On an Earth Journey

Ollantaytambo Ruins (1) (1)
The writer contemplating the feeling of energy held in an ancient Inca structure. Ollantaytambo, Peru. 2015.

We are all on an Earth journey. If we approach our temporary passage on this spinning ball of rock and water with an intention to seek and find, to dream and build, and to journey to the horizon of our land and within our own selves, we will confront and resolve the divisions. This is a healing journey. Let’s explore beyond the historically constructed boundaries. 

Diaries of an American Nomad

My name is Amanda Lynn Barker. I am the writer, content creator, and traveler of Earth Journey with Amanda. I call myself a nomad because I don’t know how else to define my lifestyle. My housing and my occupation shifts and adapts to navigate changing economic cycles and seasons. I am flexible and highly resourceful. I know the continental United States very well. I have traveled the freeways, back roads, and train tracks through about 40 of the 50 states. My personal feeling is that it should be a right of passage for a young American adult to ride the Greyhound bus from San Francisco to New York City. See the country, meet the people, learn patience and humility, and by all means, bring a pillow. After five days on a crowded bus in the heat of summer with no air conditioning, almost every other minor discomfort is absorbed into the total experience of humanity.

I had already traveled extensively across the US before I ventured over any borders. When I was 24, I drove from Humboldt County, California, to Vancouver, Canada, for two days. I interviewed for a doctoral position at the University of British Columbia, and then I didn’t leave the US for another six years. In 2013, I walked across the border into Mexico from San Ysidro. I spent a couple of hours in Tijuana, and then came back. Finally when I was 32, I had an actual passport, and plans to see the world beyond the US. Since then, I have traveled through Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

When I travel internationally, I carry one backpack that weighs about 35 pounds, I stay in bunkhouses and hostels, I ride on public transportation, and I find internet access through cyber cafes. These are not vacations. I have spent less than $10k on international travel, including plane tickets. Sometimes I pay for tours, if it is a requirement for me to see a National Park or sensitive ecosystem, or if I want to learn more about the cultural significance of food; but for the most part, I walk around on my own, and find city parks, local cafes, graffiti art, and the spaces that tell the authentic story of the people and their history and experience.

Sometimes people ask me if I am scared to travel alone, and so far, my scariest experiences are from within here in the US. I am probably more afraid to go camping in Kentucky than to walk to a foreign transit center in the middle of the night, in any of the places I have visited so far. But I am always aware of who is around me, and of how close to me they are standing or walking. It is also important to listen, and to understand that communication is deeper than the language of the spoken words.

Imprints on Time and Space

Events that unfold leave imprints on time and space. As someone who can perceive of those delicate scars, every pathway and trail traversing our expansive planet opens itself to me. The longer a space has been inhabited with the human story, the deeper the wounds of pain, and the more joyful the moments of healing.

In many human spaces, history is longer than what is commonly shared. Borders are redrawn, and today nobody knows why. Castles transform into shopping malls. Sacred mountains are given to a different god, and man builds a new temple. The words have changed with the rise and fall of numbered years and civilizations, but the subtle energy is written forever onto time.

I record the stories of what occurred before the new millennium. Many times, they are the story behind the story of moderately well-known tourist destinations such as architectural masterpiecesarchaeological sites, and public plazas. Gaze deep into the mysterious human story on your next Earth journey.

Slow Travel through the Cities

Cities are by far my favorite spaces to explore. I like to observe their design and development, and watch how people behave. A city’s transportation system, housing options, marketplaces, and public art tells the story of how human ingenuity and quality of life are measured and valued.

As I explore each new city I visit, I imagine what it would feel like as a daily experience to live in that place. I might not survive life in some cities. Sofia, Bulgaria, felt like a bleak and challenging existence. The sidewalks were uneven, food was scarce, and few trees blocked pedestrians from blistering environmental extremes. Meanwhile, I fell in love with Budapest, Hungary, immediately. The public transit system was clean, affordable, and effortless; public markets, fruit stalls, and smaller convenience stores were abundant; the people were friendly and open; and somehow I quickly picked up the basic phrases of the notoriously difficult Hungarian language.

I am attracted to energy, movement, and growth. I am attracted to spaces that feel vibrant and alive with positive possibilities. These stories are of urban environments I visit that awaken and ignite my hope for humanity’s future. Many are inspired by conversations with locals I meet while traveling, and of course it is easier to build those connections when we share a common language.

Although I have traveled through South America, I didn’t get the opportunity to meet many English-speaking locals. Unfortunately my perspective was limited. However, Europe, Canada, and the United States are home to plenty of English-speaking locals: a young Bulgarian man from Turkey who was in studying business at a university in Ljubljana; a Croatian woman who shared her table with me as we watched sunset over the Adriatic Sea; a 14th generation Budapestian who escorted me through an overwhelmingly crowded, five story Ruin Pub; and both my host and a Couchsurfing-connection-turned-friend in Sarajevo. When we have finished moving through this current pandemic and the border closures, I look forward to venturing back out into the world and learning more from the people who gather in the cities.

