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.

Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

The Path Ahead

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives”. – Henry David Thoreau

As 2016 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’ve yet to go. It always comes as a surprise that the year has moved along so quickly. Time seems to flow faster and faster each and every year. It astounds me.

As my children grow older I realize that the years they have left at home are less than those difficult exhausting years behind us when each day felt like an eternity. Now when I look back with nostalgic eyes, I wonder where the days of diapers, meltdowns and sweet moments of kisses and cuddles all went. I miss those days yet I didn’t have a lot of time for myself.

Now it is time to plan for the path ahead. The words of poet Mary Oliver sing inside my head, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Those words both inspire and haunt me as I find myself at a crossroads a bit unsure of which direction I want to take. Will it come to me before it is too late? Before I settle in to the comforts of life? Let’s hope so. I don’t ever want to look back with regrets of the path not taken.


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Shira Camp, Machame Route Kilimanajaro

“Every every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley”.-  Theodore Roethke

Shira Camp, Machame Route Kilimanajaro

Happy New Year!

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Lake Harriet, Minnesota

Anticipation of the Year Ahead

“We must go ahead and see for ourselves” – Jacques Cousteau

As yet another year draws to a close it is hard not to anticipate the year ahead. For me, the year ahead comes with deep, dark apprehension as we bring in a leader whose policies on everything I stand for frighten me. Our planet, our rights, our tolerance and acceptance of others, and our relationships with powers in the world. The election was a very dark day for me. I have tried desperately to understand but it is impossible. Instead, I will focus my efforts as I always have in the past: Continuing to use my voice to advocate for the voiceless and stand up for my beliefs. I refuse to be silenced.

I will continue to live in the moment and practice gratitude for every blessing I have: My family, my health, my freedom, my ability to follow my dreams and my quest to make a difference in the world even if it is small. Everything counts – perhaps more than ever before.

As we move into full blown winter, I end my post with some of my favorite captures of nature at its best. These were all taken last week as winter finally arrived full force into Minnesota. I don’t recall ever seeing such a surreal sight. We had a huge snowfall and then suddenly the temperature dropped to a mind numbing -24 F wind chill. The lake had not yet frozen over so in the morning steam was rising from the open water into the sunlight.

I layered up in two pairs of long underwear, two face masks, wool socks and hat and went on a run around my favorite urban lake. I admit that the first five minutes were bone chilling cold yet as I rounded the corner and saw this unearthly view it was worth it. All the darkness lifted and an enormous smile of gratitude crossed my frozen face. There is so much beauty in the world if only we can see it, breathe it, feel it and embrace it.

Lake Harriet, Minnesota

“Our way is not soft grass, it’s a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upwards, forward, toward the sun.” – Ruth Westheimer

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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My Best Travels of 2016

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return”. –  Leonardo da Vinci

I love this quote. Living in Southwest Minneapolis, our home is right under the flight path to   the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport and over the years I’ve come to know when the “big boys” or 747s are coming in to land from their 12-hour flight from Japan. At times, the planes can be loud and annoying, especially during a summer evening when we want to dine outside. Yet being close to the airport comes in handy when you are a diehard wanderlust. Simply looking up in the sky and watching the planes come and go makes me feel excited about the next adventure.

Today is my birthday and I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful loving family, good health, caring friends and another year of amazing adventures. As the last month of the year comes to a close I reflect back on all the fantastic travels both near and far. I’ve been to some new places and some that I haven’t been to in decades. All in all it has been a terrific year of adventure.

Here are a few select memories from some of my favorite destinations of 2016.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

A Return to Boliva

“Life is not measure by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away”. – unknown

I have this quote next to my computer in my office. It happens to be one of my favorite quotes as it reminds me what life is all about: Beauty, love, gratitude, joy, adventure, and peace. The day I walked down the aisle with my dad on one side and my grandfather on the other to greet the love of my life. The first time my child looked into my eyes. My son’s first steps. My daughter’s first words. Crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles. Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. Climbing to the top of the Bolivian Andes with my dad. Capturing the sunset beneath my favorite urban lake after another glorious day. Those moments that forever will be instilled within my heart.

With the good of course also comes the bad. Those difficult challenges, the times that are painful, and hurt. The dark times that despite how insurmountable the challenge may be, it somehow ends up making you stronger.

Two years ago, in lieu of a Thanksgiving dinner I was climbing up to the top of the sky in Bolivia with my father. It was a very special journey for us as a year before my father was battling cancer, a dark memory that we try to forget. Yet with the bad came the good. The closeness of our family. The resilience and strength to overcome the hardship and heal. The immense love. The realization that you have one precious life so make the best of it all.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

My dad and I climbing to the peak in the Bolivian Andes. November 2014

For all these moments that make up the long and winding journey of life, I am grateful. The holiday season reminds me to never stop being grateful for the wonderful things that make me complete and bring me joy. My love for my family, for the earth, for being outside and being alive. Despite all the heartbreak in the world, I must never forget to be grateful.

