A Return to Glow: One Women’s Quest to Hike the Historic Via Francigena

“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~ Paulo Coelho

In her early forties, historian and world traveler Chandi Wyant’s world is at the edge of falling apart. Her spirit is broken, her body is weak and her glowing love of life seems to have disappeared.

After a near death experience in Italy and in the midst of finalizing her divorce, she had an epiphany. Why not return to Italy – a place that remains close to her heart – and do a pilgrimage. She knew that it was a crazy idea. Not only was she still weak from her illness, she was on a tight budget and only would have three weeks to plan a major physical adventure. Yet she was determined to follow her heart and set off on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Many days were difficult due to the throbbing pain from Plantar Fasciitis, the exhaustion and sometimes the loneliness. But Chandi never stopped and persevered arriving at the end of the pilgrimage exhausted, in pain yet finally at peace with her past. The pilgrimage brought about a complete emotional and spiritual surrender that enabled Chandi to let go of the past and find a return to glow.

Her new memoir, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy beautifully chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventurous. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrim’s route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

Strada Bianca

Pellegrinaggio 09 - 120

Cwyant11Her beautiful memoir, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy was released on April 2nd and won third place in the 2015 National Association of Memoir contest.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.

After reading Return to Glow, I had the opportunity to speak with Chandi over the phone to learn more about her life-changing trip and what inspired her to write the book. Here is what she had to say.


The inspiration behind David Bookbinder’s Flower Mandalas

I was wandering around Instagram one afternoon when I came across the most beautiful flower creations I have ever laid eyes upon. Intrigued, I delightfully went through each photo in awe and wonder how on earth the creator, David Bookbinder, made these incredible flower mandalas, each with a deep inspiring meaning behind them. Little did I know there is a fascinating story behind David’s work and he graciously agreed to let me introduce his work on my blog. I am certain you will be as amazed, inspired and in love with David’s flower mandalas as I am.

Following is an introduction written by David about the inspiration behind his flower mandalas and his recently completed book, Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas.  All Images and text Copyright David J. Bookbinder.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
– Carl Jung

Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas - cover 12x12.indd

Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas came about because my numbers were in alignment. When I began it, I’d just turned 60, was almost 20 years out from a life-altering event, and had been a psychotherapist for nearly 10 years. My intention was to distill into one volume what I’d gleaned from these experiences. As often happens with art, creating it brought about something more.

The path to the Flower Mandalas themselves goes back to 1993, when a series of medical errors nearly took my life. At the time I was an English grad student at the University at Albany. What happened in a hospital there, which included a near-death experience, divided my life into two parts: who I had been and who I was becoming. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, it’s been a long, strange trip since then.


Copyright David J. Bookbinder


Raising Brave Girls

As a mother of a nine-year-old daughter it was with great interest that I read Stacey Radin’s new book “Brave Girls: Raising Young Women with Passion and Purpose to Become Powerful Leaders“. As my little girl grows up, I want to be prepared to guide her as best as I possibility can through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Looking back, my early teenage years were perhaps the worst years of my life. Years that were difficult, unhappy and rocky. Even to this day, I will never forget my mother’s words of shock when she lamented “What has happened to my happy little girl?” when I hit thirteen and was drowning in hormones and confusion about who on earth I had become.

Sadly, these are years that I often wish I could do over but of course that isn’t at all possible. I realize how much these years negatively impacted me and my self-esteem. Thirty years later I still remember the mean, devastating comments and when all my friends decided to drop me. I was so afraid to go to school because I had no one to sit by and I vividly remember hiding in the bathroom over lunch. Thankfully life got easier for me once the braces came off, I grew into my body and blossomed. But those terrible years still haunt me when I think about them today.

Radin’s book “Brave Girls” opens with the following sentence that instantly pulled me in:

“Our society as a whole is lacking in opportunities designed to help preadolescent girls feel confident, secure and emotionally safe”. 


CULTURE Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

Book Review: “Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day”

“Every so often, a book comes along that makes you say, ‘Yes!’ Simple Giving does that. At some level, we all want to give. But how to do it effectively is often the challenge. Jennifer tells us that and much, much more. Simple Giving is a must-read (and a definite must act-upon). A huge contribution to a much better world”.  – Paul Dunn, cofounder and chairman of B1G1 (Guy 1 Give 1). 

A Gallup World Poll survey between 2006 and 2008 found that those who donated to charity in the past month had a higher life satisfaction, whether or not they lived in a rich or poor country. We all know we should be more philanthropic – volunteer, give to charity, fundraise for a good cause or someone in need – but oftentimes we think we have to give a lot of time or significant amounts of money in order to make a difference. Jennifer Iacovelli, a writer, speaker, consultant and chief engagement officer of “Another Jennifer Writing Lab” contradicts this belief in her newly released book “Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day” by exploring simple, every day ways to incorporate giving into our personal and professional lives.

