Travis shares his personal story of finding plant medicines (originally posted 2015)
When I was 20 years old I was saved from drowning. I was in Costa Rica with a friend, and while out surfing by myself I got sucked into a undertow which sucked me to ocean floor and wouldn't let me up. My body was tossed back and forth like a rag doll by the waves, and despite being a good swimmer in great shape, there was nothing I could do to push myself off the ocean floor. Each time I tried to swim up another wave would hit be back down hard into the sand. After a short while getting pummeled like this, I felt my body grow weak. My vision started dimming and my lungs started gagging - trying to force me to breathe in the water that would kill me.
I knew in this moment I was going to die, and so I gave up. In this moment I realized a haunting truth which I had never faced about myself before - at 20 years old I already hated my life and I was deeply depressed. Dying suddenly seemed easier then living, and I wouldn't have to deal with the shame of suicide - everyone would just blame the ocean. I realized I could not save myself from this ocean and that I didn't really want to. I accepted my fate, relaxed, and felt the deepest peace I had ever known. I was dying a painful death by drowning, and I finally knew peace for the first time.
At this moment of surrender and peace, something shifted and I left my body. Suddenly I was watching every moment of my life in incredible clarity. I saw everything that excited me and that hurt me. I saw everything I had left undone - all the opportunities I ran away from... I was a bit sad to leave my story so unfinished at this young age, but life was too hard....
But then I reached the present and the visions skipped into the future. A future without me. I saw my friend in Costa Rica looking for me, and having to finish his trip alone with my death hanging over him. I saw my parents and siblings suffering because they missed me. I realized that I really loved them and they loved me. I felt ashamed for giving up so easily, and realized that they deserved more then that - if I died in this ocean, that was fine, but I needed to try my best to survive or I would die dissapointed in myself. As soon as I realized I wanted to live and be with my loved ones my consciousness shifted back into my body. I was still under the ocean, but I felt like hands were grasping my under my arms and pulling me to the surface. When before I couldn't get an inch off the ocean floor, now I was easily gliding through the water straight to the surface - and I didn't even have to swim - it was just happening on it's own.
When I broke the surface of the water no one else was around. I was still really far away from the shore, and I had a tough and exhausting swim back as the waves kept coming over my head. I was so weak from the ordeal under the water, but that last spark of life kept me going until I could reach the shore.
I found my friend, and told him I had almost drowned... But I did not tell him about the visions, about wanting to die, or about the mysterious feeling of hands carrying me to the surface. Not only was I ashamed of my depression and that I had given up so quickly, the experience had also shattered my worldview. You see, I was an atheist at this time and did not in the slightest believe in anything remotely similar to spirits or energy - I only believed in things I could touch, see, or hear. I ignored the experience I had because I thought maybe I could forget it and all these new questions I had would go away. Well, I was able to repress the experience for a little while, but not long...
Just a few short months after the experience in the ocean, I was back at home and getting ready to try LSD for the first time. Just 3 other friends, and we were at my house. I was just expecting to have a fun night with my friends, but early on I was surprised by a different experience. My friends went to the store to get some drinks and snacks, and while I was alone at home I suddenly felt time stop and the room around me faded away. I felt an amazing presence like I was alone with God.... I suddenly remembered everything that had happened in the ocean, and all the questions and feeling I had been repressing escaped. On top of all this, I heard a voice say, "Remember you are loved and you have purpose." I was so happy that I started crying - this was the first moment in my life that I ever believed in a force some might call God. I decided I must be very ignorant about the spiritual world and that maybe there was something substantial and real to it - I needed to find out more if I was going to understand these experiences. Something meaningful was happening for me, and I had no context within my current world-view that could explain it - I needed a new paradigm. I suddenly saw a different path for my life and I dropped out of college to explore this mystery of self.
I had no idea where to learn about what I was experiencing. My mom had tried to push church onto me when I was younger, and I knew I was never satisfied with their "answers." I didn't know any books I could read or anyone I could talk to about this experience - a large part of me was even convinced I must be going crazy! The only lead I had was that the LSD seemed to help me learn more about this experience. So I bought a bunch of books on psychedelics and started eating mushrooms.
