Lori Erickson is a travel writer who specializes in writing about spiritual journeys and her visits to several spots around the world. She grew up on a farm in Northeast Iowa and currently lives in Iowa City. Erickson has had several books published, along with articles published in *Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler, Better Homes & Gardens, Travel + Leisure, and USA Today.* She has a B.A. in English from Luther College and an M.A. in English from the University of Iowa. She also created the website, Spiritual Travels.
DI: What initially drew you to writing about travel and spiritual journeys?
Erickson: I grew up on a dairy farm, which meant that we never traveled at all, and so travel was something that I discovered as an adult. But once I discovered it, it became a great passion of mine. And then another great interest of mine for most of my life has been spiritual inner explorations, and so about 15 years ago, I realized that there was a natural correspondence between those two, in pilgrimage in particular, but more generally in travel that really speaks to people’s deeper yearnings.
DI: Given all the places you’ve seen and traveled to, why have you chosen to settle down in Iowa City?
Erickson: Some was by happenstance. You know, one thing leads to another but I will say that I’m a native Iowan. I grew up on a farm in Northeast Iowa, and I love Iowa, and I think Iowa is sort of an undiscovered treasure. I have deep, deep roots here, and the older I get, the more I appreciate those.
DI: What is the most rewarding thing about writing about spirituality?
Erickson: Well, I’m going to cheat and say two things. I always think that I don’t really know what I think about something unless I write about it, because in the process of writing about it, I figure out my own thoughts. And so I get the excuse to think deeply about spiritual matters and to investigate widely. So, that’s the first thing. The second thing that I really enjoy hearing from readers and to hear from people whose experiences parallel mine, or that my work has sparked something in them that is important to them, and so that’s really rewarding too.
DI: What is your favorite experience having to do with your writing that relates to travel or spirituality?
Erickson: I mean I’ve had lots of wonderful experiences, and I’m always most excited about where I’m going next and where I’ve last been because, you know, it’s fresh in my mind. So I will say, a few weeks ago, I got the chance to see the northern lights in Alaska. And that was a peak experience, I must say, to get the chance to see something I’ve seen of course many times in pictures and videos, but nothing can compare to being there in person.
DI: Are there any stressful parts of your job people may not consider?
Erickson: Well, being a freelance writer or an author [or] anything in publishing is sort of a high wire act without a net. It’s the Wild West out there in terms of publishing — there are a lot of opportunities and also the old models are breaking down in terms of how people get paid and how books get distributed. And so you have to be really flexible, and be willing to reinvent yourself as it goes. It’s like building your car as it’s running.
DI: Is there anything that draws you to a certain location to write about?
Erickson: I especially like places that have a deep and rich history behind them, and ones that, in a sense, have been hallowed and have been made sacred by the feet of many pilgrims. So that’s one thing, but I would also say really beautiful areas in nature I also think are spiritual destinations. And so, you know, in some ways you want to be around people, and sometimes you don’t want to be around people, so it sort of depends on what you’re searching for.
DI: What advice would you give to other students studying English at the University of Iowa?
Erickson: I would say that in many ways there’s never been a better time to be a writer and creator because the cost of production is virtually nothing with online publishing and YouTube and podcasts and things like that. And so it’s a great time to practice and to get your stuff out there. It also requires a lot of work and a lot of nimbleness in order to figure out what your particular path might be, but there are tremendous opportunities out there and people are discovering them all the time. And so I would say you have to figure out what you really want, and then figure out what the next step is in getting there. You don’t have to figure out the whole path, but you have to figure out the next step.