The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Dear Mary-Sue: A brimful of ashram and other travel-related spiritual quests

Mary-Sue Wallace, The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, is back. Her thoughtful advice eases and soothes any cross-cultural quandary or travel-related confusion you may have. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at

And here’s to a happy 2012 to all of my peeps out there! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas — I know mine most certainly was. It’s always non-stop craziness in the ol’ Wallace homestead and Christmas 2011 was no exception — let me tell you! “Light of my life” (Ha! You should see me rolling my eyes as I type this) Jake went a little crazy with the Christmas lights this year. You’d have thought Rand Street, Tulsa, was in fact Vegas such was the amount of illumination we had going on. As I mentioned in my last column, New Year was spent unwinding and destressing in Iceland, but Christmas itself was all about Tulsa and the family. Of course, I was missing all my peeps. (I don’t like to think of you as mere readers, you’re all more than that, you’re buddies, you’re my peeps. Am I right? ‘course I am!) Well, anyway as I spent the yuletide period honey glazing my ham and making just the sweetest gingerbread men Rand Street ever did bite their teeth into, I was happiest knowing that 2012 would see me tackling all of your problems and sorting out your travel-related messes.


Dear Mary-Sue,

I got a new Kindle for Xmas and downloaded a book I’ve always wanted to read, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I get the eating and the love parts, but am not so sure about praying — especially if it entails spending time at an ashram in India. Do you think that could be good for me?

Sharon, Cut and Shooot, Texas

Dear Sharon,

A Kindle!! How exciting! What a great present. At the risk of not being my usual super-modest self, you should check out some of my stuff on there. My new historical novel The Sigh of the Bosom is available to buy on there. It’s about a young orphan called Molly growing up in Colonial America. Don’t want to spoil too much of it for you, but little plain Molly gets quite the surprise when she discovers she isn’t in fact an orphan at all, but the true heir to the King of England. It’s gripping stuff, Sharon.

As for going to an ASH-ram, well as a committed non-smoker I am not sure that you should be doing that! Ha! Just a little bit of Mary-Sue Wallace humor there. More seriously, should you go to an ashram? Well, ol’ Mary-Sue Wallace mentioned this to her pastor, Rick. Rick, who might I add plays a mean guitar, is my go-to guy for all things spiritual — as well as for chilli (Rick makes a mean chilli). Anyhoo, Rick told me that spirituality isn’t about flying half-way across the world. Prayer isn’t dependent on location. While it might be nice to seek solitude, and who among us doesn’t crave that at times, what is important is the act of thinking, of contemplation.

I see you live in Texas. Why not go for a hike, take up watercolors, just do something that connects you to your local nature. If you just want to escape and have a change of scenery for a little while then sure, why not go all the way to India and visit an ashram. But if it’s about trying to reconnect with yourself, then I don’t think the answer lies in a plane ticket to India. Things just ain’t that easy.



Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m headed to India next week to try connecting with my inner spirituality. What do you think I should wear? Or should I buy an outfit once I get there?

Roseanne, Spunky Puddle, Ohio

Dear Roseanne,

A little fashionista birdie tells me Daisy Duke-style denim shorts are THE thing to wear in India in 2012.




Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m thinking about taking a gap year next year and, because I’m so fed up with the rampant consumerism of the West, I’d like to go somewhere that could put me in touch with life’s spiritual aspects. Can you recommend anywhere — apart from India, that is, as I’m afraid of getting sick on the food?

Chad, Cheddar, South Carolina

Dear Chad,

Be a trendsetter and think outside the box. You sound like the sort of young guy who shouldn’t be following in the footsteps of others, you should be forging your own path. You know what you don’t hear people say very often? “I’m going on a pilgrimage to Maine,” that’s what. You can start that trend. This site seems to be a great place to start:



Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to share your fave meatloaf recipe with me (yum! yum!). As they say in Italy, “ciao!”

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She has taken a credited course in therapy from Tulsa Community College and is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s post — a firsthand account of how travel can lead to a simpler life.

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2 responses to “Dear Mary-Sue: A brimful of ashram and other travel-related spiritual quests

  1. Tony James Slater January 11, 2012 at 12:05 am

    It’s tough to get enlightened when you’re suffering with ‘Delhi Belly’. Unless crouching by the bowl of the toilet moaning “Ohhh Gooood!” counts…
    India isn’t on my list.

    • ML Awanohara January 11, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Unlike you, I’ve always wanted to go to India but the thought of Delhi Belly is what has kept me away. I went to Mainland China years ago and became very ill on the food. Climbing the Great Wall — a man-made feat that tops the list of the “new” wonders of the world — was less than wondrous when set against the background of desperately wondering if there were any bathrooms up there.

      Are you sure about the denim shorts as appropriate attire? I was just now reading an FT travel article “Meditation Vacation” — about a Buddhist boot camp in the Himalayas — and the writer, Matthew Green, realizing he didn’t have any meditation-friendly clothes,

      haggled for four sets of stripy pyjamas in the market…, achieving a certain prisoner-chic.

      But perhaps ashrams are trendier than the Himachal Vipassana Centre. At the latter, alcohol, email — and talking(!) — are all banned.

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