One of the online groups I belong to poses an ice-breaker question every so often in order for members of the group to get to know each other. This morning’s question got me thinking. The question was, “What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve travelled?”
That’s an easy one and a difficult one at the same time. Easy because my favorite travels immediately jumped into my mind without hesitation. Difficult because I have more than one favorite for more than one reason.
When I was a librarian, I was often asked what my favorite book is. I answered the way only a librarian could, “That depends. I have many favorites, all according to category!”
You see, how could I claim Rebecca as my favorite book when I think of it as my favorite mystery? Having said that, The Great Gatsby is clearly my favorite classic. My favorite children’s book when I was younger was Little House in the Big Woods, but as an adult who reread the entire series a few years ago, These Happy Golden Years was the hands-down winner. It’s like asking which of Diana Gabaldon’s books is my favorite. The answer is, whichever one is the most recent one I’ve read (Go Tell the Bees that I’m Gone is at the top right now).
This past weekend, I participated in the Wine, Romance, and More Book Festival in the Poconos. I was asked another often-asked question. What’s your favorite book that you’ve written? Ah, that’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. It just can’t be done (though we can name our least favorite child on any bad day, and that changes by the hour). I love The Devil’s Fortune because it contains so much of my own family history, but my heart and soul live within The Good Wine with its powerful messages of redemption and unconditional love. Ask me tomorrow, though, and I might say something completely different!
I view movies the same way. I have my favorite classic–Casablanca, always. There’s my favorite action/adventure–Jurassic Park. Truly, I love that movie. There’s my favorite Christmas movie–It’s a Wonderful Life. Here, though, I do have an overall favorite. My go-to movie that I have seen too many times to count (seriously, no less than 50 times) might surprise you. Jaws. Yes, you read that right. There’s just so much to love about it. The dialogue, especially the improvised and spur-of-the-moment dialogue (remember the USS Indianapolis reminisces?) is just the best there is. The actors were so well chosen. Can you imagine anyone else in the world playing Brody, or Hooper, or QUINT??? Just brilliant! The cinematography was incredible, breath-taking at times. And who could ever forget the haunting music? You know, I never thought about it before this very second, but do you think my dislike of the beach has anything to do with my obsession over Jaws? Nah. I just hate sand.
And that brings me back to that ice-breaker. In case you guessed, there is no beach I’ve ever visited that I’m dying to go back to. Even on cruises to the Caribbean, unless it’s a new place I’ve never been, I don’t care if I leave the ship. And you will never find me stretched out on a towel by the rolling ocean if there’s anything else to do–a hike, a kayak trip, a cave tubing adventure, etc. No, my top favorites do not involve sand.
So what is my favorite place I’ve ever visited? Since my husband worked for many years for a company based in Rome with clients all over the world, I have been blessed to travel to most regions of the world. I’ve visited almost 40 countries, so I have a lot of places to choose from! What are my favorites? Well, there are three, categorized of course!
I know well the place this lass would visit over and over due to my ancestral heritage. From the streets of Edinburgh to the lush green Highlands, I would return to Scotland in a heartbeat. I’ve been twice, and I’ve barely covered the small country. I am dying to go back and explore more of the hills and dales. Rain or shine, I can’t get enough of the towns and history and whiskey (yep, it’s in my blood). I have always wished to take my father there someday, but at 85, he says his traveling days are over. You can bet that I will return someday though. There’s so much more to see and do and learn.
My favorite place to go to experience the culture is Italy, specifically Rome. My husband would vote for Florence, and I do love it there (shout out to my friend, the best tour guide in Florence, Antonella), but Rome captured my heart the first time we took our girls there years ago. Yes, it’s a big city with dirt and crime and cars zig-zagging everywhere, but it’s also the center of Catholicism (if you count the Vatican as being part of Rome even though it’s technically a separate country), an architectural and historical wonder, and a cultural icon. There are over 900 Catholic Churches in Rome. 900! I’ve visited fewer than 40. And don’t get me started on the food! One of the neighborhoods with the best food is Trastevere, the home of hundreds of Jewish people killed in WWII and the setting of Lisa Scottolini’s wonderful book, Eternal. With Ken no longer working for a company in Rome, I pray that I can return to Italy someday. Like Scotland, I have so much more to see!
Finally, we come to the place I hope to visit over and over and over and over, the place of my spiritual rebirth – The Holy Land. I can never get enough of the sites and sounds, the history and culture, or the spiritualism and theology of The Promised Land. From the site of the Annunciation to the hill of Calvary, from walking the Palm Sunday Walk to walking the Via Dolorosa, from the Mount of the Beatitudes to the shores of Magdala, my heart soars in every place we visit. There is nothing like attending Mass at the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher or singing How Great Thou Art from the heights of Masada or renewing wedding vows at Cana. Walking the streets of Jerusalem at sunrise, watching the sunset over the Sea of Galilee, kneeling at the manger in Bethlehem, and praying in Gethsemane are among the highlights of my life. You cannot visit The Holy Land without returning home a new person, a better person, a holier person. I tell everyone that it is life-changing, and that’s no exaggeration.
Picture this…a serene sea, gentle lapping waves caressing the shoreline, leaving tiny grey shells littering the beach; gulls flying overhead, calling out to one another; a modest stone church on an outcrop of rock above the beach, standing guardian over the place where Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Inhaling, you smell the sea and taste the salt in the air. The beach, the sea, this small corner of the world, nearly untouched and unchanged since the Risen Jesus stood on the shoreline, beckoning the Apostles to lower the net once more. Not yet touched by the Holy Spirit, the beloved Apostle John recognized the Lord, and Peter, so recently a denier of Christ, jumped into the sea to make his way to his Savior. As I stood on the shore, I could so clearly picture the scene, and I could see the foreshadowing of the graces to come – the wisdom to recognize the Lord, the understanding that we need to seek Him at all times, and the fortitude to leap into the water to reach Him.
Okay, maybe we have discovered my favorite place to visit. There’s just no comparison, no place on this earth that stirs emotions in quite the same way as walking in the footsteps of Jesus. It’s why I plan to return as often as possible. It’s why I’m leading a group of 36 pilgrims in February and can’t wait to watch them experience the same emotions, revelations, and transformation I experienced in 2016 and again in 2019.
There are just some things that touch us in an irreversible way–a favorite book, an unforgettable movie, a magical place. Of all the books I’ve read and written, of all the adventures I’ve had, of all the places I’ve been and things I’ve achieved, nothing compares to the friendships I made and the love I found on that holy ground. “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him, the greatest human achievement” (St. Augustine of Hippo).
Happy travels to you all!
Come see Amy on one of these dates:
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD
June 12, 2022 – Women’s Guild Communion Brunch, Saints Peter and Paul Church, Easton, MD, 12:00Noon
June 15, 2022 – Catch Amy on Delmarva Life on channel 16, Salisbury, MD at 5pm.
June 18, 2022 – SunDial Books, Chincoteague, VA – The Launch of My New Chincoteague Trilogy!
August 13, 2022 – Makers Market, St. Michaels Inn, St. Michaels, MD 9am-3pm
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Amy’s new book, Seeking Tranquility, will be released June 15, 2022. Pre-order your copy now!
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).