It’s not very often that a complete stranger calls you out of the blue because they noticed something you did and just wants to congratulate you. But that’s exactly how I became connected with JoAnn.
It was 2010 and I had recently returned from the first of several ‘Sisters on Purpose’ retreats led by my sisters and myself. We’d just taken a small group of women to Italy, and I was excited to share that experience.
The Arizona Republic, our Phoenix area newspaper, has a place in the Travel section that allows people to share travel photos along with a little blurb of their experience. So I submitted a picture of the ladies while visiting a farmhouse and participating in a truffle hunt. I didn’t reference our group, but just called it a group of ‘sisters’ traveling together. The editor called me and after inquiring further, offered to include my website info and phone number in case other women were interested in future retreats.
Just a day or two after my little article was in the Sunday paper, I received a call from a sweet stranger – JoAnn. She introduced herself and congratulated me on having the article printed. She also let me know it was very unusual for the paper to use a picture of something that was considered to be a “business” and reminded me how lucky I was.
She shared with me that she has been operating a similar type business for many years with her husband, Gene, – The Walking Connection. She leads walking retreats and travels to unique locations worldwide. My initial thought was that she was my competitor and even though I don’t remember actually saying that, my impression must have come through the phone to her. JoAnn quieted my small-mindedness and assured me that we are not competitors. She said, “We do the same thing. We have the same goals – to create connection and facilitate relationships. I do it through walking and you do it through sisterhood.”
She went on to share many things she’s learned from her years of experience. What works. What doesn’t. Pitfalls to avoid. Ways to make the retreats better. The information she provided, along with her genuine care and support, was valuable beyond belief. After our conversation ended, I found myself questioning, ‘Why would she do that? A total stranger just calling to support a fellow human being with nothing to gain for themselves?’ But, that’s one of the things I love about JoAnn.
We talked again sporadically (usually when I had a question that I knew she could help with) but it wasn’t until years later that we met face to face. It was like reconnecting with an old friend! We sat for hours over coffee mostly talking about places we’d travelled to, our favorite spots, what we loved about them, etc. For me, there are few things more enjoyable than comparing travel experiences, and finding someone who loves travelling like I do is The Best!
I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned traveler but this lady puts me to shame. She leads phenomenal trips to exotic and remote places, and has just incorporated self-led packages for the adventurous types. Looking over her Facebook page to borrow a picture of her for this post, it was hard to find one where she wasn’t holding a snake around her neck, walking with penguins or looking into the eyes of a huge ape of some sort.
I am inspired by JoAnn’s adventurous spirit and her connection with the earth, others, and herself. But I am truly grateful for her reaching out to me – a stranger – for no reason other than to support and encourage. That is a beautiful and rare connection.
Please feel free to check out her website to see what she’s got coming up next – www.walkingconnection.com.