Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

On backpacking.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

So I’m still stuck here in the foothills, having been delayed once again. We leave for the real mountains tomorrow morning, but for now I’m still in the town of Vashisht (for a fun game, substitute an H for the V.) This is due to the dynamics that occur between backpackers, and so I figured now was a good time to discuss the traveller scene.

You’d think it would be a weird, awkward experience. Not only are you in a country as foreign and intense as India, but you are there alone. As a result, you’re forced to meet people who are also foreigners. If you had never travelled independantly, you’d anticipate being beset by weirdos and crazies. At least you’d meet a bunch of douchy meatheads or something, right?

With the occasional exception… no. The vast, vast majority of travelers, especially in a country like India, are pretty cool. At the worst they’re boring but harmless. At best, you meet some of the most interesting, engaging and stimulating people anywhere. I’ve never travelled in Europe, but the impression I get is that the scene is somewhat mixed. The same could be said about Thailand, where there’s a strong chance of running into a sex tourist or some drunk at 11am Brits.

Here, though, things are ccol. I spent the other night in a house on a farm. We drank Kingfisher and smoked charas, the weak, resiny hash locally made by rubbing marijuana leaves together. The stuff grows wild and free all over the mountains here, and the apple orchards not exclusive to apple trees. I was with the standard mixed crew: an American, three Brits, a Swede, two Israelis, and a Scot. We talked philosophy and spirtuality, we discussed Jurassic Park (the movie, not the book) and the various hunting tactics of spiders. There were some massive jobs creeping across the walls devastating any bug lazy enough to rest for a few seconds. It was a good show. The hosts cooked an amazing three course meal and wouldn’t accept any compensation.

It was a special evening, but not all that rare. Travellers of this sort tend to be generous and trusting. You’d have to be a pretty abrasive or intolerant or perverted person to alienate a group of hippied out backpackers. A girl we’ve met had 7000 Roops (the newfound slang for rupees) stolen out of her bag while she was bathing at hot springs. My Scottish friend, Ross, handed them the same amount, the equivalent of $150, telling them to pay him back when they can find an atm. They did, in kind, a few days later.

So I’m stuck here, mostly due to one guy. We’re on the wrong side of the high mountain passes, getting rained on every day by clouds too heavy to cross the peaks. Once on the other side, we’ll be in a strange sort of high altitude desert. But Matty, from Cornwall, is having bike problems. Every day for the last week he’s been unable to leave. So we’ve waited. He appreciates it, for sure, no one wants to make this three day mission alone.

We leave tomorrow, for “sure” this time. But for now, I’m off for dinner. Oh, and my head wobble is  coming along nicely.

Iraq, a backpack and some shopping.

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

So as I sit here in a cafe typing this post, I’m reminded why I travel. I just completed an in depth conversation about Canadian politics, the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite, and how widely French is spoken around the world with four Iraqi guys and a girl from Paris. The Iraqis are all here on student visas, studying software engineering and pharmacy. They mix seamlessly with the Israelis at the table next to us, at least to the uninitiated – to whom Hebrew and Arabic sound the same. Being in know, I’ve caught a few glances back and forth, though the Iraqis seem to relish their position as the only Arabic speakers around, considering about sixty percent of the foreigners I’ve met here are from Israel. A little stick in the craw, I guess.

Speaking of sticks and craws, my backpack finally arrived here today, almost a full forty-eight hours after I did. What a fantastic feeling, drying myself off with a towel and changing into clean clothes. Though I had gotten used to standing under the ceiling fan for ten minutes every time I showered, which in this heat was about four times a day.

Now, you may be asking: “Evan, why the hell didn’t you blast a few rupees on a towel and a change of clothes?”

To this I would reply: “Fuck off. I travel how I travel. When you come to India you can blow through forty bucks and day and leave in a month. I have two years ahead of me, and so frugality will become a way of life, not a decision.”

Now I have splurged, in a sense. I spent almost $50 on a cell phone and an Indian SIM card. I also spent an hour this afternoon drinking chai and discussing $1000 motorbikes with an amicable fellow named Didi. By sometime tomorrow afternoon, I should be the proud owner of an Enfield Bullet, the classic British designed, Indian made cruiser for foreigners like me who want to peruse the countryside at will. I can’t wait to name her.

