Tag Archives: reasons for travel

Live it like you mean it.

3 Jun

‘Wow, that’s so brave’, she remarked to me, after I told her I moved here only knowing one or two people.  I chuckled to myself, thinking – ‘oh, if only you knew!’  I decided to not share all those times that I felt scared, felt less than courageous, in the last 10 months.

But what happened?  Was I the same person who arrived at a bus station in India and picked where I was going next by getting on the next departing bus?  Was I the same person who learned to venture out and trust myself?  It was hard to believe, sitting at home, on my couch, feeling…. well, frankly, pretty far from brave.

For some reason, things feel different here.  Perhaps, it is that I am not a traveler anymore.  This is my country, and now, my home.  Perhaps it is that NYC is not known as one of the friendlier places in the world (though, full disclosure, I don’t find it that rough either – people have the capacity to be friendly.  They just choose not to be most of the time).

But, whatever that difference is, the fact remains that I don’t feel as brave as I did when I was traveling the world.  And when you don’t have friends in a new place, getting yourself out there is very effortful.  Tiring, even.  And so, I found, over the months since I moved here – I lost that courage.  It was sometimes easier to stay in with a good book, watch House of Cards on netflix.

Yet, I remember what it felt like to be out there, to explore, and have that freedom.  So, I am going to dedicate the next few months/time to making that effort.  To re-aquatinting myself with that freedom and joy and exploration.  To being the traveler – but this time with a home (that no one is puking in) and way more clothes and shoes.

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

So, here is to learning to be a travler in my own home, wherever that home is – and finding courage.

chinese new year in flushing

chinese new year in flushing

Advertisements

What I miss….

7 Jun

I have been back in the states for a little over a month now.  In some ways, my life has slowed down a lot.  I go to the same place for work every day, I see my old friends.  I just got my car back.  I do ‘normal’ life things — like get my car inspected.  But at the same time, I am still in flux.  Still very much in transition – sleeping on an air mattress with my sleeping bag as a blanket.  Still unsure of where I will go beyond July 27th.  Still unsure of what I want.

But one thing is clear to me…  I know what I miss.  So, I thought I would put together a little list of what I miss….

sunset in southern india

I miss:

  • the taxis everywhere honking at me (except when i need them) – all I can think is – don’t you think that I would wave you down if I needed you?
  • freshly squeezed juice
  • buses with someone yelling out of them telling you where they are going
  • busy markets
  • street food – pork, tucanos and salteñas with hot sauce, empanadas

street food!

  • the ability to buy any movie on the street
  • markets that you can buy just about anything at (fresh veggies, fresh fruit, meat)
  • strangers wishing me ‘provecho‘ in restaurants
  • south american couples – young and old – holding hands, kissing in plazas
  • meeting strangers and within hours or days, feeling that they were old friends
  • being called mamie or mamacita in the markets where i bought my daily avocados and mangos
  • women walking down the street breastfeeding (ok, that was just SA)
  • the vivid colors of saris

girls on a field trip in southern india

  • everyone around me having dark hair and dark eyes
  • staying out until 4 in the morning, dancing at a club
  • meeting strangers
  • the mix of spices unfolding in my mouth
  • the smell of India
  • riding the trains, buses, rickshaws, motos
  • being on a train and hearing ‘chai, chai, chai’
  • mountains, sunsets, beaches, high altitude landscapes
  • the constant awareness of history and religion and spirituality

the eyes of buddha

  • fresh air and being outside every day
  • hearing a foreign language and trying to guess at context
  • learning to speak another language and get my needs met
  • walking everywhere
  • trekking
  • the Andes, Patagonia, Himalayas

mountains near Huaraz

and then there is the other stuff..   the stuff that is harder to find, harder to name.

I miss writing and reading every day.  I miss having the time to think and reflect and write.  I miss having the freedom to come and go as it suits me.  I miss people watching.  I miss what it feels like to wake up and think… huh, I wonder what I will do today? I miss not having a schedule.  I miss adventure.  I miss being by myself – but the prospect of not being by myself every day.  I miss the possibilities of saying ‘yes’.  I miss trusting that everything will work  out.  I miss freedom.  And choice.  And travel.

I miss feeling like I am exactly where I am suppose to be.

Always say yes….

29 Apr

I was feeling a little stuck on what to do with my time — not enough time to really go anywhere else, too rainy to go trekking. I did many of the local day hikes. What next? I read guidebooks, I looked through newspapers, asked people — but I felt a little stuck.

the mountains above laguna 69

I heard of a local school run by a nonprofit that was trying to do education a little different. I made contact and she invited me up to see the property and the school. So, on Thursday morning, I headed up to visit.  The property itself was beautiful, up near the mountains. And the school was interesting – trying to do things differently. I met the teacher, watched the 12 kids, ages 3-5 play and then headed back down the mountain.  It was a 3K walk to where I could catch the colectivo (which is basically a mini-van that acts as a bus between short distances).

napping at the lake

On my way down, I ran into the teacher who was also headed to the colectivo. We started talking and came to realize that we were both biology teachers.  She was headed to her second job – another school where she taught for two afternoons a week – and she invited me to join in!  So, of course I said yes.

