By Jody J. Ballard

I love artichokes. I love the taste, texture, color, and even the prickly manner in which they protect themselves. I love it all, but not because the aggressive pinprick at the end of each leaf has never injured me. In my family, it was not considered a food, but truth be told, I don’t think my parents could have picked it out and named it in a grocery store. What I DO love it that eating an artichoke takes time, effort, and awareness of the nature of the artichoke.

Artichokes are intriguing. They are herbaceous plants when eaten with the main course and otherwise considered a flower in the daisy family. I find this curious because it is our relationship to it that determines if this petulant globe is classified as a flower or a vegetable. We have to take the time to know it well and its benefit to us. NOW you might be thinking this is too much to do about nothing, and maybe it is. But let me offer a thought for contemplation.

What if we approached each person we met NOT as someone predetermined by how they look on the outside, the roughness of their actions, their peculiar ways? What if we did not attach to people because  they did not speak our language, shared our way of thinking, liked what we liked, dressed like us, ate the same foods…you get the idea…

BUT what if we approached other people as:

  • human beings searching for connection,
  • sometimes perfect but most of the time beautifully imperfect,
  • kind, and worthy of respect
  • different in potentially exciting ways.

If these were the first thoughts when greeting a cashier, sitting next to an airline companion, following a slow driver in heavy traffic, a coworker, or your most beloved children and mate, I think it might change the quality of these encounters. People FEEL at a gut level another’s intentions, fears, reluctance to engage, or closed stance.

We have not evolved far from the time when our primal brain (the part of our brain responsible for survival, drive, and instinct) informed us when people and situations were safe. In the world today, we take in a lot of information, and I believe we can no longer appropriately synthesize all the data, images, sounds, sights hurled at us. The result is we no longer trust these ‘gut feelings’.

However, when we sit still and ask ourselves what we really WANT and what we really NEED in our lives, I would venture a guess that CONNECTION is right up there on the list.

Our ability to CONNECT begins with us and our attitude toward people in general. We do respond to others via a mirroring effect if we take the time. Kindness is met with kindness, respect with respect.

WHAT IF we led with an open heart, respect, and kindness? I believe the prickly side of people would soften, and they would allow us to look a little deeper and see a tender center at their heart What If………….?????



Our History

The Women's Heritage Walk is a life-affirming trek inspired by the worldwide history of women who walked to feed their families, bring water to the villages, trade goods and services, and migrate to safer, more hospitable lands. Women have been on the move for centuries, often reacting to the weather, food, and resources.

The Walks was a natural corollary to the three-day Wellness Seminars established in and around the mountains of Garmisch, Germany, in 1992. This format expanded to Poland, Rome, Italy, and into schools to meet the growing need to address the social and emotional need to cope with increased stress, particularly bullying in schools. Women's Heritage Walk, established in 2015, has become an unrivaled multi-layered experience for women.

The Women's Heritage Walk is an unrivaled multi-layered experience for women. It is rooted in the belief that women empower each other, their families, communities, and themselves through growth, learning, and pushing their limits.

Preparation begins three months in advance with a curated program to prepare walkers mentally and physically for an arduous, exciting adventure. This experiential journey captivates all the senses and enhances each woman's physical strength and internal fortitude while enhancing an individual's personal health and wellness path.

This adventure allows walkers to immerse themselves authentically in the local country's cultural heritage. Daily programs stimulate a more profound understanding of our foremothers' life experiences and offer a new appreciation for the habits and customs borne from the hardships of early life.

Participants forge deeper bonds with themselves and each other through physical, mental, and emotional development. Shared hardships endured with common goals create lifelong attachments, increase mutual understanding, widen tolerance parameters, heighten mutual respect, and reinforce shared values. Once accomplished, it accentuates individual strengths and potential more fully.

This transformational endeavor impacts the Walkers and their network of friends, family, colleagues, and community members. Each person learns vicariously from the participant's persistence, perseverance, lifestyle changes, growth, reinvigoration, and heightened knowledge.

Each year brings a new adventure and opportunity to connect as we obtain the most up-to-date research to augment and improve upon the four pillars of Culture and Heritage, Health and wellness, Strength and Leadership, and Community Connection.

We employ an overarching approach encompassing all human needs. We focus on physical and mental health, joy and balance in relationships and spiritual and intellectual curiosity.

Tolerance, perseverance, self-awareness, and cultural respect are themes discussed in the Wellness Component. These become more relevant as the event brings women from multiple nationalities together. The journey provides an open forum for the women to discuss culture, values, and traditions and to learn from each other without judgment. Through it, they discover more that unites them than separates them.

Each woman takes a chance by overcoming fear and disrupting their life momentarily, hoping to find something special inside and outside themselves. Through connections to others unlike themselves, they learn and grow.

"A heart afraid never learns to dance and never takes a chance." Bette Midler

Fear isolates us and diminishes our opportunity to live our best lives by finding our best selves. We must be challenged to do this, and the Women's Heritage will challenge you. Complacency and walking through our lives on autopilot does not. When we think of adventures, we think of exploring something outside ourselves. However, in this Walk, a large part of this challenge and any arduous struggle happens inside ourselves. This Walk challenges you to go outside your comfort zone in all areas.

This program is guided by integrity and honors heritage. The Women's Heritage Walk develops personal and collective strength. Proximity and shared hardship build not only tolerance but respect. By finishing, they teach our daughters, families, and community that difficult does not mean impossible. The challenging walks teach us to persevere with compassion, humbly appreciate nature's power, and draw on inner strength to keep moving forward when weary. This gift of struggling fortifies a heightened and profound belief in oneself and gratitude for the support given.

Along with her in-country cultural experts, Jody continues to develop a modern and ever-growing tribe of a global 'sisterhood.'

26-year-old UAE national Waheeda Al Hadhrami participated in 2017 and said about the event, "Walking through our beautiful deserts and reconnecting with our past was life-changing, although it was physically and mentally challenging. The experience allowed me to meet many women from different backgrounds and walks of life, and I enjoyed the cultural exchange. I loved every step of the journey!"