At any rate, I’ve added a few photos to the gallery, click here or on the “Photos” link at the top of the page. I’ll follow up with some notes on Delhi and my guesthouse soon.

Day one

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

I’m here in Delhi on day one, and I don’t have a backpack. So no change of clothes, no soap, no towel, no everything else I had in there. Luckily (thanks, mom) I have a little carry-on kit that packs some cleansers, a toothbrush and toothpaste. It also had a little face towel, about six inches by six inches square, which I am now using as my full body drying tool. Needless to say, I’m spending a few minutes after every “rinse” standing under the ceiling fan in my guesthouse room. It’s overpriced at 400 rupees (a little less than $10), but it has a private bathroom and a tv with some amazing stuff on it. So far the highlights have included copious amounts of cricket and Bollywood, along with a Hindi dub of Mortal Combat.

Yes, Air India lost my bag. I got a nice little taste of Indian bureaucracy as a result, though. After filling out some form in triplicate, I had to take a copy of it over to customs to have them verify that it was cool for me to leave the airport without the checked luggage I had already declared on a different form. After giving it a vigorous stamping (with a stamp, not his foot), the customs official handed it back to me somewhat derisively. I asked him politely if I now needed to take it back over to the Air India “baggage recovery” desk. In response, I got my first head wobble. Yes, that most infamous of Indian gestures. He dropped his head in the slightest of tilts to his left; a sort of curt, sideways nod. It felt like getting inducted into a club, and has pretty much made the whole experience worthwhile. Provided the bag shows up today, of course.

It’s hot here, hitting the high thirties by day, mid thirties at night. The humidex, the air pollution, and the even the noise make it worse. But I like it. This is what I came for. The heat and the insanity. No joke. The drive in from Indira Gandhi International was hilarious. At one point I could have easily reached out the window of my little Tata cab and not only touched the motorcyclist next to us, but I easily could have smacked the Indian Army jeep riding on his other side. All of this at 90 kilometers an hour. I can’t wait to get my motorbike.

Continuing to work backwards, my flights were mostly uneventful, if long. On the flight from Toronto to JFK, a young boy sitting next to his father got very excited. As we lifted off from the ground, he began to yammer uncontrollably: “We’re in the sky, dad! Wow! Look! We’re up in the sky! Whooaaahhh! Dad! We’re in the sky!” Dad (and everyone else) rolled his eyes. I was thinking, “Damn. We’re in the fucking sky. No shit.” I love flying, in a perverse, masochistic sort of way. Even though the whole procedure is really a pain, the whole “being in the sky” bit never gets old. Plus, as a bonus, we travel at 900 kilometers an hour. Rad. I got to India in less than 24 hours. Fucking India. Love it.

It reminds me of this Louis CK bit on Conan. I’ll leave you with the clip, take care ya’ll. Photos to come.

Two Years?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

“So. Two years?”

“Yup.”

“Wow, like two years??”

“Heh, yeah.”

The funny thing about this conversation (which I’ve had a few times with a few of you) is that I don’t think I’ve accurately conceptualized traveling for two years. It’s like distances in space: we can talk about them in numbers, without actually having any clue how far Mars really is from Earth.

Now, that’s not saying two years is all that epic. I can remember two years ago, and it’s not even hard. Seriously.  I was away for two years last time. But the difference, I think, is that I won’t have a home or a job or a steady circle of friends for the entire period. I will, in essence, be nomadic. Weird.

I have, in honour of this thought, produced a little list of cons and pros to this lifestyle I’ve chosen. I like to call it:

Two years of:

  • drinking and brushing teeth with only bottled water
  • incredibly wrinkled clothing – every day
  • saying permanent goodbyes to friends less than a month after meeting them
  • arriving into town after town without knowing a soul
  • frustrating non-conversations thanks to language barriers
  • living out of a backpack
  • learning new languages then promptly forgetting them after moving on to a different region/country
  • eating questionable food from questionable sources
  • missing you

But, of course, the trip also means I get…

Two years of:

  • meeting adventurous people from all over the world
  • becoming really close with whatever is in my backpack
  • dreaming about quality tap water
  • eating some of the best food the world has to offer, at prices that will make you laugh
  • learning about the world I pretend to understand, but really don’t (yet)
  • having hilarious conversations with locals in broken English
  • trying to convince you to come out and meet me somewhere
  • glory. pure, pure glory.

