Sacred Places Around the World -- 108 Destinations

© 2012; 2004 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Brad Olsen. Information.
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

A Book Review by Diane Redfern

Many writers and observers have noted that travel is a pathway to knowledge, enlightenment even. If that be so, Brad Olsen's guidebooks may be a good example.Sacred Places Around the World: 108 Destinations

Brad Olsen started his travel writing career with World Stompers, a book he wrote after graduating from business school and completion of a 3-year, self-financed, solo journey to 5 continents.

Olsen calls World Stompers his "manifesto for other intrepid young people willing to travel on the cheap." The book includes such edifying chapters as "Stoner's Trail" and "Partyer's Trail." Now in its fifth edition, World Stompers continues to fill a need despite some harshly critical postings on charging that Olsen writes with, shall I say, an immature viewpoint.

The author himself admits: "[World Stompers] is written in a footloose and fancy-free style, including information on where to party. . . . For those who are already well-traveled . . . this book is not for you."

Olsen's latest effort is definitely not aimed specifically at party hearty types, and the trails followed lead not to the nearest toke house but to Sacred Places Around the World (2nd edition, CCC Publishing).

"Travel is food for the soul," declares Olsen in the book's introduction. That's a lofty but debatable notion. Some folk want nothing more than fun and sun travel. But I quibble. Olsen is addressing the many people who believe, as he does, that "in the depths of the human spirit resides an inclination to follow the same paths long venerated by our ancestors."

In the first 20 pages of Sacred Places Around The World, Olsen delves more deeply into this spiritual connection between man and place with musings that step beyond the scope of a travel guidebook and verge into metaphysical realms. "As the next science of nature and the mind emerges, receptive people will begin to tap into a new paradigm of amazing human abilities," he states authoritatively.

I happen to agree, intuitively, but those who prefer scientific proof may have trouble accepting such observations based on unproven concepts such as Ley Lines (for example) presented as fact.

With his personal philosophy on record, Olsen quickly proceeds to the body of the book – brief but well-researched descriptions of revered locations around the globe.

There are ancient and not so ancient places listed, both natural and man-made wonders, including museums, religious buildings, and World Heritage sites. Some places are remote or even inaccessible due to political or geographic restrictions. Some are open to all; some are forbidden to all but a privileged few.

108 Is a Sacred Number

Why 108? Because, says Olsen, most East Asian religions associate the number 108 with "cycles of earth and the cosmos."

He explains that a Buddhist or Hindu pilgrim is assured entry into heaven if he or she endures 108 circuits around the base of Tibet's inhospitable Mount Kailas, one of the most sacred mountains in Asia.

Many sites listed in the book are well known, England's Stonehenge for one. But it may surprise you to learn that America's New Hampshire also claims a Stonehenge. You probably know of Peru's Nazca Lines, but did you know about the three early humans who left their footprints on Tanzania's Laetoli Plain three million years ago?

To visit these places, according to Olsen, is to "open our minds to the world around us, our collective history, the cosmos above and also to each other."

I would read this book for inspiration rather than as a take-along how-to guide. The author does include a few practical though brief getting-there details along with descriptive illustrations and maps, but the book is mainly interesting for the background information it provides about the mystical places that dot our planet from Angkor to Zanzibar. As a bedtime read, it served me well as a launch to dreams of future journeys.


Brad Olsen is the founder of CCC Publishing in San Francisco. Sacred Places: 108 Destinations is the second in a series that also includes Sacred Places: North America. The third book in the series, Goddess, by Karen Tate, will be released in 2005.
Brad Olsen is also the author of World Stompers: A Global Travel Manifesto, and In Search of Adventure: A Wild Travel Anthology.

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