Monasteries are often out-of-the-way places although most are accessible. I anticipate spiritual calm and that's what I've found even when, as in Patmos, tourists are bustling around. Several years ago in Madurai I was invited into a holy cave on a long queue of devotees during a festival and had my forehead painted several times by the priests. They looked at me -- the only westerner out of many hundreds of their devotees -- as just the same form as any of the others. I came out giddy from the incense and the darshan and the chaos and the depleted oxygen and the loud singing. But along with the giddy was a great happiness.

Sometimes my experience as a traveler in a monastery is mundane. I ask my heart if this is a special place and I can't hear a response. For me it's not home. But for the monks it's their life. You expect them to be uncluttered, without guile, wholesome expressions of the peace and strength of their eternal source. It is a pleasure when I find that and likewise to have even a little of it linger when I leave.