Brad Olsen is the founder of CCC Publishing, the Consortium of Collective Consciousness, based in San Francisco. He is a man who wears many hats — publisher, writer, photographer, producer and artist. He’s also a seasoned world traveler and author of the new book Sacred Places Europe, the latest title in CCC’s series of travel guides focusing on spiritual journeys. Brad researched and wrote the book, and also provided all the photos and maps that appear throughout. Oh yeah, did we mention he dabbles in cartography too?
His strong interests in history, culture, spirituality and humanity have lead Brad down a career path full of creative pursuits and plenty of travel. I caught up with him recently via email for a quick chat about travel, the Sacred Places series and some of his other artistic projects.
How did you first getting started traveling?
It was an innate and insatiable curiosity to see the world in the days of my youth. And with many youthful indiscretions, partying with the opposite sex on the opposite side of the world had its draw.
When did you first begin writing about travel, both personally and professionally?
I started writing my first book World Stompers: A Global Travel Manifesto within the first week of getting my sponsored-visa job to teach English in Kyoto, Japan. That book was in the works for over three years, and has now gone into five editions. When I landed the job, I knew my dream of a self-financed backpacking trip around the world was going to happen. And it did.
Where did you go on that backpacking trip, and for how long did you travel?
I was out of the country for three years solid. I was in Japan for 14 months, Australia for 5 1/2 months, India for 5 months, Indonesia for two, plus Nepal, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel and a dozen European countries in a month. See my online travelogue Stompers.
How did the idea for the Sacred Places book series first come about?
After a half dozen years publishing travel guides I started looking deeper into the demand of guides and saw an opportunity. From the beginning it was clear I needed to do a whole series on the subject. Besides, during my three-year trip around the world I found myself drawn to sacred places and I had a strong working knowledge coming into the first book.
What are the other titles in the series?
In order, we’ve published: Sacred Places Around the World: 108 Destinations (now in 2nd edition); Sacred Places North America: 108 Destinations (currently being rewritten into a 2nd edition); Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations (written by Karen Tate) and our latest, Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations.
Can you tell us a little bit about the destinations featured in the new Europe book?
It’s a collection of prehistoric megaliths, sacred mountains, pilgrimage destinations, obscure Christian shrines and other lesser-known locales. Some examples: In France, the book features sites like the caves of the Dordogne region and Carnac’s megaliths. In Central Europe, there is Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, Tipova in Moldova and The Visocica Valley Pyramids in Bosnia, to name a few. Special Christian sites pervade the European landscape. There are sections of sacred site listings for Scandinavia, Germany and the Alps, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal too.
One place included in the Great Britain chapter is the assorted monuments around the small village of Avebury, among the most important Neolithic ruins in England. They include Europe’s tallest artificial hill, the skeleton of a monumental stone circle much like Stonehenge, several underground passage chambers, and the remnants of two 1.5-mile (2.4-km) long stone avenues. The Avebury monuments were not just a concentration of elaborate ruins, but also a prehistoric staging ground for seasonal rituals and courting dramas.
Can you share with us a few of your personal favorites from the book?
Like Avebury, the Neolithic sites of Europe really blew me away, both on my first backpack trips across the continent, and during my three-month research trip for the book in 2004. In Holland, the “hunnebeddens” or “giant’s beds” are charming and delightful just like the Dutch people themselves. Ireland is loaded with Neolithic sites like Hill of Tara, Loughcrew and Newgrange.
Why 108 Destinations?
If you were a Hindu or Buddhist, 108 would be one of the most familiar numbers you know. It is sacred for any number of reasons – and fully explained in all my books!
So what was your methodology for choosing the locations you did?
Of course, this is subjective to my own system of qualifying a site. There are some we would all agree upon: Stonehenge, the Scottish stone circle Callanish, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Great Pyramids. For the secondary tier, I look for what the locals consider a sacred place, and which locations have the best story to tell. I don’t report on battlefield or holocaust sites, nor haunted houses or anything like that.
Have you visited all of them?
Close to 80 percent.
“Sacred travel” and things like “metaphysical tourism” and “spirituality tours” have been growing in popularity. To what do you attribute this trend?
People are looking for more in their vacations besides sipping mai tais by the pool. Why not venture off the hotel grounds and check out some of these sites? After all, they are the places that define the very best of the civilizations that preceded us.
More and more travelers are booking their vacations with the expressed interest of experiencing the power of a sacred place. Taking a pilgrimage is not a new idea, but this type of trip seems to correspond with a growing trend in seeking spirituality on a more individual or secular level — all while having an enjoyable time on an educational and invigorating vacation!
Will there be another title in the Sacred Places series in the future?
Either Sacred Places Southeast Asia: 108 Destinations or Sacred Places Central America and the Caribbean: 108 Destinations. What do you think? Can we take a poll?
Sure, Brad, here’s a handy poll for readers who want to make their pick:
So what’s next for you on the travel horizon?
I’m leaving for a camping and music event up at Mount Shasta, California. We are doing a Peace Tour event in the shadow of the holy mount to see if we can activate the consciousness grid. Go to www.peacetour.org to learn more.
Sounds like another sacred destination worth visiting. Good luck Brad, and thanks for chatting with us.