A Meeting of Kindred Spirits
By Susanne Pacher
I admit it: Yesterday I was playing hooky, away for the whole day from my office, something that always makes me feel guilty. First thing in the morning I had a networking meeting of local female home-office business owners that I was invited to by my strategic consultants. In my jeans and hiking boots I was hopelessly underdressed and I had to run out in the middle of it since I had another meeting to go to.
Well, off I was to to the ferry at the bottom of Bay Street, to go to Center Island and meet my friend Sue Kenney, a fascinating woman who I have already written about a couple of times. What a beautiful feeling, for an occasionally frustrated office worm like me to get out in the middle of the day, hop on the ferry and enjoy the skyline of Toronto, viewed from the tranquility of the islands.
Sue and her friend Bruce Pirrie, another writer with lots of writing experience for Second City and the "Red Green Show", met me and took me to an artists retreat in the pastoral ambience of the island. It's a fascinating place, I believe a former school that has been turned into a retreat for writers, painters, musicians who can rent studios at reasonable prices, set in the middle of a park close to the sandy beach, a perfect place for creativity.
Sue and Bruce took me around, showed me some of the studios and introduced me to another woman, a very gifted painter, who is going to relocate to Mexico for 4 months to housesit: well, I immediately knew I am going to have to do an interview with her too. Sue introduced me as a "writer", something I had been called for the first time in my life (I had always seen myself as an entrepreneur, among other, maybe stranger labels), but what an odd, yet great feeling! A successful published author called me a "writer"..
Then Sue fixed us up a delicious picnic in the communal kitchen, we packed up some sandwiches, fruits and chocolate and headed off to the beach. Although it was beautiful outside, the cold wind drove us back and we retreated inside to a big communal living room with panorama windows and a huge fireplace and had an amazing conversation.
I always like listening to Sue and all the things she has in the works. Sue has already written a book that has achieved Canadian bestseller status, she has recorded story-telling CDs, is working on a second book, planning a documentary and a film about the Camino, she has done many personal promotional appearances and is a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker.
I admire her for working so hard, being so disciplined and charting a completely new direction in her life, a life that she changed around thoroughly after completing her first trip on the Camino. She sacrificed a cozy middle-class lifestyle for the often frugal life of an artist, now living in an artists compound with a shared kitchen and shared bathrooms.
But Sue is immensely driven, or rather filled with purpose: communicating the message of the Camino: love, compassion, courage, awareness, discipline, truth and simplicity. These are all values that I believe in myself and I treasure connecting with such a like-minded soul.
What I really like about Sue is that she comes across as so tremendously grounded and solid, she has figured out exactly what she wants to dedicate her life to and that degree of certainty pervades all her interactions. She just radiates centeredness, calmness and conviction, qualities I admire greatly in individuals.
Bruce, with his dry wit and humour, shared his own experiences from the Camino, how it made him a more open, flexible and receptive human being, and how he communicated fabulously with a toothless Spanish woman tending a flock of sheep while none of the two spoke a word in the other's language. Obviously Bruce put his well-honed skills as a improv writer and actor to good use. These are stories that warm your heart, that make you realize that human beings can connect across borders, despite cultural and language barriers.
We also talked about the media and the concept of "celebrity", something which I have a feeling could come very soon for Sue since she is developing a following across different countries and a well-known international publisher has recently shown interest in her book. Sue has already done some successful media campaigns in Canada, making personal appearances, doing interviews in newspapers, magazines and on TV.
I realize these are things I will myself have to do one day if I want this website to be truly successful. Considering my hermit-like qualities (strange, isn't it, coming from a woman who runs a very personal website, sharing intimate thoughts with a global audience"), just the thought of talking to the media is giving me butterflies in my stomach. I definitely have a mixed view of the media and the last thing I am aspiring to be is a wannabe Paris-Hiltonesque or Donald-Trump-like character that can't get enough of basking in the limelight while shamelessly and ceaselessly promoting themselves, hogging the camera at any given moment.
This is indeed one of the dilemmas of writers: how do you make your creative work personal without it becoming thoroughly self-centered and narcissistic? That's one of the issues I wrestle with in my own head, but I figure that the underlying message I want to convey - get out, explore, connect with others, break down barriers and create better understanding - is a worthwhile enough message that I can occasionally allow myself to ramble on about my own personal insights.
From a practical point of view, when you write a book, or you publish a website, you are obviously going to need to promote your work to create a bigger audience. One day I would like my website to be self-sustaining full-time project that I can dedicate myself to 100%. In order to be able to do just that, the website will have to make money. That's still a long way off, but it means that I will need to promote it and publicize it, while remaining true to my values.
That's why I treasure these meetings with Sue so much: she's been there, done it and done it well. She's already a published author and has completely remade her life from telecom consultant to writer, all-around creative person and spiritual leader. I have a lot to learn from people like Sue and I have great respect for how she has chosen to promote her work, because the philosophies of the Camino are definitely worthy of being promoted.
Last but not least, there is the possibility of joining Sue Kenney on her next walk of the Camino in October. Not only would this be a fabulous opportunity to go back to my beloved Spain, and to connect first-hand with the Camino, but it would also allow me to face my real fears first-hand since Sue will be doing a documentary on that trip. How would I react with a camera in my face?
About The Author
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.
Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm) and have a chance to win an amazing adventure cruise on the Amazon River.
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The story with photos is published at Travel and Transitions - Insights and Reflections