VISION QUEST 2011, Part I

Yes, I have been on a vision quest.  In fact, I’ve been on two, 2010 and 2011.  What exactly constitutes a “vision quest,” you may ask?  For me, it’s a nice, neat package of openness, opportunity and contemplation, all concentrated into a small lump of time and travel.

  • Be open to big changes in your life
  • Have a week to travel and no need to plan most of that time
  • Have enough money and/or creativity to take care of basic needs (eating,  sleeping and getting from A to B to C)
  • Bring at least one big question
  • Bring an open mind and willingness to let answers unfold over the next year or so
  • Bring a journal and write in it every day
  • Bring curiosity and high, but loosely defined expectations
  • Seek adventure and newness every day of the quest – pick up brochures, ask for recommendations and be willing to drive down the road just because it seems like the right thing to do at the moment
  • Talk to strangers with no expectations, but don’t be surprised if they reveal the secrets you’ve been looking for
  • Spend a lot of time alone – in nature if possible – appreciating your surroundings
  • If possible, begin the quest with loved ones who will cheer you on and ask questions about your upcoming days
  • If possible, end the quest with friends who will ask questions and listen – people who help you define the experience
  • Breathe – notice smells, sights, sounds and above all else, feelings

I began both of my vision quests with my darling nephew, Jason.  I ended each with my dear friends, Heather and Michael.  There are hundreds of miles and  a plethora of experiences between said nephew and friends.  This is the meat of the quest.  (but don’t get me wrong, the meat would be little without the dear, cheering and the defining bookends.)

Both of my quests initially centered on visits to a woman named Jo Carson and an art project she inspired.  I read a book of Jo’s and we eventually became acquaintances, and  later friends.   Both times I traveled at Jo’s request, but knew I would not travel that 1000 miles to spend a lot of time with her as she has been very ill and easily exhausted .  I basically traveled both times to spend a total of 8 hours with Jo (that’s another blog).  I appreciated the time I had with her, but also appreciated the time I spent with a waiter in a restaurant one night, a woman who sat next to me at the dining room table in a bed and breakfast one morning, a timber wolf who lazily stared at me through a chain link fence and a ghost named Lydia, with whom I spent two nights… just the two of us in a secluded bed and breakfast that was once her childhood home.

And here’s another piece of the quest: I have felt driven to take each trip, despite bad timing and the necessity for frugality.  I was  certain of the need to travel and circumstances unfolded to allow me to do so.

The first trip was initially invited in October of 2009, but circumstances in my life didn’t open up for that… it was delayed until May of 2010.  At that time, I KNEW the time was right and I went.

In August of 2011, similar circumstances drove me to begin readying for another quest.  Along the way, I had doubts.  While doubting, I stopped at a rest area to get something to eat (or perhaps more appropriately, I wanted to assuage my doubting heart with some Oreos).  I stood at a vending machine and reached into my purse for a bill.  My heart nearly stopped when I pulled out a bill that had my name very clearly written on it.  You see, when I began the trip, I had an empty wallet – I stopped for cash in my home town, then got change at a gas station somewhere in Indiana.  That is the origin of the bill.  The poignant moment in front of the vending machine is such a landmark because of the question in my mind as well as the answer… had I not gone on the trip, someone whose name probably wasn’t Donna would have gotten the $5 as change in the gas station somewhere in Indiana.  They probably wouldn’t have had a question of “am I where I should be” on their hearts and they most assuredly wouldn’t have been impressed by seeing my name of a $5 bill.

I suppose that $5 is a good thought to continue on at this point because it sums up all that anyone has to give to receive gain on a vision quest.  Be willing to see visions and ready to allow your heart AND your mind to interpret them.  Bring the journal so you can remember all that you’ve experienced.  Talk to strangers – even let them in on the story – but do not allow their opinions to define your experience.  Frankly,, they may be there specifically to teach you not to allow anyone else to define your world for you.

I don’t want to put to much definition on the rules of this experience.  After all, not having rules is what makes it so special.  On these quests, I have never planned more than thirty-six hours ahead.  Because of this, I’ve received lovely discounts on 4-star available rooms exactly when and where I needed them.  I have also used Priceline to find a good deal on your basic chain hotel.  I’ve written in my journal beside pools, in animal sanctuaries, at highway rest areas, in my nephew’s and friends’ homes, in several restaurants and coffee shops, mountain tops, along rivers and on park benches.  I’ve met people who had recovered from tragic loss, accomplished amazing 18-year journeys, were living their dreams and reaching almost as much as I was.  They all helped me.

That brings me to another type of person – and they helped me too – the people who are not searching, are not happy and don’t believe in hope.  They appear like neon lights above your bed during a lovely dream.  You notice them and they jar you from your peace.  Frankly, you probably jar them as well.  Let them affirm your quest and do not allow them to bring you down.

I once talked with a waiter who first  befriended me, then became cold and literally backed away from me – all while I didn’t say much.  I think the problem was that I was just so frickin’ happy.  I gave him a nice tip.  I remember that because my bill was $41 and I happily rounded it up to $50 to allow for a generous tip (I figured anyone who could turn so chilly and mistrustful to a happy stranger who asked for nothing other than items on the menu, needed a good tip).  When I returned home and sorted through my bank statement, I noted that said waiter refused the tip – I was only charged $41 that night.   I was in the business long enough to know something like that does not happen by accident.  I believe he recognized something only in retrospect.  He recognized something he couldn’t deal with at the time, but in retrospect, he couldn’t accept that gift from someone so foreign.

Okay, I’m wrapping this up now – too much definition of a vision quest is not a good thing.  As I work through my findings from VQ 2011, I’ll post them here.  I will benefit from the thought process behind writing more about it.  Perhaps someone will read and feel inspired to take a VQ of their own.

If you go in the right spirit of open expectation of vision, the time you spend on the quest will reward you hundreds of times over!