Accessible Eco-Travel

According to psychological research, a connection to nature increases mental and emotional well-being. Scenes of nature reduce anger, fear, and stress. Exposure to nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. The spaces are quieter and with less physical stimulation than an urban street, and some ecosystems generate an added bonus of oxygen-rich, negatively charged ions.

Accessible nature is one aspect of equity. Eco-travel doesn’t have to look like a three day backpacking adventure up a mountain; I’m not someone who wants to sleep on the ground. I do like camping, but I pack a queen sized inflatable air mattress and my overnight kit of all-natural skincare products with me. We can learn from the nature around us, as long as we are willing to listen.

I use Eco-Travel as a very open concept. These are the stories of the accessible nature spaces, and how they contribute to physical health and emotional wellness, like negative ions at a waterfall, a quest for meaning on a road trip, or participating in a hike to an active Lakota Medicine Wheel. “Wild” is learning how to see myself and how to shift my interpretation of the world through a connection to the natural elements around me.

Any activity or experience that merges and open mind with natural elements is a Wild Space. A conversation with the tree outside an open window is wild. A breathless three mile hike, whether on a flat, paved surface accessible for mobility devices, or rugged over muddy roots and brambles, is wild. A quest or a challenge pursued through a sacred intention to alter a pattern of thinking, behaving, or feeling is wild. On our shared Earth Journey, let’s live wild.

Every Traveler’s Necessity: Food and Sleep

The most delicious pear I ever ate was from Hungary. The pears in Croatia were a close second best. When I travel, I fundamentally survive on a diet of street food, fruit, bread, and cafe au lait. Who decided it is supposed to be expensive to eat while traveling? With a square of tin foil and a zip lock plastic bag, I can pack food for a day of busing, or an adventure on foot.

A hostel that offers free breakfast is a cash saver. Rise early like I do, and you’ll be the first at the buffet line, sipping rich coffee, and savoring a hard boiled egg spread over whatever warm bread is served. My most memorable breakfast was in Prague at the Hostel Cosmopole. I was visiting for my 35th birthday. I was the first one on the rooftop patio that morning with my plate of food, and I heard the city waking up in the distance.

These are stories of my experiences and what I have learned about food and hospitality while traveling. From supermarket buffets in Bratislava, to cafes that didn’t survive the pandemic, I share my knowledge gained from an experimental mouth and an open mind. They are experiences that are the same everywhere, but different. Everywhere offers animal products, vegetable products, and beverages; the nuance is in how they are produced and prepared. A simple pear grown in one location tastes fundamentally different than a pear from somewhere else.

Similarly, sleep is the same everywhere. Lodging in its simplest form access to a bed and clean, running water. It is also the common ground to gather, relax, and celebrate the connections with other people. Some places attract people who are more inviting and peaceful than others. While traveling, it is necessary to learn how to identify the places that run in alignment with a compatible energy. I review and describe various types of hospitality establishments and options experienced along my Earth journeys, like a yurt in the Siskiyou-Trinity Alps, or a quaint hostel in Guadalajara.

I also offer tips and insights, like how to pack for your personality type, or how to avoid being the only person in your shared bunk room with a social conscience. 

A Season of Uncertainty

The past is pushed away and the borders are more challenging to cross, if not even impossible. The future exists as a now unimaginable space that forces us all to redefine and redesign our expectations for our lives. Why travel if it doesn’t change us? Every moment is an opportunity to evolve, to blink and reemerge from behind our closed eyes to see a different world. When the pandemic is over, my dream is to trek overland from Ulaanbaatar to Lisboa. I don’t know what that looks like yet; my vision is focused on the day-to-day. Eventually, I will see that horizon through the jungle.

At present, I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and considers myself on a pandemic assignment. In my current role, I am in a position to redesign how local advocacy and campaigning efforts look while maintaining social distance. It is a challenge, and it gives me focus and direction in this time of volatility when travel is not an option.

Selfie April 10
Selfie from April 10, 2020

My published works include Restless Flesh (2012), a collection of short fiction; Door Waves (2012), a script for experimental theatre; and two collections of free verse poetry, Random Acts of Alchemy (2014), and The Spirits Speak in Free Verse (2017). I am also a content creator with VAMONDE.

I have a BA from Indiana University in Communication and Culture, an MA from Humboldt State University in Social Science, and two professional certificates in Positive Psychology and Project Management. I am also ordained as a Metaphysical Practitioner through the International Metaphysics Ministry. My spirituality influences my view of time and space, and gives dimension to my experience with travel and fellow travelers.

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