We had to get lunch on the way – she asked me if I had tried ceviche yet (basically raw fish that is stewed in an acidic juice that ‘cooks’ the fish).  I had really wanted to try it, but was a little afraid of choosing the right place – raw fish just seems to me to be one of those things that I did not want to choose wrong for!  So – this seemed to be a great opportunity.  Surely a local would know where to go!  And I did not go wrong – it was delicious!

these flower that I became obssessed with taking pictures of

Then, we headed to her school – which is a private school, though the building was dull, a bit run down and seemingly put together in a hurry.  The classrooms were cement floors, the plywood walls separating the classrooms seemed haphazardly built and some of the rooms did not have doors.  The teachers had no supplies except chalk for the boards.  And this was a private school.

In any case, Flor took me to her three science classes.  One was roughly a 7th grade, another was maybe 8th or 9th and the third maybe 9th or 10th.  In each class, I introduced myself and talked about my travels.  As I have mentioned, my spanish is not fabulous and my accent is even worse (the words pero and perro sound the same, caro and carro – same).  And of course these are teenagers — so they giggled over my words and accent.  But Flor, being a smart teacher, told them that I couldn’t speak well but that I could understand everything!  🙂  They asked about food in America (um, everyone else’s food?), travel in India (with amazement that they do not eat meat OR chicken there!), and whether I liked peru (si, me gusta mucha!).

flower stalk

It was so fun visiting with them, they were all so cute in their uniforms (basically a track suit with the the school’s insignia all over it).  There was lots of staring and shy smiles.  They laughed when I said all the verbs in Spanish were tough, and even agreed with me!  We talked about college and I told them about the school I use to work at and about my students.  It was great.

Following the classes (3 classes, each 1.5 hours), Flor and I walked back (turns out she lives right near the guesthouse I have been staying at).  On the way, we stopped for dinner — anticucho – a peruvian dish — which is basically grilled cow heart with fries (of course — as no meal here is complete without papas).  It was delicious (as long as I did not get too focused on the texture).

All in all, it was such a fun day — what a surprise!

the clouds finally cleared

We spoke in spanish (or castellano as it is called here) all day — there were a number of times when I just barely understood her and answered her question in a slightly related way.  But she was patient with me and helped me with my verb tenses (damn you past and future!  I just want to be in the moment!).

The next day, we met early in the morning and I went to her class with her for the little kids – who were adorable.  One of them, who definitely would be one of the boys that would later be one of the ones in my class that I do well with (a little wild, a little off the wall, a little too spontaneous) , would come running up to me, throw his arms around my neck and hang on while giving me a kiss on the cheek.  I mean, how can you not fall a little in love?!

I felt super useful too, because I helped Flor translate some activities she had in a book that was all in English — so that was fun for me (and good practice — I have some new words in my vocabulary.  Like planchar, though not super useful!).

This unexpected day and a half was a great reminder for me in my waning days of travel.  Always say yes (i mean, unless no is a smarter choice).  But — say yes to the unexpected.  Trust your gut.  Go big and trust the world.  Say yes.

Laguna 69

Pictures are from my hike to Laguna 69. 

3-headed monster

12 Mar

I am used to being stared at.  Being a lone female traveling in Asia solicits stares like you wouldn’t believe.  There is no way for me to not stand out.  I look different.  Or when you are negotiating a busy street in Kathmandu with your friend and you are both carrying big backpacks.  You get stared at.  Or when you are the only white person, not to mention woman, on a bus in a rural area in India.  You get stared at.

I am pretty used to it at this point.

At first it bothered me.  Made me feel self-conscious and very aware of my actions.  But then I started to smile when they stared.  Or I said hello (or whatever the culturally appropriate greeting was).  But mostly I started to smile at the stare-ers.  And usually, it caught them off guard.  But, for the most part, I got a smile back.  Sometimes that smile started a conversation, sometimes it got me offers for food, got me a cup of chai, sometimes it got me invites to join their family.  But most frequently, I got a smile back.

South America is different.  Here, I get stared at, though I don’t think I look all that different (especially when I get asked if I am Argentine or Spanish).  Here, I get stared at, though I dress fairly conservatively (especially compared to the teenage girls).  Here, I get stared at, and I don’t get a smile in return.

I have been surprised.  I do not find the people here (so far in Bolivia and Argentina) to be all that warm and friendly.  They do not return smiles, instead, quickly averting their eyes (‘what, me?  No, I wasn’t looking at you.  no, not me.’).  Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, my smiles fall on cold faces.

local women, who tend to look through me

And it is hard.  It is hard to not take it personally.  It is hard to still feel open.  It is hard to feel compassionate and warmth towards the people here.  It is hard to keep smiling.

One of my goals on this journey was to open myself up to the world – to not let fear stop me from new experiences and new people.  To build bridges and not walls, something I sometimes struggle with.  I have been forced to build bridges along the way – to trust strangers and new friends.  To make allies where I can and to smile at strangers.  To laugh at myself and believe in the inherent goodness of others.