Not an exhaustive list, by any means. I’m sure I’ll add to it later. But for now, it’s a good pre-emptive account of life on the road.

Goodbye.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

I don’t know…

So the link above should play the White Stripes track, I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, which was apparently written by Burt Bacharach (nice). It’s been stuck in my head for a couple days now. And it sums up at least fifty percent of the reason I’m going traveling. I just don’t know what else to do with myself. So fuck it, I’m out.

But the last few weeks are making me question this decision. I’ve really, really had an amazing time with all of you. And even though my last post gives Toronto a lot of credit for being so damn cool – despite the naysayers across the country –  the real accolades should go to my friends and family.

It’s like going to a shitty bar but you’re there with a big group of amazing people so you don’t even notice the douchebags at the table next to you.  Not that Toronto is shitty, just the opposite, but you get the point. I’m lucky to have several circles of friends here, so whenever I get bored of one group, I can simply start hanging out with a different one. Kidding.

But seriously, this is a much harder exit then when I last left. When I went on my seven month excursion to South East Asia, I was leaving a life in Taiwan that I was done with. I was ready to move on, which made leaving easy. Here, not so much. I love you guys, and this is hard.

Thanks, by the way. This is clearly a good problem to have. So while I may not know what to do with myself, at least I know I can come home to you.

like a summer rose
needs the sun and rain
I need your sweet love
to beat love away

Goodbye.

Here’s another track, it’s Catherine Wheel’s Goodbye, perhaps a bit more appropriate than the White Stripes. Maybe a bit too sappy, but once you get a theme going it’s hard to slow the momentum. Especially when ’90s shoegazer rock enters the picture. Let the tears flow, it’s ok.

The funny thing about all the goodbyes and the sadness is that I’ll see all of you again, perhaps sooner than we expect. Feel like getting away for a few weeks or month? Look me up, maybe we can meet somewhere. Hell, there’s a significant chance I’ll get homesick and come home earlier than planned. You never know.

But, I know this: Goodbye.

it’s only love that stops you from walking out the door
tears fly somewhere close to remorse
and sometimes its easy
to all my friends I love
I still don’t find it easy
to all my friends I love

goodbye.


saying goodbye

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

So as I count down my final few days in Canada, I am oddly calm. I suppose I should be rocketing off walls, but instead there’s a sort of Zen I seem to have acquired. It’s actually sort of off-putting. The forest is quiet. Too quiet.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I can’t help but wonder if there are any implications I’m not catching. I’m a little apprehensive about getting on that motorbike, especially having just watched some travel show host ride a rickshaw through Delhi traffic. But it’s more than that, and I think I’ve figured it out.

I’m going to miss  it here. In the spring of ’07 I came home after two years in Asia, and for the first time I really appreciated all Toronto has to offer. I won’t get into all the details about why this city impressed me so much, but let’s just say I’ve rarely been bored since coming home.

So yeah, I’ll admit it. Part of my calm, my so-called Zen, is rooted in sadness. It’s restraining me from really expressing how exciting this is. I know I’ll be back, and for the most part things here will have remained the same, but there is a level of regret. It’s natural, I suppose, but feels strange.

At any rate, I love you all, and will miss you. So come meet me somewhere.

so long...

so long...

Trying out the new gallery

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Hey, so here’s my first attempt at adding a flickr gallery. I’ve installed a plugin called slickr, which takes your photos from flickr and displays them in a fancy manner on your wordpress blog.

Not sure how much sense that makes to the uninitiated, but hopefully there are some pretty photos below. I’ve taken a few from my trip to Havana earlier this year, just as a test. Hopefully this works!

Update: So I got it working, but unfortunately the galleries will get displayed (for now, this might change) on my “Photos” page, which is here.