The Mystic of India

It’s my last day in India, finishing off the last leg of this trip on my own. I had so many life changing experiences, it’s difficult to figure out how to succinctly put it all down in a single post. What I’m feeling right now in this moment, as I sit rooftop overlooking the busy street bazaar in New Delhi, is the kindness of strangers which has enveloped me. It’s something I write about often: being alone in a foreign place, and how strangers-momentary guardians, offer their love in simple yet immensely beautiful ways.

After spending a couple days in Rishikesh upon completing my yoga teacher training, I sat on a bench with too much luggage (still haven’t learned by now how to travel light), waiting for my train from Haridwar to New Delhi. I stood up knowing that I’d be sitting for quite some time on the train, and noticed the young woman who had been sitting beside me. I smiled at her and she smiled back. She reached for her phone, and without saying a word, I nodded and sat back down next to her. In India, travelers are a guest, and it’s considered a great honor to have you. Someone asking to take a photo of or with you is their way of saying, ‘we are friends, welcome to my country, and you are divine,’ To sum it up ;). We took a few selfies together, and for that moment, as we made a montage of silly faces at the camera, I felt like I was killing time with a friend I’ve known for ages. As she put her arm around me and came close, even resting her shoulder on mine, I embraced the moment and played along. I took my phone out and did the same. Though we never spoke a word the entire time, and after the photos were over we sat quietly in our own worlds again, it reminded me how easy it is to connect. All it took was a smile and an open mind.

Once I boarded the train, I noticed I was the only foreigner. An older woman looked at me with kindness and curiosity as I made myself comfortable on the sleeper train. She began asking me questions in Hindi which another passenger began translating for me. She repeated her answers to her female friend who shared her same interest in me. The sweetness in her eyes filled me with gratitude of her presence, and in that moment I understood how you can easily love someone you know nothing about. After about an hour or so on the train, her friend sat beside me. She reminded me of a grandmother. Her hair was white and she wore glasses. She sat comfortably crossed legged in her green baggy pants and matching sari. She asked me many questions about where I had been, what I was doing and about my life. Never speaking a lick of English. Another man who was seated next to us helped us translate to each other but mostly I tried to learn some Hindi words and figure out her gestures. She began feeding me an assortment of nuts and baked goods,some sweet and some savory, topped with spiced pickles that are a popular side here. At first I tried to kindly refuse, but it was clear she wanted to share and take care of me, so I made her happy as we sat mostly silent and smiling on the sleeper bed together.

I had been reading Shantaram while she was next to me, momentarily resting my book to talk with her or look out the window. The main character had just been ‘adopted’ as a son and brother to two men he barely knew, and in that moment I thought, this is my grandmother, and for that short, sweet little time, she was. My heart swelled with the synchronicity of silent messages which have been appearing like little flowers through cracks of concrete.

The two men who had helped me translate earlier, informed me of my stop and carried my bags out of the train, ensuring I was taken care of for the next part of my trip to my hotel. Over and over again, I have been floating with the current, hands reaching out to mine to help me along when the waters become rough or stagnant. Mama River Ganga, the constant purifying flow, you are with me.

I had been so stressed out about my flight getting changed to the wrong date and needing to figure my travel arrangements, but in the midst of the chaos, there has been so much love and compassion. I’m reminded that we come from so many stories and experiences, but it is possible to let that all fall away and to share the simple beautiful moment of now with each other.

The connections I have made here mesmerize me. Past traveling friends I have literally ran into, guardians masked as strangers, memories reinvented to the present, love evolving in new forms. The mystic of India is real, as is the mystic of life itself.

Where am I?

In Fiji, yes I’ve been here for 3 months and have lots to say about that (for another post), but where am I? You know, in terms of personal evolution. Well, I can tell you thanks to social media, namely Instagram, I’m judging myself thinking, ‘why haven’t you done that yet?’ ‘Why aren’t you there yet?’ ‘You probably shouldn’t have eaten those 5+ cookies because then you’d be closer to getting that body.’ Whoa. I know. But I’m human and I have to remind myself we are all at different states of being.

