spain and the translation copyright is 1985 by Cedric Belgrage.
    • A non-traditional book, it is “both a meditation on the clashes between the Old World and the New, and in the author’s words, an attempt to ‘rescue the kidnapped memory of all America’.” (from the back cover) Each entry was less than half a page typically and observational in retrospect. I hunted to find entries on Peru, so gave up quickly, because of time.

Often my preparation for a trip is to 1) read about the place (see the list of books above I checked out to review), 2) become familiar with a map of the city or region, 3) digest some cultural literature, and 4) purchase gifts for hosts and people along the way. I took these steps in preparation for visiting friends in Lima, Peru.

A refresher on the Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell introduced the world to The Hero’s Journey. He discovered similarities of what happened in stories, fables, and fairy tales after years of study. He called these similar steps The Hero’s Journey. There are many ways to explain this layered epic journey; one way is to outline five stages:

  • the call to journey;
  • preparation for the journey;
  • the path and encounter;
  • the return;
  • and finally reflection in telling the tale to others at home.

HERO is meant, not as a male model, but an inclusive, universal archetype.

Archetype = a classic prototype

(Months ago I blogged about The Call (Step #1). My blog went down and I did not follow-up right away.)

Now below, I continue the series on the Hero’s Journey, Part #2 The Preparation.


First step, I bought the ONLY travel book in my local Hastings on Peru. I read all the parts that would apply to my trip and some others of interest to me, so I could discuss these things while there and wouldn’t seem uninformed about their country. Next step, I studied the map of Lima to have a sense of the city before arriving. I tore out pages that referred to the city and packed them.

Third step, I bought a classic Peruvian novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Storyteller from our local library’s weekly used book sale. This would be more of a challenge than I thought. I completed the book while in Lima, but found reading a summary prior to tackling the book would have helped. I easily confused the two main characters. Latino literature is full of mysterious, symbolic or fantastical imagery, which further mangled my understanding. But when I learned that Latino writers often had to write in “code” or were shot of truth telling, it made more sense. That lesson alone taught me about the restrictive governments or military powers that long held sway in south American countries.

And the final step, I emailed Patricia with ideas I had thought of for Mariana’s confirmation gift. I asked Patricia, Mariana’s mom, to give me guidance so I could please her. Patricia sent me a picture of a pencil case Mariana wanted (item number and color) and could not get in Lima. It arrived the day before we left. Whew!

I travel with these items and carefully packed clothes for everyday and professional presentation attire that can be combined and worn interchangeably.  Our hosts advised us to bring warm clothes. We underestimated how warm, but would manage by borrowing jackets from Raul and Patricia.

In addition for our volunteer task, Lynn and I prepared a two-hour presentation on “Experiential Learning Beyond the Classroom.”  We selected a few PowerPoint visuals to guide the facilitation with faculty at Raul’s university where he works, Científica Universidad del Sur. We divided up parts according to our experience and knowledge base. We were ready.

We packed lightly for an easy trip from San Antonio to Mexico City to Lima. Though traveling far, we stayed within the same time zone, except the US was on daylight-savings time, making the time difference only one hour.


Now, I have illustrated how I use the the Call and the Preparation steps of the Hero’s Journey to get ready for a trip.

For travelers: Can you relate to either of these passages that ready us for a journey to either see the relatives across town, or a journey around the world to explore another culture? Will you share an example of either or both steps in the Hero’s Journey and how important they were to your travel?

For writers: Can you use the Hero’s Journey to write a memoir of a time in your life? Can you find ways to weave the Hero’s Journey into your fiction stories? How can you make use of the Hero’s Journey to enrich your writing?

LEAVE YOUR ANSWERS BELOW. I can’t wait to hear from you!




Posted in Spirituality, Travel, Travel Writing

THE HERO’S JOURNEY – The Call (Step #1)

Joseph Campbell introduced the world to The Hero’s Journey in a book entitled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. After years of study he discovered similar storylines in stories, fables, and fairy tales. He called these similar steps, The Hero’s Journey. Though there are many ways to explain this layered epic journey, one simple way is to outline the five stages:

  • the call to journey;
  • preparation for the journey;
  • the path and encounter;
  • the return; and finally
  • reflection in telling the tale to others at home.

HERO is meant, not as a male model, but an inclusive, universal archetype.

Archetype = a classic prototype

As a traveler, an adult educator, writer and blogger, I believe I should not only write about the Hero’s Journey, but I should model what it is and how we can use this ideal in our own lives. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to share how I use these steps as I get ready to travel to Lima, Peru for a visit with friends. This week I’ll write about THE CALL.

I will not be touring Machu Picchu (one of the wonders of the world), which would make this an epic spiritual experience—a true Hero’s Journey. However, The Hero’s Journey, as an outline or model, helps us see and realize travel as a practical AND spiritual experience, regardless the weight of the travel or the experience.


Joseph Dispenza in his book, The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey of Self-Discovery says the call to journey is a request of our inner self. Often we are ready for a shift, change or perhaps even a transformation in our lives. When we answer the call, our intention sets something in motion—whether you call it God’s hand, the universe, or spirit.

My husband Lynn and I try to make a trip (just the two of us) each year, in addition to visiting family. In recent years we have traveled within the U.S. borders. In the past however, we have journeyed to such exotic places as Japan, South Africa and most recently in 2008 to Turkey. It has been a long time since we have been out of the country, except for our annual month-long stay on a Mexican island.

