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Adventure

Renee Lamb Headshot

Don’t be satisfied with stories
How things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth.

Rumi wrote these words centuries before my wandering heart would find them and realize that they spoke a truth so deep it is hard to see on most days.

The story contained within this blog is a typical one: Girl turns 30. She wonders what she’s doing with her life and why she feels so empty. She walks away from it all, leaving those things that define “her” behind, hoping to find the myth already enfolded within. It’s a story that’s been told thousands of times, but each time with a slightly different voice, a slightly different perspective, a slightly different ending.

This is my story of spending 16 months living out of a backpack, with all of those wonderful things that made my little NY apartment “home”, boxed up and stored away. I of course was looking and hoping for a change, but as I packed that last box, I had no idea the challenges and changes that lay on the path before me. In retrospect it was inevitable.

The adventure contained within these words and photos chronicles travels through many places: the U.S.IndiaNepalVietnamSenegalTanzaniaRwandaCosta RicaMorocco and my own heart.  Don’t let the colorful photos fool you – nothing has been as expected, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My hope is that by keeping this blog up now that my travels have ended, it will inspire someone else to take that leap of faith that leads them closer to their own true joy.

My leap led me to Soulié, a social enterprise that was always residing in my heart and a natural next step once I returned home.

To learn more about Soulié and our mission to preserve craft and create more beauty in the world, check out our website at www.renee-soulie.com. If you love the story, please spread the word. We are a tribe, and only with your help can we grow and do more good.

Thanks for being a part of this adventure with me.
Wishing you love and light.
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I would venture a guess that most adults have a book or a story that in some way has helped to lay the foundation for the person they’ve become. For me this was The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry. On my bookcase I must have at least six copies in four languages.

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So you can imagine my excitment as I found myself on a plane to Morocco, flipping through my Lonely Planet and realizing that I was arriving in Marrakesh at the same time as the Rallye St. Exupéry – a flight from Toulouse to St. Louise, Senegal with a stop right outside of Marrakesh, all done in honor of the French Air Mail service. This route is one that Antoine de St. Exupéry flew as a member of the Air Service and contributed significantly to the storyline of his most popular book.

I closed my Lonely Planet, looked out the window and wondered if fate had a hand in placing me on this plane at this time. Maybe there was a reason behind it, or maybe it was just a moment of sweet coincidence, something to remind me that I was in the right place and on the right path.

Whatever the case, I knew I was in the right place when I stepped off the plane in Marrakesh and felt like I was walking into my home. It was that delicious feeling of first experiencing a place you’ve never been but already know. It is such a rare and magical feeling. I personally have only ever felt it twice before, once upon arriving in Italy and the second time a few years later on the streets of Kathmandu.

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Even without the instant attraction, it would be almost impossible to not become enchanted by Marrakesh. The colors of yellow sand, orange dirt and blue sky are dotted with greens and reds. Diesel and dust mix with the smell of fires and spices, pomegranate and mint. As I wander the streets, I watch the ebb and flow around me and try to find another city to equate it to – Delhi, Dakar, and Cairo all come to mind, except that here there is an inescapable French air. The mixture is enticing.

In the old city walls, the streets are small and winding. The cobblestones beneath your feet add that last element of surprise and inconsistency. Motorbikes scoot by. Stalls of shoes, fabric, pottery and carpets seem to be overflowing and spilling into the streets and onto the walls. I try to figure out which one of my sense is not on hyperdrive and come up with nothing. I meet ex-pats that have lived here for years and still don’t know their way around the maze that is the Medina.

At the edge of the walls, the food markets buzz with people and flies. There is a heat in the air that is tangible even on this late fall day.  The main square, Place Jamaa El Fna, is packed with people every time I walk by. As the sun sets, food stalls fill the air with delicious smells, ladies wait on plastic benches for customers to partake in their henna offerings, and lanterns and trinkets cover blankets thrown along the edges of the crowd. There is a constant buzz in the air that seems to cover the whole city, and yet all it takes is a tuck behind a riad door, and you would imagine yourself transported to another world, quiet, peaceful, and miles away.

P1180203As night turns to day, the air fills with the call of small birds and a soft breeze. As day turns to night, sparkling lights fill the city and the call of the muezzin echoes off of the plastered walls. After only four short days, it feels as though anything you can imagine, you can find in Marrakesh – even, perhaps, a small lost boy with a tamed fox.

I had gone to Costa Rica basically on a whim, an instinct to do a yoga training that I just knew I couldn’t pass up. The first night there I left my little open-air shack, walked up what seemed like 12 flights of stone stairs, passed gigantic palms, birds of paradise and a half dozen small blue and bright orange crabs that must have turned the wrong way and lost the beach.  At the top of all this, I found myself sitting on the floor of a beautiful room, balancing myself on a small round bolster.