Right now, my state of being is inhabiting a 31 year old body; visiting my mother’s side of the family in Fiji since 21 years by myself; and the most expensive thing I own is my phone, which is 2+ years old. So for anyone in their early 20s or fresh out of college wondering what the hell they’re going to do with their lives- relax…no, actually calm the fuck down- I’ve been floating in a bubble of unknown for 5 years.

As a psychic once told me of my view on life, “This is fun and all, but what am I doing here?” By no means has the past 5 years been unproductive. I’ve discovered myself and cultivated a loving relationship with myself that is always growing. It’s not just one of those,’Hey self, you’re cool- I love you,’ kind of relationships; it’s been a journey of listening. It’s been figuring out what nutrients my body needs, putting myself in situations that result in growth, recognizing the balance between pushing and coddling, honoring my intuition, encouraging myself to try new things, and letting go of fear. I’ve literally spent all this time raising myself. It’s strange to think of it in this way, but I think I’ve been a pretty good guardian to myself.

I don’t have what most people have or strive for in this stage of life- a family, steady career, house, car, retirement plan, and if I were to compare my accomplishments in this way, yeah, I’d kinda feel like a loser. But I don’t, and I’m abundant in so many other ways. I have a loving partner, whose also my best friend, on top of having an amazing support group of cherished people, I’m in freaking FIJI writing a book, and (besides my student loans 😢), I’m FREE.

This buzz kill once told me, “Well, the fun has to end sometime.” You have no idea how much that annoyed the shit out of me. Firstly, people forget we all struggle. Secondly, deciding not to choose the societal mold of a 9-5 and everything that goes with it does not necessarily mean it’s an irresponsible choice. I think just the opposite actually. My choice to free myself from the manacles society has created, allowed for self exploration- to get at the core of what truly matters, and know that life is meant to be lived, and not be a slave to it.

I consider myself a late bloomer. I didn’t have my path figured out early, and that’s ok. Heck, all this time being free, maybe I’ll avert that midlife crisis! But really, this post isn’t about explaining why I’m here and not there, but an attempt to express that success needs redefinition. It frustrates me that for many, success is a struggle where the end of the rainbow is a new car, six pack abs and a thigh gap, and a 6 figure salary. Success is about fulfillment as it speaks to your true self. It’s personal. When we are stripped of our physical world what is left?

For myself, it is the experiences, the love, the compassion, the hope. So to answer my question of where am I? I’m exactly where I need to be. How about you?

Podcast to Listen to : A New Definition of Success + The Spirituality of Success From Author of ‘Earth is Hiring’ by Peta Kelly

Self Truth

Got to Lima two days ago.  Wrote on the rooftop of my hostel for a bit.  Alone. Peaceful.  I’ve been feeling quite lonely these past few days.  From Cusco to Lima it’s been so grey, the dullness of the sky seems to weigh on my spirit.

Strange to believe tonight I will be on a plane back to the states.  It’s really been 2.5 months.  Costa Rica (the beginning of my trip) feels so long ago.  And Nicaragua…I had all these fears of seeing someone I’m sort of in love with (there is no label but I fondly describe him as my ‘seasonal partner’), and it ended up being a beautiful time in my life.  Although peppered with some strange aquaitances, I learned how to own my confidence with grace.  When grace failed me, I learned to laugh. And when my laughter faltered, I learned to let things go.

Anicca, the Buddhist term for impermanence.  My friend, Uri from Isreal taught me that word.  It was the first night I’d be thrown into the arms of Mother Ayahuasca.  Just me and Uri in the jungles of Perú.  I noticed it tattooed on his forearm and asked him of its meaning.  I couldn’t help but chuckle and reply, “Ironic.”

He joined in with me and said it hadn’t occurred to him until afterwards.  He gets that response all the time.  But really, why bother getting attached to anything?  In the end it doesn’t matter, we all die.  Nothing is permanent.

I nodded in understanding,  but really the thought of this made me feel empty, almost pointless.  I think I’d rather get attached and suffer.  Maybe that’s why I write.  Suffering is so crucial to writing.  The next morning, after Ayahuasca and much weeping, Uri, who was Buddha beside me all night, commented he wanted to suffer as I had that night.

The other day, I messaged a friend I made in Portland while living there last year.  So simply she asked, “Are you happy?”

Wow.  So powerful.  A ‘How are you,’ is such a robotic nicety these days, it doesn’t really mean anything.  I took a moment to respond.

