Monthly Archives: October 2012

Meeting Other Pilgrims on the Road: Nepal Before the Trek

“Omens are a language, its the alphabet we develop to speak to the world’s soul, or the universe’s, or God’s, whatever name you want to give it. Like any alphabet, it is individual, you only learn it by making mistakes . . . . You start in the darkness, not knowing what you’ll find, although wanting to find clues to meet up with yourself, your destiny. And these clues come to us by way of a richer alphabet, which allows us to intuit what we should or should not do.” — Paolo Coelho

Three days in Nepal (okay, five as I finally get around to posting this), and I already feel like I am in full travel mode. Every day/night I have met new people to share a beer, a meal, a bottle of wine. I have wandered through temple-filled squares, held on tight to the back of a motorbike as it wound its way through the streets of Kathmandu, walked quietly through a monastery at dawn, done yoga in the attic of an old royal residence, and smoked hash in an small Nepali-style bungalow in the hills of the Himalayas.

Before I left, I had a friend ask me what the goal of my travel was. When I was at the Deida retreat, I had a realization: I did not want any goal other than travel itself. My only aim was to embrace a directionless life open to the possibilities in every moment, sinking into the richness of experience. As the expression goes, travelers see what is there, tourists see what they came to see.

Take a few nights ago. Simply sharing a bottle of wine with a new friend by candlelight. The strangeness of our surroundings, coupled with the sheer improbability of our meeting, made our conversation hushed and intimate. It also highlighted a fragile and sweet truth: we are on our separate journeys. All we can share is this moment. The more you can really get this, the more you can love the person in front of you. They are just another person living life, laughing, growing old, doing the best they can, just like you. Wish them well.

That night was a wonderful meeting. But I am learning to carry the same attitude to even the unpleasant meetings. Two nights ago I went out with someone who was probably one of the most arrogant and self-centered people I have ever met. I say that in a pretty matter of fact tone. Actually, he admitted that he was that way (although to be fair, he was also fairly generous). I kept on finding myself tense up around him to shield myself from his endless commentary on himself, and falling silent because there was nothing to say to someone who doesn’t listen. My challenge that night was to still see him on his journey, and wish him well. Not because it was the “right” thing to do, but because the moment I started to close off to him I could feel myself closing off to myself and becoming uptight and irritable. When I perceived him in an unfavorable light, I was the one who changed, not him! When I could see him in a favorable light, as just another person struggling along the best he could, I changed back into my open and relaxed self. By making the choice to adopt a positive attitude, I also found him more vulnerable and human.

So my motto for this travel (and for life, as is happens), is to totally accept whatever is happening and practice keeping an open heart. It is what life is offering as a teaching and a gift. As I fall into the rhythm of traveling and stay open to the experiences, I fall into a deeper conversation with life. The crowded bus, the tourist packed streets, all have something to say.

So I am going to be silent here for a bit as I leave for my Everest hike tomorrow. I have pages and pages of journal writing which I would love to turn into more posts if I find a computer along the way…until then much love from the road. Returning from the trek October 29th.

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Reflections on Solo Travel: Hong Kong Airport Edition

This is my first post outside the US as I head out on my three my three months of travels. My current location for the next three hours is the Hong Kong airport, as my layover ended up not being long enough to go into the city. The marvels of the HKIA include a 3D IMAX theater showing Resident Evil, an eerily abandoned video arcade, and various indistinguishable noodle shops. After an hour surveying the land, I have decided that happiness lay in a pint of draft beer and a new blog post.

After being officially on the road for less than 24 hours, my first observation is that most of my friends would have had a go at the deserted arcade with me. There were some intriguing games involving what appeared to be reconfigured spinning bikes, and others involving punching bags with faces painted on them. Which is a long way of saying that I miss my friends, and that I am grateful for them. I feel happy traveling, knowing that I have friends return to who will brave creepy arcades with me.

The flip side of being by myself in unfamiliar territory is how much head space I have to take in new sights and sounds. I find myself fascinated by small details. The bathroom attendant who uses tongs to take garbage out of the waste bin. Who decided on that system? The flashy metallic tile on the restaurant wall. Where did it come from? The super high, ultra-feminine voice of the Chinese stewardess. How did she learn to talk that way?

Solitude and unfamiliarity also make me much more aware of the decisions I make. Every person I interact with is a potential story, friend, revelation. I am aware of the butterfly effect. Each choice not only affects the immediate decision before me, but also the future possibilities. If I decide to go down this path instead of that one, it could lead to a totally different outcome. I am crafting my experience.

While this is always true, somehow this sensibility gets lost during my normal routine. When I have no particular destination or goal, I am much more interested in the flexibility of my experience. I love falling into this state of being, experimenting with life to see where it takes me. This is what freedom feels like to me.

Departure time is approaching. Next stop Kathmandu.

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