Joanne Socha is the author of “The Red Bandanna Travel Book: The Medicine of Traveling,” which is about purposeful and mindful travel.

Much of your book is about how women can approach travel with emotional awareness. Where did you get the idea for that?

Thanks for that lovely insight. It was born from my own series of unfortunate events which lasted over ten years–a longing to see and participate in the world but not with all of my sorrows in tow. In the midst of major life transitions, I knew that I had to sift and sort and do some healing of my own before setting foot on a plane. The lure of a destination became my healing beacon and much of healing took place during my pre-trip process. That is when I realized I could share some of my backstory to encourage women during life’s transitions. End result? Travel with self-knowledge, freed from psychic pain.

What travel experience shaped you the most? How did you approach dissecting that trip?

That is a difficult question because every single trip holds nuggets of growth. A shining example from this year is my hike of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail in the Kii Mountains of Japan: a series of ancient pilgrimage trails, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the “twin” of Camino de Santiago in Europe. For a non-hiker, this was a challenge. For someone who usually travels with a steamer trunk and a huge teddy bear, also difficult! Despite this, I had been called to the destination five years ago when a colleague sent me a picture of the three-tiered pagoda called the Seiganto-ji Temple. That picture was my lure.

interview with joanne socha
Photo by Joanne Socha.

Besides gleaning deepening insights into Japanese culture, I enjoyed the physical and mental components of the trip as well as the mystical-like spirituality of the region. I felt like I was ten years old again! You receive a treasure map at the start of the trip and as you traverse up mountain trails and through tiny Japanese villages, you are treated to astounding sites including Shinto shrines, abandoned teahouses, Torii gates, and monuments to poets.

The pièce de résistance is definitely Seiganto-ji Temple, seated next to Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine and Nachi Falls,  which looks like long hair streaming down. Mesmerizing! Also thrown into the mix were daily onsen experiences soaking away the aches from the trail, beautiful food, and the Japanese tea ceremony. I love the fact that the host is pouring a cup of tea from their heart. 

As far as dissecting that trip, I have a process which I implement for my big trips. First, I clear my schedule for at least a month when I return from traveling–meaning no more trips! When I was in Morocco last November, I saw so many incredible “snapshots” of moments I wanted to relive and make sense of and  ruminate on the “takeaway.” 

I was supposed to come home and head to the South Pacific a month later. Alas, that was not meant to be sinceI ended up in the hospital for four days shortly after my Morocco trip. While I was disappointed, I must admit I was relieved because in Morocco I kept thinking, “I need to process this, I need to understand this.” 

My second post-trip process is to wait a month before reviewing pictures. I often find that months after I trip the insights start pouring in when I look at the pictures. I don’t know why it takes so long, but I guess that is part of the post-trip journey and I welcome it. My final but most important post-trip process? Speak to others who have been to the destination to learn their insights and share mine in the hopes of inspiring others to go.

 

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Tell me about the format of the book. Why was it important to have sections where readers could write about their own travels?

Because the pre-trip journey can be as “insightful as the trip itself” (quote by E’Louise Ondash of The Coast News). The goal was to inspire women to fall in love with their world and to show them that travel can be their healing beacon through major life transitions. By encouraging women to dig into their own past travels and future travel wishlist, they learn why they are drawn to destinations, which impels them to future trips and makes the experiences richer. Figuring out why we are drawn to a place is very revealing about ourselves and our world. 

In my signature program and coaching, I assist women in clearing the clutter so they can travel with emotional freedom and enhanced self-knowledge. The pre-trip framework helps people have richer, more expansive, and spiritual trips. One doesn’t have to go on an “Eat, Pray, Love” transformational trip to feel better (although that is also great). Sometimes, the challenge is packing up your burdens and leaving them on the tarmac. In this respect, travel appears to be the catalyst for change but the individual becomes their own catalyst after all.

How do you think travel for women is different?

Since I only know about travel from a woman’s perspective, I think it is very special. Setting aside obvious safety concerns in some regions, as well as the need to respect cultural and social norms while on the road, I think travel for women, especially solo travel, is a necessity–not a luxury. We get to see how the world responds to us, relates to us, cherishes us (or not). We can observe and interact with other women worldwide and and see how they are living.  

Out of those interpretations we can expand them back into our own worlds. Therein lies the lessons and treasures. I love to observe women in different countries–their work, their dress, their day-to-day life. I love to see their contribution to their world, how strong and powerful, beautiful they are and they live with such fortitude. It also helps me disabuse my preconceived notions about how one should live.

What do you hope readers get from your book and how would you encourage women to approach traveling mindfully?

I would hope that if anyone is struggling, lost, lonely, desiring a career change or experiencing one of life’s transitions to know that the world, and travel in particular, can actually be your healing beacon. Let the thought of a destination lure you enough so you go there and mine for its treasures. Be open to the take-your-breath-away experiences where the world seems to stop spinning for a moment, and you feel like you are a part of its creation. Can you tell that I believe travel is the prescription for everything? Especially traveling mindfully! Throw out the rule book of what you think a country might be like! Allow everything different and new.  

Where are you headed next?

I wish I could tell you I was going to sail the Seven Seas or wander the Silk Road, but these adventures won’t happen until next year. I am headed to Paris and Provence for my annual solo trip–my mini-pilgrimage. It is how I reassess my life and recharge.  I include quiet walks by La Seine, paying respects to Notre Dame, and take time to ruminate about the next steps for my business. Of course, I allow for surprises as there are always surprises.

Header photo by Joanne Socha.

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Joanne Socha
Joanne Socha, a former attorney with a keen attention to detail, transitioned to the travel industry in 2010 where she set about gathering exclusive travel information and solidifying relationships with highly respected and resourceful travel industry partners. Always an intrepid traveler, she utilizes her trips around the globe to create information on mindful travel, which she shares in her writing.