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 Craft of writing, Writing

Why Successful Writers Need To Do More Than Write

This is the BIGGER picture of what writing is all about. Belinda Williams states my experience as a writer. Fortunately, I love to write all of these items. I experience these writing projects as challenge and reward both.

A Writer's Path


by Belinda Williams

Writing is about a hell of a lot more than just writing.

When I started writing, I had a vague idea of what I was getting myself in for. With the release of my latest contemporary romance, The Pitch, later this month [May 2015], I’ve got a much clearer idea. It’s the third book I’ve released (with two more due for release late this year and next).

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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, Writing

Why and What I blog?

Let me introduce the blog and my intentions for writing it.


I am blogging publicly instead of keeping a personal journal, because I believe I have ideas, past experience and current learning to share with you and others, on topics such as 1) travel, 2) practical and spiritual matters, and 3) the writing and publishing process.


I hope to write about my travel experiences, general benefits of travel for all of us and how to make it easier. As a writer and professionally an educator, I expect to draft blog posts about the craft and process of writing. I plan to share some of my own writing (published and unpublished) with you over time, as well. As a Christian and spiritual seeker in the Quaker tradition, I won’t be able to NOT write about spiritual matters, even the practical side of spiritual things.


Blogging gives me a chance to connect to people (young and old) around these topics, which leads to the introduction of my coming-of-age, travel and spiritual memoir entitled, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, published in 2014. The book tells the story of my life and travels from age 10 to 27, guided by a mother wise beyond her own experience; journeys provided by my church or because of my association with my church, including two mission projects (one, ten weeks; the other, an academic year of college); and the final trip abroad as an act of progressive independence as a young professional woman in graduate school. Each excursion offers growth and personal insight.

I’m currently writing an historical fiction of an early 1900s unconventional horsewoman who travels with her younger brother to India to sell horses. During her journey she loses her brother, encounters two men who help her discover more about herself, chooses one who will aid in her learning to live and love without regret.


As a take-off from the title of my memoir, I felt like “Finding Ourselves at Home in the World” would be inclusive and inviting. I hope that works out to be accurate. I also view my protagonist in the historical fiction as finding her way in the world.

My taglines, Travel – Travel Writing – Writing, offer a quick description of what reader will find on my website and blog.


Both books reveal my interest and passion in young men and particularly young women growing up independent, strong, and resilient.


I believe many folk interested in travel will pursue this blog and it topics. I anticipate writers will be energized by travel writing and posts about the craft of writing and travel writing. I hope single women (college age through young 30s) will read my books to produce their own thought-provoking self-introspection. I believe young women (in their 30s and  40s) raising children will find food for thought about parenting to help their own offspring grow up ready to take their place in the world. And I suspect that many older women in their 50s, 60s and older will seek to reminisce about their own experiences of being who they are.