When I first heard about the concept of Jennifer’s book Simple Giving I was delighted. Not only do I personally try to find new and fulfilling ways to give back in my life, Jennifer also happens to be a personal friend of mine who I met through philanthropic blogging. Her beautiful book Simple Giving is a must-read for anyone who wants a better understanding got how they can give and increase their philanthropy in simple, easy ways.

Jennifer and journalist Caitlin Kelly taking a break from the hot Nicaraguan sun during a site visit with WaterAid. Photo Credit: Jennifer Iacovelli

Jennifer and journalist Caitlin Kelly taking a break from the hot Nicaraguan sun during a site visit with WaterAid. Photo Credit: Jennifer Iacovelli


100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women

book-cover-100-Under-100- copyAs part of Mom Blogger’s for Social Good (a global coalition of over 3,000 mom bloggers), I have received an advance copy of the inspiring new book by Betsy Teutsch called “100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women”, for review. All opinions below are my own take on the book. 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

In the field of international development, it is a well-known fact that women are powerful agents of change and development, and it is only by empowering women and girls that the world will be lifted out of extreme poverty. Yet despite this easy assertion women and girls continue to be the most impoverished, most vulnerable and most neglected human beings in the world.

There are many reasons why women and girls continue to suffer the most. Cultural beliefs and norms, war and violence, poverty, lack of infrastructure and education continue to play a significant role in women’s empowerment and rights. However, despite some of these challenging, long-held beliefs, traditions and obstacles, there are proven, cost-effective ways to change the lives of billions of women and girls living in extreme poverty.

Two young girls pose for me during a visit to one of Delhi's many unauthorized slums.

Two young girls pose for me during a visit to one of Delhi’s many unauthorized slums. Despite their poverty, they were enrolled in a program sponsored by Save the Children to improve their lives.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Food Security Global Health Global Issues Poverty SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

Fundamentalism and Forgiveness: A Look inside “A House in the Sky”

As an avid reader and traveler, I enjoy finding books that will not only entertain but educate me. Most books I read are not always the most pleasant topic matter and give a rather intense look at the world. I try to read a lot on women’s rights and current events around the world, and occasionally throw in a poetic piece of fiction for fun.

Last night I completed reading “A House in the Sky“, a harrowing account of Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout’s 460 days held hostage by Islamic fundamentalists in Somalia.  Co-authored by The New York Times Magazine’s Sara Corbett,  A House in the Sky is one of the most intense books I’ve read in years. A book that by the end, left me in tears.


Beautifully written in reflective, poetic prose the book starts off slowly with Amanda’s story of how she was raised by a dysfunctional, poor family outside of Calgary and how she used her money as a waitress to support her wanderlust and see the world. To be honest, there were many times over the course of the first 100 pages of Amanda’s back story that made me want to put the book away and stop reading. Oftentimes I find personal narratives a bit narcissistic and vain such was the case with reading the best-selling books “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Wild“. Yet something in Amanda’s story kept me reading it, wanting to get to the story of her abduction and subsequent 15 months in captivity by Somalian jihadists.

Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

Interview with Dr. Hawa Abdi of “Keeping Faith Alive”

“Dr. Hawa Abdi is the fiercest, most compassionate frontline humanitarian and doctor on the planet. The story of her extraordinary life, which defies imagination, instills courage in each of us” – Eliza Griswold, journalist and author of Tenth Parallel


Portrait of Dr Hawa by Pieter Hugo.

Last week I received an email from ONE Moms, a nonpartisian group I work with as a Community Partner to advocate against extreme poverty, that an inspiring humanitarian, doctor and human rights lawyer was coming to town. Dr. Hawa Abdi known as “The Mother Teresa of Somalia” and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee was coming to Minneapolis to speak on the release of her recent book co-authored by American writer Sarah Robbins, “Keeping Hope Alive” which is an incredibly moving memoir about how Dr. Hawa along with her two daughters has helped 90,000 of her fellow Somalis remain safe, healthy and educated for over 20 years during a time of intense turmoil, violence and destruction in Somalia.

I had never heard of Dr. Abdi or her work before yet I was immediately fascinated. The thought of one woman saving so many people’s lives by building a hospital and a community of over 90,000 people in her backyard during an extremely dangerous civil war seemed unfathomable. I had to hear her story.


Outside a popular Minneapolis bookstore where I heard Dr. Abdi speak on her moving, unbelievable memoir.

CULTURE Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Poverty SOCIAL GOOD