All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Traveling

“We are all here together on God’s jeweled dance floor.”—Hafiz

writing in sand

Please keep this to yourself. (Or at least don’t tell my editor who is expecting the manuscript to my new book on September 1). The only words I’ve written in the last 8 days have been in the sand on Pacific Beach in San Diego.

I gave a workshop (only I call it a playshop) last Saturday and Taz and I took a drive up the California coast to visit friends. And, yes, we danced outside on the full moon (it’s a thing one of my power posses does to stay connected). My friend Anita Moorjani, who made Taz and I the most amazing Indian food, even joined in the fun. Life, to paraphrase the t-shirts, is amazing.

So since I’m playing catch up today (including buying a new phone since I accidentally dropped mine in the toilet), thought I’d run this article that first appeared on Huffington Post.


I was raised in a small town in Kansas where I learned to read, write and politely answer stranger’s number one question, “Where’s Toto?” But my real education didn’t begin until I left the borders of my own country.

Here are five really life-changing lessons I learned from traveling:

1. It’s the people, stupid. Bucket lists are fun to check off. And there’s no question that seeing the Eiffel Tower, climbing Pike’s Peak and visiting the Great Pyramid of Giza are worthwhile endeavors. But the travel experiences that stand out, the ones that mean the most are encounters with locals. Meeting Hank and his cat, Poop Deck, who live on Hank’s sailboat in St. Croix’s Christianstead Harbor was far more enlightening than visiting the island’s bioluminescent bay.

Hanging out with Ping, a proud Maasai warrior at Mara Plains Camp in Kenya’s Olare Motorogi Conservancy, led to far more lions than any guidebooks. Ping, who has lived alongside wildlife his entire life and reads nature’s subtle signs as a way of survival, led me to day-old baby elephants, a trio of male lions who had just taken down a hippo and rhinos who, without Ping, would have been as elusive as Waldo.

2. Money does not equal happiness. I always smile when a Westerner announces their noble, selfless plans to help poor unfortunates in what we call “a third world country.” Invariably, they return home from their volunteer vacation suitably chastened, not sure who helped whom. They become aware, often for the first time, of vast pools of human resilience and joy found in cultures not bogged down with material possessions. Creativity and sheer genius emerges when there’s no television, no Words With Friends, no material excess requiring a storage unit.

Soweto, for example, taught me more about possibility than anything Tony Robbins might write. With unemployment soaring around 50 percent, crafty entrepreneurs sell picture frames made from discarded Coke cans, zebras carved from table legs and statues made from bottle caps. Street musicians sing, old friends tap-dance in unison, jugglers toss knives, balls and witty repartee, all hoping their near-professional efforts will coax a five-rand note from passers-by.

3. The news media often has it wrong. If you believe the news, it’s dangerous to leave your house, let alone the country. But in the last year alone, I’ve been to four countries with State Department warnings and not once have I ever felt threatened in any way. I even heard Pico Iyer talk about a recent assignment in Iraq. He said that the same people carrying the signs (“Death to Americans” and the like) would invite him home for dinner after the protests. I’m not being flip. I just happen to know that the scariest part of most overseas trips is the media reports which, when you really get down to it, are nothing but anomalies.

4. It always pays to look deeper. What news-savvy American hasn’t picked up the notion that he’s not likely to win any popularity contests with Muslims? As I discovered in Turkey, that stereotype is misguided and downright insulting.

Hospitality is an art in the Muslim world, a cherished virtue that encourages practitioners to view every person who comes across their path as sent to them by Allah himself. It’s next-to-impossible to be in the general vicinity of another human being in Turkey without being handed a fig or a hazelnut or a bowl of fresh yogurt made that morning from the milk of their own cow.

Hospitality is so over-the-top (commerce, it seems, is beside the point) that any crusty idea that foreigners are different or that life sucks or that the world is going to hell in a handbasket are properly dashed against the inhospitable shores of the Black Sea, a region in Turkey that looks more like the Colorado Rockies than Lawrence of Arabia.

