Transformation has become a bit of a theme for me. I talk about it in my recent blog posts, but it’s woven all throughout Clearwater Trekker. It was there in the beginning when I hiked across Spain, though I didn’t know I was looking for it at the time. It was there when I set out to discover the unknown territory of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. I searched for it all throughout the Olympic National Park as a wilderness therapy trail guide. And it brought me home again to pursue my vision of creating a wilderness-based rite of passage for citizens returning home from prison.
My longing to be on the trail has always been saturated with a marvel at the change the trail creates in me, the physical, mental, and spiritual growth cultivated one mile at a time. When I was coming of age, I looked to the wilderness to be my proving grounds, my threshold between youth and adulthood. But I had no guide.
As an adult, I hiked El Camino de Santiago in Spain and discovered how transformative travel can be in the form of pilgrimage, an intentional setting out to seek awakening. Or as Phil Cousineau describes it in his book, Art of Pilgrimage, “a transformative journey to a sacred center.”
Sacred space doesn’t require the trail, of course. I remember creating it in the chapel office of a prison basement. When one of my clerks asked what it was I wanted to do, I responded by spreading my arms wide, looking around the small room, and saying, “This! I want to create this space where we step out of the flow of count times and programs, labels and expectations, and we can just be real with each other. I want to create this, but in the wilderness.”
Cousineau describes the sacred as that which is “worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what when contemplated transforms us utterly.”
And Henri Nouwen, in his book, Life of the Beloved, suggests that “Maybe the distinction between secular and sacred can be bridged when they have both been identified as aspects of every person’s experience of being human.”
All of this is what I have longed to give shape to with Clearwater Trekker. My hope is that Clearwater Trekker can become a sanctuary for the sacred, a catalyst for transformation.
Frequently, I will research other organizations with similar visions to learn from the work they do. I hit a gold mine when I discovered the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). It’s an entire community of travelers and agents who travel with the intention of being stretched, learning, and growing into new ways of being and engaging with the world.
The Council was formed by Jake Haupert and Michael Bennet, who run their own transformational travel company based in the Seattle area called, Explorer X. Jake expresses their vision well with a quote on the TTC About Page…
“Transformational travel is any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life. Ultimately, it’s a new philosophy on travel that connects travelers to their truest self and to others, cultivating a sense of purpose and belonging.”
Jake’s description of transformational travel isn’t limited to international journeys, though. It rings just as true for any weekend hike taken with deliberation when the traveler is intentionally open to letting the trail have its way with them.
The TTC Call to Adventure is…
“Discover the PATH and travel with HEART as you begin to shape your own transformational journey.”
PATH and HEART are acronyms that open up the TTC approach to travel, and I love how well it fits everything from an afternoon stroll through the woods to a months-long international pilgrimage. You can find the TTC’s description of PATH and HEART on their Guiding Practices. What follows is how I see them connecting to the heart of Clearwater Trekker.
FOLLOW THE PATH…
Don’t hit the trail unprepared. Take the time to test and pack your gear. Do the same with your intentions. Know where you’re going and why you’re going.
Push your limits. Try yourself. Explore something new. Reach the edge of your map and then go just a little bit farther.
Reflect on your adventures. Examine what you have learned. Contemplate your experiences. Let it all soak into you and become the soil from which new beginnings grow.
“Extend the power of your travels into your life.” This is the Hero returning with his Gift to his community. It is the key to transformation. We honor our travels when we give space for the seeds of opportunity that were planted on our journey to bloom in our everyday life at home.
TRAVEL WITH HEART…
We empty ourselves of the ordinary known that we might be filled with the sacred unknown.
We are intentional, pro-active participants in our journey, not merely spectators.
We are aware of being right here right now. We see how we fill the present moment. We are intentional about the steps we take and conscious of the footprints we leave.
We are living in the cambium layer, growing souls like trees. We are pressing faith up against fear as we encounter the unknown and let it shape us.
Our gratitude for experiencing the trail and all that it cultivates within us is the flow of abundance that enables us to give away the treasure we discover on our journey.
This season of stillness has given room to fresh ideas such as these, as well as to new acquaintances. I’m really excited to see how our first Discovery Trek will go in June as we spend 3 days recalibrating on the Selway River Trail, and I’m eager to get even more new adventures on the calendar soon. I can’t wait to introduce new Discovery Treks and Go Journeys!
It has been a long and windy road, but I am so grateful for where this path as led. Finding kindred souls among The Clearwater Trekkers and the Transformational Travel Council has been a huge encouragement. I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead and to the companions who will share the trail.