Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This was India and this was me.

So I'm back in Bangkok.
I hate selfies, but, uh, it's the Taj.

My home away from home (honestly, I have to have a HQ or I'd go insane).
I don't really know to describe any of this, but I'll do my best.
Each country I've visited - a month in Cambodia, a month in Thailand, and a month and a half in India - has felt like I've lived three different lives. Sure, I'm essentially the same person. I have the same lame jokes I share with new friends, I laugh at inappropriate times, still crave my daily coffee, etc., etc., etc. But as they say in Southeast Asia, "same, same, but different." I didn't really think about this until after I came back from India.

As mentioned, I've made Bangkok my home base for sanity reasons and thought I'd feel at "home" here after the madness (beautiful madness, that is) of India.

But I didn't and I don't.

After India, I'm different. I don't quite know how, but I am. Immensely so. I was here in Thailand for all of October, but the me then is not the me now.

My life in India was vastly different than Thailand's life. I've seen bodies cremated, I've crashed multiple time and been in strange hospitals in Mumbai at odd times in the morning, I've swam in an ocean when the power to the whole coast went out, I've gone to silent discos, I've sat in the next room over from the Daila Lama, I've taken well over 100's of hours of train rides, slept in temples, gotten wasted off Bhang Lassi...

Good, great, amazing friends.

I'll stop. I could go on and on and on




But, as I've touched on this many times already, it's the people that have changed me.

I've met and had the absolute fucking pleasure to meet, travel, and, yeah, love some of the best people life has to offer all around the world. Travelers are a strange crowd. You're with them 24-7 and you suddenly know them more than people you've known your whole life back home. Honestly, India is pure madness and I don't know how I would have done it without meeting and traveling with these amazing individuals.

Maria! Also, our train broke down. Again.
But it's not just about collecting relationships like Pokemon, it's about what they've done to me. They've made me really live in the moment. To feel and appreciate it all. Because travel, if anything, is extremely temporary. You know it ends, and you re-arrange your travels in order to extend those goodbyes. Hell, I bounced back and forth through India in the craziest, most insane way just to see and be with these people a little bit longer. I'm no longer traveling to see the sites, I'm chasing that human connection.

Continuing on this line, this isn't just India. It happened in Thailand and Cambodia, too. And it will happen again. The hellos and goodbyes. What I absolutely hate and love (not really) about travel.

So I'm back in Bangkok for a few days before the next country, at Glur again, meeting up with old friends (Mac and Noi's bar is still my favorite)and new friends alike, milking every moment as much as I can. It's sappy, I know, but that's the truth.

I have one story I want to share. I have plenty more, but here's the deal. You know those jokes/stories where someone says, "oh man, you're going to love this one! A horse goes into a bar and..." and then they get to the punchline and all you can do is a polite golf-clap laugh, because, yeah, it wasn't in the least bit funny or entertaining? And then the person always says "oh, you have to have been there."

This is what traveling has become. I take off my hat off to those travel writers. It's a skill I just don't have (yet). Because telling stories to people not experiencing this is getting more and more difficult. Some stories are just so surreal and honestly just too insane to put down in words. Or, sometimes, they aren't - some of the stories I have are mundane and simple and, honestly, beautiful in the simplicity. But even then, I've yet to figure out how to convey that in words that really radiate to you, the reader, a sense of being there.

I'll do my best.

On the temple grounds, you are required to cover your head. 

So, there's basically three types of toilets in the world. Western (thank God), Eastern (basically a hole in the ground with foot grips), and Japanese toilets (which, let me tell you, are just as amazing as you've maybe read - they talk to you and perfume you all up, and I'm sure I could have found an MP3 player if I had looked hard enough).
A few of us stopped over in a city called Amritsar before meeting other friends in Dharmasala. We ended up sleeping for free in a communal bed at a Sikh temple. The Sikh's are amazing people (Sikh's are followers of a monotheistic religion called Sikhism) and this temple alone houses people for free and feeds over a 100,000 people a day (read more about it here).

And on the first day there, I had to go to the bathroom. And bad. I'd resisted using Eastern toilets for a number of logical reasons, and this temple only had one Western style one meant for the disabled (I was close to faking a limp). But I took the bullet and got in the stall (uh, trust me, this story has a moral, I swear). I readied myself over the hole. And let me tell you, it's a challenge if you're not used to it. You really have to aim and make sure to make it to the target. And don't get me started on the cleanup........

So, what's the problem? People have been pooping this way for millions of years. The problem was that the door had a large "viewing" hole in it, so the people queuing up for the stall could look in.

Uh. Yeah. 

So here I am, awkwardly doing a floating wall sit (without a wall), and this old, bearded Sikh face is watching me do this through this "viewing hole". Expressionless, like he's seen this a million times.

And, you know what I did?

I did what I've done a lot here in India.

I said "fuck it" and went with it.

I pooped, used my left hand as "toilet paper" and experienced my Eat, Pray, Love moment.

Because that's what India has helped continue to teach me. To let go. 

And if you've ever heard my philosophy about life it's pretty simple: I think life is a long lesson of learning how and when to let go.

And, no, do not get me wrong, this isn't about lowering standards, this is all about learning that we are so protected in the west. Even in this post, mentioning the act of shitting is probably looked down by a few (read: probably a lot). By why is it shameful? We all do it.

We (the west), overprotect and censor everything, from making sure every single thing is sanitary, clean, and acceptable. I would almost go out on a limb and say we have over sanitized our life. That's not to say that India couldn't improve on a lot of things (read: trash), but I do love how the people live with their means and aren't afraid to touch life without gloves.

When you're living off a single backpack and relationships, you realize you don't really need most of the comforts from home. When you strip down life to the bear bones, it becomes so very simple and you start to really wonder why we complicate it. Love and a backpack. And that's it.

But I'm pretty hypocritical, because I still will always want my Western toilet.

Dharm action.

Another great thing that about India is that it helps you let go of control. India is a nightmare for people who want control or who love to plan. Why? Because your train will be late. Everything will be late.

India is a strange land. I will admit it's a beast to navigate most of the time - the train system is a great example of this. Alone, it's daunting. Together, it's manageable. Just like anything in life, going alone only gets you so far - it gets you confused and lost in Chennai at 4am waiting for the coffee shop (that doesn't actually exist but the tuk-tuk driver swears it does) to open in order to charge your computer and phone, while waiting for a train that you're waitlisted on and even if you did get a seat, it will probably be delayed half a day and you'll miss your flight (can't tell at all that this happened to me, right?).

I wrote before that travel is all about being alone, essentially - I used that Bush quote from Glycerine: "I'm never alone, I'm alone all the time". But, you know what? I retract that. That's bullshit. Yeah, there are times when you are alone, that you need to be alone, but it doesn't have to be that way at all.

It's not that way.

I don't feel alone at all.

Go back up and re-read that paragraph that I mentioned some of the awesome things I've done in India.

Replace all those I's.

They most certainly are supposed to and are We's. They will always be.

India, I thank you. We thank you.

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