“Grateful is a better adjective.”

I’m seeing the world like I always said I would, and I’m proud of myself for that.  But some days, I really feel the challenges of my solo quests.  Because of this, I always remind myself how good it feels to be in a loved ones company, to hold hands, to connect with a stranger, even for a day; they stay that much sweeter in my memory.

I sit here alone, writing on a couch in a long hall of a big, Victorian hostel.  Everything is white.  I wonder how many people before me have sat down with their thoughts, much like mine.  What were they searching for?  What were they remembering?

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I just met a man named Falk from Germany.  He’s been riding his bicycle around South America for 6 months and has another year or so to go.  He must be in his 40’s.  I wonder if he’s happy.  I wonder if he is like Uri and lives in a state of Anicca.  I wonder if he is like me.

I met a girl in Tarapoto.  Her name escapes me but she is from Switzerland.  We talked about how we liked to travel.  By how, I mean she didn’t bother doing anything touristy.  Only walking around, looking, observing, even cafés were in a sense for tourists, but sometimes she was thirsty.

She told me she enjoyed doing nothing.  Her friend had told her she was the only person she knew that actually meant it when she said she wasn’t doing anything.  Only sitting and thinking.  I found her quite lonely, but rather I think she valued her loneness more so.  Something I could relate to.

Soon I’ll be in familiar surroundings again.  Back with friends.  Back to the mountains.  Cali sunshine.  I’m sure some things will have changed, if ever so slightly.

I’m thinking of what these 2.5 months have been to me.  A step closer to something else.  Most people travel to get away, but I think I travel to get closer.  Picking up pieces of myself along the way. Each new place allows me to learn something new about myself.  I’m grateful for this- to discover, revealing the truth, even if it is my own.  Yes, there is more work to be done.  One more step, and another…

Ultima Dia (Last Day)

I have one more night in Cusco, Perú.  Broke my vegan streak for a home cooked Peruvian chicken dish.  Living life according to my rules.  No guilt.  Instead of one last wandering through the cobblestone streets of the historic center, I’ve spent most of the day in bed.

It’s raining hard.  While drinking tea and talking to a new friend from Argentina (in Spanish 👊🏽), hail began to fall around us through the roof as we sat at a table.  We had just been complaining of the cold showers as well.  I picked up a speck of hail to feel it melt in my hand.  It’s always been an odd phenomenon for me, hail. We laughed and climbed to the top story to view Mother Nature’s power and all of Cusco.  The city, the mountains, the deep grey skies.  This is it.

I can’t help but feel the tinge of sadness for all the friends I’ve made and most may never see again.  It’s a strange feeling knowing each person you meet will not be a constant you are accustomed to.  To share a week is lucky.

As I begin to sink my teeth into these mountains, and all the doors begin to open, it is time for me to go.  Friends say I could stay, find work, keep going.  But I think I’m missing that constant I can count on.  I’m missing some other mountains, and some other hills as well.  And with the more places I visit and call home for a short time, I know I will have more places to miss, and of course more people.

With each town I have been a part of, I feel like a cat living a different life.  Speaking of cats…At my apartment I lived in for a week during a short workaway, I was blessed with beautiful views of the city.  I’d take it all in, but noticed something on a lower rooftop.  Something mangled looking, garbage?  No, it was definitely a decaying cat.  Moments like those I believe my life is a dark comedy.  Everyday I would take a moment to enjoy the view, but couldn’t bring myself to not look at that poor dead cat and wonder about it.

Perhaps that’s how I look at most of my trips, on the whole there is so much beauty and greatness,  but there’s always something along the way that made me cringe.  Maybe it was drunkenly kissing the wrong guy (yes that happened) or not taking advantage of the clear, sunny days to take a certain hike; but as a good friend always says, c’est la vie.  I’m going to smile on all the moments the way they were, laugh at myself for the way I can be, and enjoy this day with cooking and movies in bed.  Because my rules, no guilt.


 

 

Dating and Traveling


As we all know, dating nowadays is exhausting.  Technology has opened the doors to ever greater options of courtship while dually diminishing our standards of thoughtfulness and respect through the process.  So yeah, dating is tough, but what’s even more difficult is trying to date as a traveler.  Motives are misconstrued, insecurities are amplified, and a general understanding of how to date a traveler is like asking a drunk person to walk a straight line, they know how to, they’re just suddenly incapable under the circumstances.