The resort owner was animatedly talking about the grounds, the history and the food. I listened as intently as I could, distracted by the howler monkeys and excitement until my ear caught a simple story – a previous guest had been speared by a stingray while running in the surf on the beach. Apparently the calm, shallow waters that make this beach so perfect for swimming also make it the perfect place for migrating stingrays. The only way to avoid an encounter – shuffle your feet. No bounding Baywatch beach moments in my future.

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Unwilling to swim for fear of losing a foot, I go for an ATV ride with 2 friends instead. I am working on my trust issues and so decide to take the passenger role for the first part of the trip. 20 minutes later I find myself lying in the dirt, stunned. A man from across the street runs over and helps me up. He asks if I am OK.

I don’t know.

I have one of those moments that most people must have when they are still conscious right after an accident – I take an inventory: 2 legs, I am standing so, check!, feet, abdomen, hands, head, check! At first my body thinks everything is intact; I don’t feel any pain. I bend my arm and realize a piece of flesh is missing from my elbow. I actually think to myself, “How can that be? I am not even bleeding.” Yet before the words are finished formulating in my head, there it is – warm and red dripping down my arm.

The man that helped me up takes us across the street to his house. He pulls a first aid kit out of his truck and a hose out of his yard. He’s part of the volunteer EMT crew in town and just happened to be in his yard as our ATV flipped across the road. I get washed and bandaged up. My friend is speaking with him in Spanish – I catch the part where she tells him he must be an angel. “No,” he says, “I am Angelo.”

The next morning in class we begin at the front of our mat. My instructor, a beautiful, tall, Lebanese New Yorker comes up behind me to tell me to put my feet together. Before she can get my full name out, I’ve screamed and jumped 5 feet in the air. She holds her comment about my foot placement and instead hugs me around the shoulders. I begin to sob, and sun salute, and sob some more. So many stoic years of mourning for friends that have passed, for a young girl I didn’t even know come falling out. The tears mixing with my sweat as I curl into child’s pose, hugging my bloody and oozing elbow in close as everyone else goes down onto their forearms and up into a headstand. So much sadness pours out of me as the blood continues to seep out of my arm. I realize that this pose, which was to be one of my key goals for the month, one that symbolizes overcoming fears of death and uncertainty, has just become an impossibility.

Sunset2 weeks later I stand at the edge of the Pacific ocean, my arm amazingly but just barely healed. I watch the sun fall behind the clouds on the horizon. The waves are soft and gentle here. I am overcome by the sheer beauty of it all and suddenly feel such gratitude that things ended as they did and not as they could have.

For the first time since I arrived in Costa Rica, I have the desire to walk out towards the sunset, towards the waves. I look up to the sky and take one step and then another. I know that I am still moving but I’ve stopped counting my steps. Suddenly pulled out of my stupor, I remember those words from the first day – stingrays! I turn around and see the beach off in the distance, what feels like a half mile away.  “A whole gaggle of stingrays could be hiding between me and that beach,” I think. No longer afraid of a mortal wound but still anxious to keep my feet without holes, I take a deep breath and slowly begin to shuffle my way back home.

I have already talked about this topic some in my post “Lesson #6“, but just today my beautiful friend Divo shared the following article from the Guardian with only the simple note “READ!”.

“Delhi Rape: How India’s Other Half Live”

I felt it necessary to pass the article along it here because as I read this, I realized that this girl, 9 yrs younger than me, grew up and lived in the part of Delhi known as Dwarka. This horrible crime didn’t take place in Dwarka, but the neighborhood was her home and where she was headed as she boarded the bus that evening. It is that same small part of Delhi where I lived, worked and taught for 4 months in ’03.

Dwarka at that time was not a big place. Apartments were just being built and you could walk the whole neighborhood, which means I knew this girl in spirit even if I never met her. I probably sat next to her on a bus, walked by her in the street, stood next to her at the sweet shop, or danced with her at the wedding in the apartment next door or at the Diwali festival down the street. Heck, I might have had her as a student in my morning enterprise workshop or afternoon English class.

When this story first came out, I wondered why I so viscerally responded to it.
Yes, it is terrible and tragic, but terrible and tragic things happen all the time. Why could I not let this one go? Now I see that it was because this story is in fact a part of my story. It’s intricately interwoven with my own life and my own path.

I share this story here, because by following this blog all of you are now also intricately interwoven with me.

So if you have heard about this case and thought, “What does that have to do with me? Why do I have to keep hearing about this? I am half way across the world.” Reevaluate, and realize that you are closer to her and closer to this story than you could have imagined.

By realizing this, you can begin to change the story, one lit candle, one smile, one intellectual debate, one good intention at a time.

What we do shapes the world around us, and, as we see in this case, the world just happens to be a little smaller than we think.