Lynn and I are both adventuresome, but in different ways. He is more physical in his need to step into the world and explore; while, I am more intellectual or interested in exploring ideas and relationships.

For the last year or so, Lynn has been talking about going to see our friends, Raul and Patricia in Lima, Peru, where they grew up and currently live and work. (They and their children are bilingual by living in English-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries since we last saw them.) Raul had been Lynn’s graduate student decades ago. We have had them in our home many times in the States and know their kids, Daniella and Ian. But have not met their youngest, Mariana, born since we last saw them.

Lynn and I asked them early this year when would be a good time for us to visit, April or September. They opted for September, so when Lynn went to purchase airline tickets, he asked Raul, “early or late September?” Because Mariana experiences her first communion in late September, Raul asked if we could come then. How special to get to celebrate this milestone in her life.


Dispenza writes in his book at length about The Call and our reaction to it. We choose to see friends, who happen to live in Lima, the City of Kings, so we can see the city as well. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have fears about going. Dispenza suggest we identify our fears (hesitations, reluctances), write them down. Next, decide which ones are irrational and which ones are realistic. For the fears that are left, write them on a piece of paper and place them in box, so you don’t take them with you.

Here are some of my fears. I’m afraid…

  • That I won’t have the stamina to keep up with our hosts and their younger family. (Realistic)
  • That I will be intimidated visiting our bilingual friends. (Irrational)
  • That we will impose too much on a family, which is still working. (Realistic)
  • That we will not get to explore and feel adventureous, because we are staying with locals. (Maybe, maybe not)
  • That I won’t be able to look and act as cosmopolitan as Raul and Patricia, who have grown up in the city. (Realistic, but irrelevant.)

Dispenza suggests that we take the realistic fears and see what we can do about them. Lynn and I have offered to take off on our own to tour the city while they are at work. This addresses fears #3 and #4. Fear #1 requires that I get plenty of rest while away, I don’t let myself get dehydrated, and I stay active, but not to the point of exhaustion. These things mean I must communicate with our friends how much is enough or too much.


In answering The Call to this place, Lynn and I also offered our services to Raul’s university to do a workshop or seminar with our extensive university backgrounds. This idea grew out of an experience years ago in which Lynn and I conducted a week-long in-service training for Mangosuthu Technikan in South Africa. We found we got to know locals in a more real and personal way. We got to learn what their higher education problems were as compared to ours in the U.S., which often were more similar than different. And three cultures in the training workshop, African tribal, Indian, and Afrikaans, shared their separate stories as they related them to the issues of higher education in South Africa, their challenges as faculty and as South Africans post-Apartheid.

Raul and we have come up with a plan to share our experience in experiential learning that augments the standard classroom learning. We hope this sharing will be a two-way street between us and the faculty, and will be useful to the university, students, and faculty in implementing new learning opportunities for students.

Lynn also asked Raul to attend an English-speaking Toast Master International club while there. He will offer an extemporaneous speech, if the two of them can manage a time to go together.


Again, Dispenza offers guidance on how to think of The Call in allegorical ways. He suggests we list the different meanings the PLACE can be for us, both literally and metaphorically.

Lima, the City of Kings, associations:

  • Wealth, whether I’m talking about money and jewels, or conversation and friendship
  • Silver and gold, whether learning their history or shopping for jewelry
  • Incas, learning about a culture that vanished years ago and experiencing the current cityscape of Lima
  • Treasures of friendship long-ago, treasured time together now, what we have to share today
  • Opportunity to be part of a major family tradition, Mariana’s first communion, and the chance to meet with her extended family members who will attend also
  • Glittery society of a metropolitan city versus a small-town atmosphere, simply the lights of the city will be a sight for us
  • Spanish language, a romance language, the language of today, most likely not of the Inca’s
  • Latin America, different from Mexico and Costa Rica, central American countries with which I’m acquainted
  • Spiritual, the Peruvian history has an aura of spirituality, especially Macho Picchu; our contribution through volunteering can be a spiritual experience

With these associations in mind, here are some possible ways our travel can create meaning for me.

  1. We get to explore and discover a Latin American culture that provides some adventure in our routine lives. By experiencing city life in a Latin American country, which I have not visited before, this may be a glittering example of riches of a culture I have not participated in before.
  2. We have the opportunity to participate in the spiritual lives of our friends by attending Mariana’s first communion.
  3. The primary reason for the trip is to become reacquainted and spend time with our friends. This visit will be special, because they will be sharing their hometown and their culture, unlike it has been in the past in our country, when we shared ours with them.
  4. Our volunteer work at the university might open some doors of new friendships and international cooperation and/or research. It is possible this seminar might develop into future consulting that might bring us back.

As I consider what this place can mean to me, I realize that these ideas are pure conjecture on my part.


Dispenza suggests we build a small shrine to present what is going on in the outer world that represents what is going on inside of us. He considers a travel shrine, as a “tangible expression of the journey in all its many manifestations, including your excitement, your hesitations, your preparations, and your expectations.” (p. 46-47)

Right now I have a stack of books about Peru: its history, its landscape, its significant people and locations. I have the days marked off my calendar and reservation filed. I will have to think about shrine building some more. But the call to journey demands preparation next.


Travelers: Can you identify with any of these actions I took as a result of trying to follow the Hero’s Journey? Was building a shrine easier for you than me?

Writers: Do you see the value of viewing your protagonist as a sojourner? Can you craft the “call” of your main character in your next story? Does this add an element of intrigue, depth, or richness? How did you do it?

SHARE YOUR ANSWERS BELOW. I look forward to hearing from you!