No photos demonstrate my utter gratitude better than the ones from this magical trip to Bolivia two years ago. The photos remind me that despite the darkness of the world there lies beauty and hope and love.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude”.- Denis Waitley

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My Quest to Live a Meaningful Life

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. ~ Maya Angelou

Sometimes in this rapid, almost dizzying pace of life, we all need to take a step back and simply breathe. Throughout our days, we are inundated with a never-ending list of commitments, obligations and distractions that at times can be utterly overwhelming. That is when it is time to take a step back and simply just be still for a moment. To listen to that inner voice within your heart asking you what matters most and why am I here.

Put simply, I am here to live a meaningful life. And how? Through my never-ending quest to….


“To travel is to take a journey into yourself” – . Danny Kaye

Condoriri trailhead Bolivia

Climbing up to top of Austria Peak

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Our group heading down the trail on Kilimanjaro.

Annapurna Trek Nepal

Me and my Dad at the start of the Annapurna Trek. November 2010.

Be Curious

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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

Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro

Finding Harmony

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”. – Maya Angelou

Getting back from a vacation off the beaten path is always inharmonious to me. I seem to fall into a state of discontent for awhile as I adjust back to the hectic lifestyle of raising a family in America. I often feel more culture shock returning home than arriving into a place so different than my own, and it takes me a week or so to get back into the swing of my high paced life.

Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro

Of course there are things I could do to slow down but it is hard. I’m the kind of person who wants to do it all, and live life to the fullest. I put a high amount of pressure on myself to achieve. But honestly, I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t try my best each and every day to make a difference with my life, to love my children and husband to the fullest and be a good mom, wife, person and citizen.

However, sometimes I need to take a deep breath, and slow down. To find harmony again within my body and soul. To remind myself of the places I’ve traveled to, both near and far, that have helped me find true peace, harmony and solitude.

My most recent piece of harmony was just last week in Nicaragua.

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

Me and my perch, taking the world all in.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time.” – Hermann Hesse 

Shira Camp, Machame Route Kilimanajaro

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Volcan Mombacho

Highlights of a week in Nicaragua

On my last day in Nicaragua, I saw this Apache blessing inside the worn cardboard menu at a small, mostly gringo cafe. In a nutshell, it seemed to sum up pretty well how taking a week completely off the grid in a developing country, far away from all the insanity of American life, made me feel.

“May the sun bring you energy by day, May the moon softly restore you at night, May the rain wash away your worries, May the breeze blow new strength into your being, May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life”.

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

Our sunset view overlooking the small fishing town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Traveling to Nicaragua is perhaps not on everyone’s bucket list. However, for me, as long as a destination is reasonably safe I’m always game for seeing someplace new. Over the last five years, I’ve explored most of Central America with my first visit to the most developed and modern country of them all, Costa Rica, followed by travel to Guatemala, Honduras and even a brief trip to Belize. What surprised me the most about Nicaragua is how as the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti which I visited last year), it was incredibly lovely and safe.

The people are warm and friendly, welcoming visitors with open arms. The culture and beauty of Nicaragua pulls you in and never leaves your heart. Perhaps this is why Nicaragua’s tourism industry is booming and only going to expand. Nicaragua is a wonderful place and is still a relatively unexplored travel gem.

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A Photoblog: In Search of Color

“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up”. – Allen Klein

As a colorless winter persists here in Minnesota, I dream daily of bright colors.  I crave vibrant colors to make my heart sing and give me energy. When it is gray and barren, I feel less inspired then when the sun is shining bright and the sky is brilliant blue. Thus, I try to add color into my daily life especially during the wintertime.

I wear my paisley-colored boots and dress in bright red, pink or green sweaters. I add a colorful pashmina or scarf for a splash of color and am reminded of the place far away where I bought it. I buy a bouquet of spring flowers and place it in the kitchen. Or I look at my photos of summer flowers, markets or vacations to give me that extra boost of color. It is amazing how simply adding color to my life seems to lift my spirits immensely.

See for yourself….

Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro

Spring Flowers

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Sunset over the Sea on the Royal Caribbean

How to remain optimistic in winter: Head South

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”. – Albert Camus

Here in Minnesota we are in the midst of winter. The days are short and cold and in January it rarely gets above freezing. Winter can last anywhere from 4-5 months depending on the year. This year, we have been fortunate as we had an incredibly mild November and December, and despite a sub-zero week it has been mostly in the 20s and 30s. For me, that is almost tropical after last week’s -20.

“So how do you do it” many people ask me in bewilderment and shock when I tell them where I’m from. Simple. I embrace it, and I take a break.

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Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro

What Victory Means to Me

“You won’t win until you learn how to lose” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Following and fulfilling your dreams is not easy. Oftentimes the obstacles and hurdles that lie ahead seem so insurmountable that they hold you back from even trying. Whether it is the fear of failure or anxiety of the unknown we all have our reasons.

I’ve realized over the years that if I do not take risks or step out of my comfort zone than I am miserable. I don’t grow as a person nor do I feel fulfilled or happy. The more I challenge myself both mentally, intellectually and physically, the more peaceful I feel in my own skin.