Pretty soon I was experiencing synchronicities for the first time. Meaningful and perfectly timed coincidences that kept urging me to look deeper and keep searching. The psychedelics also started teaching me a lot about myself - practical ways I could be happier and also ways in which I could be a nicer, kinder, and more passionate person. I started having insightful visions about myself and the world around me - often with the aid of psychedelics, but also often while completely sober. My mind was opening to a whole world of new ideas, and it was at this time I found a pivotal book in my journey: Supernatural by Graham Hancock.
About three or four times in a row, I would have a vision or experience unlike anything I had ever heard of before. They always seemed meaningful and important, but they were hard for me to understand. Sometimes they came along with personal insight about myself or my life, but sometimes I was just left with a feeling of awe and wonder. The weird part was though, a few days after I would have each experience, I would then read about the experience in Graham Hancocks book. Supernatural gave me the context to start understanding these experiences. During one visionary experience for example, these small elf like beings appeared and took me to a cave under the water. In this cave they started removing all of my bones - it felt as if my entire body was numbed with Novocaine so that it didn't hurt, but I could still feel each bone being removed. I was scared out of my mind at this creepy feeling I didn't understand, but some part of me thought I must just be imagining this - I had taken psychedelics after all, and this idea of believing in spirits was still new to me. Once these elf beings removed my bones they counted them and put them back into my body. They then returned me to my room and disappeared. The experience felt important or meaningful, but I had no idea what it meant till I read about it a few days later in Supernatural - and in this book it was described as the shamanic initiation of an Ayahuasquero from the Amazon.
I decided I needed to make it to the Amazon jungle and see if anyone there could explain what was happening to me. I heard they could cure illness and depression with psychedelic plant medicines, and I thought if that was true, then maybe they could help me learn from my visions. Only problem was that I had no money, and these shamans were on another continent far away. No one else I knew at this time had even heard of Ayahuasca before, and I had no idea how to find a shaman or where even to look. I decided I will keep praying for the opportunity and the finances to go, but till then keep working with the psychedelics I could find at home to see what they could teach me.
It was a few years before I could get together the funds to visit Peru. In that time I was able to heal my own depression with the aid of psychedelics and meditation. I was more grateful for the blessings in my life and I used my positive perspective to enjoy life more fully. Even hardships became beautiful lessons, and while difficult, they didn't leave me depressed or helpless anymore. Just as I was starting to feel ready to try and share my story with my family - my mother committed suicide. It was incredibly hard, and I don't think I would have outlived her very long if I hadn't done the previous work with psychedelics. But somehow I was able to stay positive even with her death, and around this time I decided to write my first book. A little while later I also found the wonderful women who would eventually become my wife. Once I met her, things finally fell into place and I was able to make Peru happen - and better still, I had someone to share the experience with!
We went to Peru, visited the dessert, the jungle and the Andes, and we felt ourselves forever transformed. This is when I first met Lesley Myburgh who is hosting our ceremonies during String of Miracles. Peru awakened something deep within us which had only stirred before but never arisen. We were on our path and creating the life we wanted, and this life involved helping others with plant medicines. Both of us had been healed by these medicines in multiple ways - mostly emotional, but also some physical. We felt a calling to be bridge people - the ones who help others find their path when they are lost. I knew how hard it was to be alone, thinking you were going insane. I knew how scary it was to try talking to anyone because of the social stigma and illegality of these medicines. I had such a hard time finding my way, and I wanted to support others in similar situations.
Now my wife and I return to Peru each year to connect with our hearts more fully. We especially try to spend as much time in Cusco with the Myburghs as possible, because we cannot get enough of their beautiful energy! When we can we try and bring others with us to share the magic that has helped us so deeply. I started writing books to help people on spiritual journeys of self discovery, and we also started hosting local meet-ups by our home to connect with other people needing community related to entheogenic medicines. This journey has never been easy, but it has been so fulfilling and exciting. And nothing makes me more grateful then an opportunity to pay it forward.
May you all find the support you need on your path - I know it can help a lot.