Can a trip of a lifetime planned with an eye to perfection backfire in such a way as to make you seriously question your whole life? Can a suitcase as big as its owner, and stuffed with everything but the kitchen sink, become one’s greatest teacher? Those questions, and more, are answered in my debut book, available now on Amazon.com.

Mid-life I discovered a passion for Buddhism, and began my spiritual practice. It wasn’t long before I developed an intense curiosity about the traditional cultures of Asia. I wanted to see firsthand how the people in the “Lands of Happiness” fare. Are they truly at peace, totally content, regardless of their station in life or level of prosperity?

An obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, I began the adventure with over-the-top preparations. I wouldn’t leave a single thing to chance, lugging with me everything (and more) I thought I’d need just to get through the day, half-way around the world, fashion foremost.

Enter the Big Red Suitcase, weighing in at 95 pounds, with what I was sure a Western woman needed bound for the farmlands of the Himalayas and the Nepalese jungle. Dragging this monstrosity jam-packed with twenty-two fashion outfits, tons of toiletries and trail mix, 484 daily supplements, and a half gallon of Permethrin was hilarious at times, but always a glaring symbol of how unbalanced and attached I am to material things much of the time.

Traveling solo, nearly every step of my journey was fraught with challenges, frustrations and detours. The red suitcase turned my “trip of a lifetime” into an ongoing test of patience, determination, and fortitude—and most important—learning to let go.

My story-telling isn’t just about my trip to Asia. With a no-holds-barred mindset, I reveal how my search to find “the middle way” is compromised at every turn by my drive and need to be perfect and do perfect in every way.

This travel/introspection memoir is also an introduction to a fascinating ancient and venerable culture that the West is infiltrating little by little. For anyone who may feel a calling, as I did, to travel there, I offer a cautionary note regarding what not to bring.