5. People are the same wherever you go. It’s a universal belief — that “those people” over there are completely different than us, that we have nothing in common with those who practice different religions, follow different customs or dress differently. Traveling disavows that falsehood with a vengeance. Even though my Ecuadorian hosts worshiped Inti, the Incan God of the Sun, and regularly dined on beetle larvae and guinea pig grilled spread eagle on a spit, I discovered that, just like me, they get crushes, like to dance and tell jokes. When it comes right down to it, all of us, from Singapore schoolgirls to Namibian pygmies, want the exact same thing: happiness, well-being for our families and the right to pursue our dreams.

Pam Grout is the author of 17 books including E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality and the recently-released sequel, E-Cubed, 9 More Experiments that Prove Mirth, Magic and Merriment is your Full-time Gig

Manifesting your perfect partner and other tomfoolery

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.” – Rumi

I’m heading to California tomorrow and wanted to share a couple quick stories.

The first is from Deepak Chopra who was going to introduce me at the workshop I’m giving in San Diego August 1. But he ended up having to go out of town…which is what this story is about.

He was SO out of town a few years ago that his assistant couldn’t get ahold of him. He was in Africa, far from phones, internet, and all the devices we believe we still need to communicate with others.

His assistant was desperate to reach him. She employed my 101 Dalmatians Principle, the one that proves we are interconnected with everyone and everything through an invisible field of intelligence and energy.

She began sending out a message, “Deepak, I really need you to call me. Call me now.”

I’m sure you can guess the end of the story, but if you’re waiting with bated breath, here’s the spoiler alert:

Within a few hours, Deepak called.

This last story popped up in my mailbox this morning. I thought it was a lot of fun and who knows, the right guy may just read this.


“I’ve recently been having fun playing with the Dude to bring the love of my life into physical form. Like my fellow FP teammates, I really enjoy those moments when I envision us laughing as we cook dinner (he’s a great cook), exploring new cultures/communities (he loves people and loves to travel), and sitting at the piano playing and singing (he’s got a beautiful voice and plays the guitar).

“I’ve cleared some space in my closet (no small feat), popped an extra toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, and even find myself talking to him as I’m cooking dinner (does anyone else wonder if they’re crazy when this happens so naturally?!).

“For some reason, I’m really in the zone when I’m driving. Signs will pop up everywhere to make me laugh, and the Dude often uses this time to answer the latest question that I’ve posed to the FP. So, knowing the Dude’s got my back and likes to make me giggle, I asked “What’s my soulmate’s name?” on the way to work the other morning.

“One minute later, stopped at a light and not really paying attention, I glanced at the tow-truck in front of me and the business decal in the back window read, “Tom will be there to pick you up.” It registered in a far corner of my mind, but I didn’t really think much of it.

“Two stoplights later, I was changing the radio channel, and caught the announcer saying, “Tom will be right back after this message…” Laughing, I asked “Okay, is it ‘Tom’? Is that his name?” and within two seconds, I pulled up behind a car with a personalized plate that had the letters “TOM” in it.

“The rest of the day had me grinning, sending love to others, telling trees to send a “hey” to Tom, and after a while the joy overrode my original “question.” Even though the question sort of faded from my memory, later that night I was home and turned on the TV to immediately see a commercial advertising a show that would be airing the next day. It read, “TOM 8/7c.” I think my neighbors might think I’m nuts, since there was an abundance of whooping and laughing at that moment.

“I’ve seen the “TOM 8/7c” many times since the first, and now, whenever I see it, I confirm outloud with the Dude that I’m meeting Tom on August 7th….possibly in the Central Time Zone…we’ll see. I plan to report back to you on August 8th with spectacular news!!”

We can’t wait to hear, Janna.

As for the rest of you, have a spectacular weekend that, like Janna, has you grinning, sending love to others and enjoying signs and blessings that as I said in E-Squared, arrive without email, letters or loud explosions.

Pam Grout is the author of 17 books including E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality and the recently-released sequel, E-Cubed, 9 More Experiments that Prove Mirth, Magic and Merriment is your Full-time Gig.