Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia

Click on title to view photo in large format. Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia, sits at the heart of the city. At the head of the Quay is the main ferry terminus, while the famous Harbour Bay Bridge lies at its foot. The location is more than practical; it was on this precise spot that the settlement of Australia was founded. Thus it seems appropriate that today a multitude of ferries depart every few minutes, transporting locals to and from work and tourists to Manly, Watsons Bay, Mosman, and Taronga Zoo. Read More

Whiling away the afternoon at the magnificent Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia

Click on title to view photo in large format. On any given day, crowds of tourists and locals while away the day at the magnificent Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. With its unique design that mimics the sails of a ship, it is one of the most famous and easily recognizable buildings in the world. Upon awarding it World Heritage status in 2007, UNESCO called it “one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.” Read More

It started with a single shiver. In the 90 degree temperatures of Bodh Gaya, India, I suddenly felt chilled. I pulled my sweatshirt jacket close and snuggled into it. A few moments later, my whole body was wracked by a second shiver. My teeth began to chatter and my skin grew cold and clammy. First my stomach clutched. Then the diarrhea started.

I had come to Bodh Gaya for two reasons. I’d previously traveled to the birthplace of Gautama Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal, and to Sarnath, India, where he first taught the Dharma to his small cadre of followers. But the most important pilgrimage site for any Buddhist is the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, beneath which Buddha attained enlightenment. After meditating beneath the Bodhi Tree, I planned to attend a ten-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat. But that was not to be.

Big Buddha statue at Bodh Gaya, India

Big Buddha statue at Bodh Gaya, India

For the next six days, I made a mad dash to the toilet every 20 minutes. Dressed in three layers of clothing, I climbed into bed and piled on every blanket I could find. And still I shivered uncontrollably while cold sweat poured off me. A jackhammer pounded behind my eyes, until I wished my head would split open, and stomach cramps had me curled up in the fetal position. Itchy red bumps appeared all over my torso and back. Even without a thermometer, I knew I was burning up with fever. Read More

Archeological excavations of ancient Buddhist monasteries in Sarnath, India. Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma here. The three structures in the distance, from left to right, are the Main Temple, the Dhamekh Stupa, and the Jain Temple.

Click on title to view photo in large format. After his enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha traveled to Sarnath, a village near Varanasi, India. There he shared the Dharma (teaching) with his closest disciples for the first time. He explained the four noble truths that became the foundation for the philosophy we now know as Buddhism. By the seventh century AD, more than 3,000 monks were living in Buddhist monasteries in Sarnath. The community thrived until the 12th century, when Turkish Muslims invaded and razed most of the monasteries. Read More

Monks come to Mahabodhi Temple to meditate beneath the ancestor of the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India, beneath which Buddha became enlightened

Click on title to view photo in large format. Monks wait to meditate beneath the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India. According to legend, Siddhartha Gutama (Buddha) meditated on this exact spot without moving until he attained enlightenment. Records are unclear about how long he meditated; some say six days, others say 49 days, while some even say it took six years. Once Buddha achieved nirvana, the Bodhi Tree became a sacred symbol of his enlightenment and followers began making a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya to meditate beneath its branches. Read More


During a dawn boat ride along the ghats in Varanasi, India, I witnessed devoted Hindus bathing in the Ganges River. Many save for years to make the trip and are joyful at finally being able to touch the river they know as Mother Ganga. Despite being severely polluted, they flock to the ghats every morning to bathe in the river, make offerings to it, and even drink from it.