Regardless of where our travels take us, it does not change where we come from and the fact that home is defined by where our friends and family members dwell.
In the case of my new best Bedouin friend Hubbly Bubbly - who is my local tour guide - that means being the fifth child of 23 from a father who has four wives. He asked why I traveled alone, without family or companions, because it did not make sense to him.
"American life is different and Americans are more independent," I explained. "Do you understand?"
He nodded knowingly. "Oh, yes. I have seen Baywatch on the television. American girls have big problems every day." His conclusion made perfect sense and I could add nothing more.
But the same heartfelt principle of our intimate inner circle of relationships applies universally -- from Bedouin to Baywatch -- and can transcend cultural differences as long as we don't let our conditional lives stand in the way of unconditional moments and shared experiences. When our hearts and minds are open, so are the doors to that spiritual home where there is always room for one more member of an extended kinship circle.
Home is where the heart is, but it's up to each of us to open the door and invite others to enter. Otherwise the universe is populated only with potential trespassers who frighten us away from friendship. By inviting me into his circle of friends, Hubbly Bubbly became one of my most memorable trusted guides into the exotic, sometimes scary and foreign-seeming landscape of my inner self and spiritual identity.
Stepping Aside to Let Our Dreams across the Border:
While sleeping at our makeshift Bedouin campsite beneath wild Middle Eastern stars I had a lucid dream. Hubbly took me on a flying carpet ride and the sky was vivid blue, red, orange, and yellow. Soon we came upon a corridor in the heavens where the air turned clammy and cold and filled with ghoulish howls.
"What's going on?" I asked my guide. "Where are we?"
"Inside your mind," said Hubbly. "This is what your fear looks like."
Odd shapes came at me, sounds intensified, and my stomach tightened in the grip of fear.
"Relax," Hubbly said. "Breathe. It cannot touch you unless you invite it in."
Light began to hover above me tenderly, fear faded, and we zoomed away on our magic carpet to the gateway of a place marked Hopes and Dreams.
Follow Your Inner Hubbly Bubbly
Breathe, focus inwardly, and trust your gut as the best travel guide - especially when things go unexpectedly hubbly-bubbly. Know who you are and your inner voice won't mislead you.
• Next time you need to make a decision, follow your instincts.
• Don't over-think or ask your hairdresser or cab driver what to do. Listen to the self inside yourself.
• Cultivate a circle of people -- your extended friends and family -- and nurture those relationships. They can serve as anchors and guides, giving you a mirror to hold up to yourself when answers are unclear.
Don't be afraid of strangers. Act as if everyone is family and there are no strangers - following the American idea that we are all innocent until proven otherwise. Strike up conversations with strangers and see what is illuminated. As John Prine sings:
So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care. Say, "Hello in there, hello."
Hubbly Bubbly's skin is caked with dust and his wind-ravaged hair is like straw. His few remaining teeth are rotting. But his intelligence is keen, his soul is soft, and his love of people is a shared treasure that makes me a richer person for having met and befriended him.
To Be Continued:
Two weeks after returning to the USA a fax arrived from Mohammed addressed to my family, cordially inviting them to visit Jordan. Accompanying it was one signed "Hubbly Bubbly" - suggesting that we get married.