First off, I’m surprised there isn’t already a hip portmanteau or blend word for a travel dater (Any suggestions?).  For the past 3 years I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust.  Coupled with my natural inclination to be in a relationship, these two ideas that make me happy struggle to  coexist for an extended period of time.  For one reason or another I get to the next place alone, every time.  My time spent in one place seems to dictate how long the relationship will last, never the other way around, and I have yet to travel with a significant other.  The easiest thing to do on both sides is to be grateful for the short lived romance and get when the gettin’s good.  Why haven’t I been able to maintain something long lasting?  Why doesn’t it ever work out?  Ever? 

When I type in ‘travel dater’ on Google the first result that pops up is an article entitled, ‘Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels’ by Adi Zaradias.  Ok, I’m going to go cry now.  Among a handful of cliché, over romanticized travel fluff jargon, in bold letters the author writes, ‘She will never need you.’ Yes, obviously women who travel are pretty capable, badass bitches, however, what is also implied is that if you’re not in the travel game, you won’t get it and you’re not good enough.  Ouch.    Additionally, I feel she’s trying to say travelers don’t have a soul when it comes to relationships.  What the hell?! 

I’ve met many different kinds of travelers with all sorts of ideas about love and relationships.  To be honest, the spectrum isn’t much different than if you put a bunch of random people with roughly the same age in one room.  Everyone would still have their own unique outlook on how they want or don’t want to experience a relationship.  The only problem is that when you put the idea of frequent travel into the mix, it gets complicated. Duh.  

I’ve had to tackle tough conversations with partners explaining why I can’t stay.  My goals and intentions for possible travel plans are always explained in the beginning.  The thought of having a particular corner of the world that I need to visit hanging over my head is not an option I’m willing to compromise.  Resentment in the conquest of love is not a risk I’m willing to take.  So you might be wondering if I don’t stay, why wouldn’t your partner go, right?

There are two main reasons I have not traveled with a partner.  The first is simple: time.  I have never stayed in one place long enough to allow a relationship to get serious enough for that option or to even consider how to go about it. The other reason, which gives me the most grief, is that (in my personal experience) men don’t take dating a traveler seriously.  It’s a bit of a catch 22 at times.  Because I am leaving eventually, they don’t care to put in the effort, and because they did not show me their best selves, I don’t care to ask them to join me in my life changing adventures.  It’s like an inevitable relationship trap I willingly go into.  Every.  Time.  

My understanding is that people view a traveler as someone who doesn’t really care about who they’re with in the first place, the real catch is the next stop, the new experience, the plans after them.  Then there’s self preservation.  Why get caught up and treat it seriously when the other person will leave?  When you try to date someone who embodies both these notions, it can be dangerous.  Yes, I’ve been cheated on.  The only thing I can say is, I do care, and I’m as every bit of human as the next person.  I put love, respect, and value into all my relationships and I deserve to receive that back as does everyone in a relationship, no matter the circumstances. 

Perhaps this is a bit of a commentary on the types of people I choose to date.  I can hear that one friend on my shoulder telling me, ‘stop dating losers!’ Truly though, I hope I have shed some light and widened the perspective on dating someone who travels.  It could be, if you’ve ever dated a traveler, that you end up being a whirlwind of a story in their own epic adventure or even become the other half of the journey entirely.  But isn’t that the possibility we hold to all relationships we enter? 

Stream of Consciousness: Welcome to Portland


I’m here, I’m doing it.  Finding the quirks and the gems that make this city’s heart beat.  Diving into another lesson on loneliness and taking chances.  Daily practices of hope, positivity, and productivity that I’ll land my perfect job.  Reasurring myself that opening up to vulnerability allows a deeper discovery of self and an evolution of strength.  Reminding myself that minor frustrations are temporary, and also putting focus towards how good I feel when I walk  these streets.  Taking in the beauty of the roses and lemon verbena that seems to line every sidewalk.  I can smell the air.  It’s fresh, it’s sweet.  I’m a constant stranger and somehow everywhere is my home.  Portland is my home.  What new discoveries await…

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson