“Happy Blogiversary” To The Unlikely Pilgrim!

I cannot believe it has been a full year that I have been jetting about exploring religions, cultures and making friends in the strangest of places. I have hit 18 countries and been to tiny little villages in India and Indonesia, super cities like Shanghai, Bangkok and London. I’ve frolicked in the waves of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, among others. I’ve seen ancient sites and felt the history within them as if I was a time traveller. I’ve eaten anything and everything, dabbled in local dance, learnt languages, customs and got lost A LOT! So to mark this monumental occasion I’ve compiled my seven most remarkable memories from the last 12 months. Enjoy!

Spiritual Enlightenment

Given my love of God and the fact that this is The Unlikely Pilgrim, I’ve been privileged to experience some incredible festivals, monuments, places of worship and powerful moments. The one for me that stands out most has to be Jerusalem. Amongst the chattering of Japanese tourists and the chaos of Easter weekend crowds, I was in the Upper Room where it is written that Jesus hosted the Last Supper the day before he was crucified. I stood in awe of the location, a relatively bland room with hints from its Islamic, Jewish and Christian past. I listened to Hillsong tunes echo through my earpods. I was completely engulfed by the magnitude of the occasion and its importance in my faith and therefore my heart and soul. In that moment it was as if I was alone, reflective of what had gone down in this room. My commitment to Christ swelled inside me and reaffirmed my path: to celebrate God my way and love others, like Jesus had. Not with judgement, not with an agenda, but because we are all one. That was my Jerusalem moment.

 Underwater Paradise

The Caribbean is the clearest, bluest most incredible water I’ve witnessed to date. The turquoise shimmer of the sun is mesmerising and inviting. It was here on my 33rd birthday I went diving with one of my best friends Nea off the coast of Can Cun at Isla Mujeres. The MUSA underwater museum is home to thousands of colourful fish and massive turtles all swimming amongst hundreds of statues placed underwater, as an artificial reef. I’ve been diving all over the world and the ocean scenery is always captivating; but I think what made this special was the symbolism of unity that these statues represented. Combined with the stunning nature of the above water views as well, helped. It was a feast for the eyes and for the soul.

Drunken Debauchery

Did someone say Carnivale in Rio? Five days of bloco parties, samba, Brazilian music, fancy dress and the world’s most gorgeous people half naked, offering me beer. YES please! Combined with stunning beaches and glorious churches to explore whilst in recovery mode, made this a very hazy yet very enjoyable stop along the way. A weeklong party that EVERYONE gets involved in from the little ones to the grey army. I highly recommend getting yourself to Carnivale in Rio. It won’t disappoint.

Forever Friendship

Tough category! I am going to omit the Bali crowd from this one as they are already on that list. This one goes out to Maria. Maria is my proofreader and originally a friend of a friend. I have only met her in person twice, yet she has been with me all the way. Ensuring my blogs make sense, offering impartial yet valuable advice and helping my book come to life. Her views are often not aligned with mine and this is why I love her. She is a kindred spirit yet our differences are what makes that so. It’s funny how connected you can feel to someone with oceans and mountains between you. I’ve learnt that this year. I’ve learnt that true friendships don’t fade with distance, they evolve and they change, but true friends will be there in the end. Even when you are worlds apart. (She totes has to proofread this, haha!)

 WTF Moment

Back to Brazil! This was not the only “exorcism” I have witnessed this year but inside the walls of the Temple of Solomon in Sao Paolo, shit got real! Surrounded by 6000 evangelist Christians, on their feet all shouting “get out” in Portuguese to the apparent demon within the dishevelled woman on the stage seemed to be quite extreme, even to me. I certainly said my own prayers amongst the fanfare and hype of the moment. Not for the lady, but for me to make it out without donning the stage or being discovered as completely bewildered at the practice.

I Wish I Lived There

Bali! Bali! Bali! I loved every moment of my time on the paradise island, with its thunderous wet season, scorching dry months, ceremony overload and endless rice fields. I loved the lifestyle of yoga by day and beers with mates by night. I met some incredible people that are firmly in the forever friendship groups. I found myself and I conquered so many fears and demons in that place. Not to mention the beaches are beautiful, the people are so kind and friendly and life is just simple there. I’ll be back. I know it.

Time Traveller

 Lebanon – The history that laps the shores there is incredible for me. Phoenician ruins dating back 6000 years in Byblos and temples for Venus and Bacchus at Baalbek in the mountains. Cedar trees that are centuries old. I enjoyed the unity of the Islamic and Christian worlds colliding over time yet emerging united in what Pope Benedict XVI said is an example for the rest of the world. Islamic burial grounds annexed Christian cemeteries in Tyre. Towering Minarets overlooking Church bell towers in Beirut. Glimpses of the war years linger and yet the general vibe of the place is one of party, friendship and harmony.

 Three hundred and sixty-five days on the road. I feel blessed to have enjoyed the journey thus far and look forward to sharing what the next year has to offer.

 Yours in Faith,

The Unlikely Pilgrim

Pilgrim of the Week – Fabián the Priest

The people I come across never ceases to amaze me. Wandering solo the pathways of Al Bass archaeological site, only two other people were in the entire place, and one of them was Fabián. We got chatting and it turned out he is a seminary – four years ago at the tender young age of 24, he felt called to become a priest, dropping out of uni and headed to the seminary; much to the frustration of his father. He made his commitment to God and is now in the community as a youth pastor guiding the hearts and minds of the next generation. He is a softly spoken man with an infectious dedication to the Lord that lingers on his every word. He is now back at university finishing his studies, so it seems you can have it all. Follow the pathway of the Lord and that of your dad. Lol!

Pilgrim of the Week – Mohammed


Wandering the streets of Byblos, a town that dates to the Phoenicians some 6000 years  ago, is a square with a quaint Catholic chapel on the right and a historical mosque on the left. I was eager to enter both, so I asked the gentleman at the entrance of the mosque if ladies could enter (always wise to ask in the Middle East). This was Mohammed. Pleased we had our headscarfs in hand, he welcomed us in to what I discovered later was the men’s prayer hall. Mohammed discussed Islam willingly with us. He was interested in my project and insisted on taking pictures of me in front of  where the Imam sits. Mohammed gave me a contact of his nephew in Melbourne so that I could interview him when I got back to Australia. Mohammed’s openness to us three ladies is what makes the journey to understanding and tolerance easier. Of course, in Lebanon this is exactly why they stand out, one country, one God, different pathways. Thank you Mohammed and yes, I will ring your nephew.

Yours in Faith

The Unlikely Pilgrim

Lebanon #2- Christian Connection

Having explored the myriad of civilisations that have passed through this land, I decided to seek out some of the iconic locations referred to in the Bible. As a Christian, to be anywhere near places that I read about in school and that are referred to in sermons in church every week, I was so excited. (I know, I’m a religious geek!)

I had the privilege to explore two astonishing places, one in the south one up north. On the way to Sidon and Tyre in the south I visited Magadouche to see a cave/grotto where Mary herself waited for Jesus whilst he preached to the Canaanites in Sidon. Being there was a bizarre feeling and I was confused by my response. Of course it was a spiritually charged place for me and is a famous pilgrimage site, but I also felt a wonderment that I can only associate with being star struck: the thought that Jesus was there. The man I follow, the Lord in my eyes, has stood on this spot. It was overwhelming. I sat for hours and read the history, in Mark 7:24 it says Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. I was there in that place. WOW! And in John 2:1-11 it explains how Jesus turned water in to wine, this took place 10 kms down the road. The first miracle of Christ; encouraged by his Mother. I was overwhelmed to say the least.

Another sanctuary that truly inspired me was the monastery of Mar Sharbel and St Maroun. High in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and snow-capped this time of year lays this humble monastery. A remarkable building and home to both St Charbel and St Maroun, the latter who founded the Maronite Church, a Catholic associated sect found mainly in Lebanon and accounts for 20% of the population. I was there in time for a service where I heard passages from the bible chanted in Arabic. Upon the altar were nine black cloaked monks singing in a baritone harmony that was quite mesmerising. I snuck in a little video, so keep your eye on YouTube for that. The tomb of Mar Sharbel is housed there and pilgrims come from miles around to pray for healing. Mar Sharbel is famous for healing people of all faiths, a true man of God who lays his hands on the sick. Legend has it a lady was healed of a rare form of cancer and she to this day attends the monastery on the 22nd of every month. It is said that her wound weeps when she is on the mountain. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there on the 22nd but the vibe of this extraordinary property with such a spectacular backdrop certainly beckons. It commands the presence of God and in faith I think anything is possible.


I’ve had two welcoming and kind families host me and share with me their faith and culture. I’ve met interesting characters, both Christians and Muslims, and both are equally proud of their heartlands and what has happened there. I’ve even had some frank discussions about Hezbollah and Daesh which came forth quite naturally.

I love Lebanon I feel even more connected with my faith having come here and I hope to return in the summer to delve further into this country, its people, its past, and of course for some more tabouli and meze,  The Gluttonous Pilgrim lives on!

Yours in Faith,

The Unlikely Pilgrim

Pilgrim of the Week – Georgette – Open Heart, Open Mind

The Khadij family were an absolute pleasure to have met. Maround and Noha have four beautiful children, Joseph the Accountant, Fedi the Pharmacist, Charlie the Engineer and Georgette the Midwife. I enjoyed my conversations with the whole family, but Georgette captured my heart. At 20 years old, this young woman is what gives me faith in humanity. We discussed at length the social issues arising from nearly two million refugees in an already resource-poor country, we discussed the differences but also the similarities between faiths. Most incredibly we discussed the human reflex to judge. Certain cultures have certain characteristics. As a majority, the Aussies drink beer, the Spanish  drink lots of red wine, and the Americans do everything BIG. But what we tend to do is stereotype or generalise people because of their faith. We chatted about this in relation to a program she was involved in and little did I know she contemplated our thoughts for days. When I left, she said, “You’re right, we should not generalise and we should accept each person as an individual,” and she thanked me for helping her realise that. What? I thought this woman had broadened my  eyes with her open heart and honest and frank views on life. It just goes to show that real conversations with people, where you’re honest and true, can have an impact on you or on them. I am thankful to have met this wise young woman whose contribution to her country and this world I’m sure will not go unnoticed as the compassion in her heart can only be a blessing for all humanity.

Lebanon – A history book of faith

Lebanon! What an incredible country. My first few days in Beirut was spent enjoying the famous Lebanese hospitality, exploring the historical sites and eating! I’m beginning to think this project should be called ‘The Gluttonous Pilgrim’. I’m enjoying the food and people just as much as the religious contexts that I find in every destination. There goes the yoga body! It is a Middle Eastern country with a European vibe. They say it is the Paris of the east. Walking through downtown Beirut, I can see why.

History is everywhere you turn in Lebanon, from the Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut sandwiched between the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque and the St George Maronite Church ruins that are centuries old. The history is also evident at the sites  in Jbeil (also known as Byblos) and Baalbek – the place of one of the world’s largest Roman ruins.

Down in the valley near the Syrian border is Baalbek, an almighty display of Roman grandeur, layers upon layers of civilisations, religion and faith threaded through each one. Here the Romans built temples dedicate to Venus – God of Love, Bacchus – God of Wine and Jupiter -God of Sky. A Triad of Gods at that time. Three – there’s that number again, so prevalent in so many faiths. I’ll be investigating that further. The temple of Bacchus  was recently restored and is host to opera festivals. The expansive interior was once used for  ceremony: a reminder of the rituals of the day. Then when the Byzantines moved in the temples were converted to cathedrals and churches for prayer and finally the Omayadd Empire converted sites to mosques and citadels.

Byblos and Anjar are also steeped in religious history. Wherever ruins are found, whether they be theatres, houses, stables, stores or fortresses, always close by is the house of worship, the temples of Gods and Goddesses, cathedrals or mosques. In Anjar there is evidence of a private mosque for the prince who came to Lebanon during the Omayyad era, the first Islamic rulers. Even in Byblos that dates back six thousand years to the Phoenicians, Temples for the God of War, the God of Love and Dance, among others.


If you want to explore the historical sites in Lebanon I highly recommend it. I was blown away by the construction and intricate details in the stone and marble buildings here. Our guide Natasha, an archaeologist, brought the stories to life through her passion for the past and jovial commentary on the quality of restoration works.


In modern times religion is highly debated; part of the reason I’m on this trip is to understand organised religions’ role in this modern world. One thing that has struck me about my trip to Lebanon is that all religions are here to stay. The sustainability of faith through war, evolution, progress and everything else the world throws at us is undeniable. Religion and faith survives. It is the centre of our ancestry and it shapes our future, whether we like it or not.

One theme that appeared at every site was cemented when I visited Tyre in the south where the necropolis of hundreds of people was discovered. And that is the acceptance of different religions is the centre of Lebanon’s culture. In Tyre, there is a Christian cemetery next door to a Muslim burial site, separated by a dividing wall. The echo of the call to prayer sounds, as the Maronite Church bell’s chime. My Muslim driver holds my hand through the ice so I can reach the hermitage of St Charbel to pray. The doors are open to their neighbours in Palestine and Syria, regardless of religion. Sure that situation brings its challenges for society and resources but the ‘honour thy neighbour’ principal is there. Pope John Paul II said, “Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for the East and West”. I think he’s right .

Yours in Faith,

The Unlikely Pilgrim