South America is testing me.  It is hard to remain open, to want to build bridges, to keep my guard down (and not build walls) and not cocoon myself.  The looks I get sometimes, the unfriendly, cold stares — sometimes I feel myself retreating back in — and I want to fight it, but at the same time, I want to protect myself.  Sometimes all I want is to go back to where I look different from everyone else – because at least there I got smiles.

and that is not to say that there were not cold looks in asia and there are people here who smile….

So, perhaps this is my test – to learn to stay open to the world, even if they are not open to me….  to remember that it is about me and how I present myself to the world – not about how others react to me.

Home

11 Mar

Sometimes it is hard not being ‘home’, though the longer I am away, the more I think about what makes up a home.  Like other travelers, turtles that we are, we carry everything we need on our backs – moving from place to place, able to make that our home.  Whether it is the dirty hostel or the place I have treated myself to in La Paz (clean, quiet AND friendly – whoa!), I am able to make a bed my home city after city.

But sometimes, I miss ‘home’.  And maybe it is not home, as in a place, exactly – but it is being there for the important things.  Like a friend’s pregnancy, a new baby or a death in the family.

So, today, in my new home (for a few days) of La Paz, I will raise a drink for the father of my mentor who passed away this past week.  I have been thoroughly blessed in my life to have a series of amazing, kind, thoughtful and awesome mentors who have helped shape my life – both personally and professionally.  My mentor’s father, who I met at least a half dozen times, was also kind, thoughtful, and funny.  I always enjoyed meeting up with him.

Being a turtle, carrying my life on my back, allows me to see the world, learn from its people and experience what is our there.  which, my mentor helped me be ready for.  But, being a turtle, I am far away from the people I love.

I am thinking of you all.

Rainy days

25 Nov

Every once in awhile, I have a crisis of faith, of wondering what am I doing, being on permanent vacation (is that really what I am doing — being on vacation for 9 months?!)?  What am I doing – but going from coffee shop to restaurant to reading my books to eating food?  To not having a purpose?  To just sight-seeing day after day?

Today is one of those days…

It is raining today.  which makes it harder to figure out what to do.  Do I sit in my room and read?  Do I try and go to a festival that is at a temple somewhere near-ish?  Do I just keep eating and spending money as I wander from place to place?

I like having purpose (for evidence, see the past five years of my life) — and sometimes I just am not sure what my purpose is right now…  as you might imagine, I am not one of those people who are really good at just sitting on the beach!  So, maybe that is my purpose – to learn to just sit.  To be here, without a purpose and wait for that purpose to come to me.  Or for me to find it.  Or to figure out that purpose can mean lots of different things — that it is not all about goals and checkpoints.

But, please, don’t get me wrong — in the grand scheme of things – i feel tremendously blessed and lucky to be here — to witness the world and expand my horizons.  But, sometimes when I get caught up in the details of every day life and miss the comfort of home and friends – it is those moments that i wonder what i am doing out here.

Or maybe it was just all the pictures and stories of turkey and thanksgiving food all over facebook that did me in….

I am trying to figure out if I should head out of Kochi, or if I should stay another day and go to the festival, or if I should go elsewhere in Kerala, or if I should go to Hampi, or if I should….  you see the problem?  There are so many options… how do I pick the best one?  or to not be paralyzed by the multitude of options and just do nothing?

I guess I will go drink a cup of chai and try and figure it all out.  or maybe just read my book.

be well friends.  thanks for being part of my pupose — to be able to share my thoughts and observations with you all.

hope you can avoid black friday!  🙂  i am doing my part and just shopping locally.

So why go?

30 May

Why leave a job I love, salary, benefits, kids and co-workers that challenge me and keep me laughing?  Why leave a community of friends and a living space that I adore?  Why leave the safety of what I know and feel comfortable with?

I have never been one to choose the easiest path.  When I was a senior in high school I moved to France to be an exchange student with only about two years of weak high school French under my belt.  Twice I have moved across country to places where I knew only one or two people.  And most recently, I moved to western Massachusetts to help open a school, not knowing anyone but the person who hired me.

But this feels different.  Friends love to make fun of me and my endless list making.  If nothing else, I am practical and pragmatic.  I love making lists.  I love planning for the future.  But now, all I know is that I will be traveling for 9 months.  I know there is no way to plan out all of the trip.  I cannot foresee every change that will come my way, every bump in the road.  Or what exciting adventures I will find out there!

This adventure is going to be a challenge.  I anticipate that I will see and learn and grow in endless, countless ways.  But really…. so why go?  Here are my reasons – both big and small.

1.  because it’s there.  Like Mallory, I want to go for the sake of going – for the adventure.  I want to see what’s out there.  I want to climb and trek and hike all over the world.

2.  I want to learn spanish.

3.  I love my job, love my work – but there is a whole big world out there – ready for me.  I don’t want to be that disgruntled teacher, going through the motions year after year.  I hope to return after this year fresh and ready to jump back into the hard work of teaching.

4.  There is so much cool stuff out there — I need to see it!  Being a biology teacher, I am continuously in awe of the world and natural wonders.  I cannot wait to see the Himalayas, the Andes, the beaches of Vietnam, Thai temples and Patagonia.