Posted in Rumblings,TravelSeptember 10, 2011
This is a minimalist backpacking list for anyone going to the warmer parts of the developing world. This is my personal list, created and refined over six months of backpacking around India in 2011. It is amazing how little you need when you wash your clothes in the sink and try not to sleep outside.
Posted in Rumblings,TravelAugust 1, 2011
Now here in Part III, we are getting into more personal opinions. The goal when traveling is to be happy. For me, that happiness comes when I get into where I am. Some travelers (from all over the world) don’t really bother – they wear their REI zip-off pants and safari hats and snap their D3000′s at anything that moves. And that’s awesome – they get the people who come up to them to chat with “the foreigner” and maybe even sell them something, and that makes them happy. Others enjoy stepping off the plane, pulling out their canvas knapsack and kurta, and trouncing around the country on a dollar a day. And that’s awesome too – they too get the people who come up to them to chat with “the foreigner,” and that makes them happy.
But I like taking a third approach, one that falls somewhere in between (although closer to the latter rather than the former). I try to dress totally neutral. I dress like the locals with pants and either collared shirts or t-shirts. I don’t carry a backpack around all day, and my camera stays in my pocket until I want to use it. I don’t wear any jewelry or branded clothes that scream out what class I am. I make it my job to learn as much of the local language as I can and to really get the pronunciation right. And I spend as much time outside getting into where I am as possible.
Posted in Rumblings,TravelJuly 24, 2011
While all of this judging and staring is going on, you are also beginning to learn the ancient art of bartering; an art lost to most of America, except for car salesmen and those few who dabble in antiquing. It takes a while to get the hang of, but once you fail enough times, you start to win a few and you begin to realize that it all comes down to leverage. The more leverage you have, the better a price you can get. That is all it is.
For example, if you get off a bus in a bus station 4km outside of town with no choice but to approach one of the smiling taxi drivers for a ride, you have no leverage. You will be ripped off. But if you can walk 20 feet and hail a passing cab on the road, you have a bit of leverage and can often haggle a bit. Or if you see something you really like in a shop and keep telling the shopkeeper how much you love it and must have it, you have no leverage. You will be ripped off. But if you see something you like, but ignore it, or comment audibly on its defects, or even start to walk out of the shop, you can often get it for under a third of the asking price (at which point the shopkeeper will always remind you that you are getting it for the “Indian price.”)
Posted in Rumblings,TravelJuly 14, 2011
As a traveler you are, by your very nature, not a local. You dress different, you walk different, you act different, you speak different, and you look different. Here in the States, we are used to cultural differences so we are not quite as quick to notice them. In India, I found that people were incredibly aware of each other in different ways than I was used to, and were always judging and being judged based on their dress, their language, their class, the cut of their beard, and of course, their caste. Everyone there does it without thinking about it – it is part of their culture. It is mostly out of curiosity and rarely hostile, but it’s always present.
Of course it is not much different here. We all size each other up and put each other into boxes. We just do it differently. We operate on a slightly more subtle level – both in judging and being judged. In India, you can tell where someone is from and what caste they are in just based on the clothes on their backs. It’s a bit harder to do here because there is not really a regional dress or style and most people belong to the “middle class” anyways. Those who don’t often dress down or dress up to try to blend in to that “middle class.” Religions too are easier in India. In the States, unless you are wearing a cross around your neck or a kippah on your head, it’s pretty hard to tell what religion someone is.
Posted in Rumblings,TravelJune 19, 2011
A graphic on where I went in India, what means of transportation I used, and how long I was in each place (area of circle based on number of days spent).
Posted in TravelJune 7, 2011
I write you now from both the inside of a near-comically bouncy bus traveling at terrifying speeds through the foothills of the Himalayas and from within the safe and cozy confines of room I grew up in and the country I call home.
I went to India to try to get a feel for as much of India and Indian culture as I could, and along way challenge myself a bit and get into a bit of trouble. But beyond this, my larger goal was to gain a better understanding of where I was. I hiked through the greatest mountain range in the world and I bathed in three oceans at once. I ate food that still makes my mouth water thinking of it. I rowed a canoe through the famous backwaters of the south and played Holi in India’s City of the Dead. I went to two spectacular Indian weddings. I slept in places that would make you cringe and places fit for royalty. I stayed in some of India’s smallest villages and it’s biggest cities. I meditated with some of the few Tibetans left in the world.
But, when its all said and done, I still haven’t the foggiest idea of what India is. I could try to logic it out; use words like “extreme,” “diverse,” and “love,” but I wouldn’t be doing it justice. I could talk of the poverty and pain in the country, or tell about the raw unadulterated beauty and warmth of it and it’s people, but I still wouldn’t be getting it. I could write a book and leave nothing out, and it still would not be complete. In a way, I have to give up trying to explain it. I have to give up trying to understand it. I have to give up because India is more, is greater, than the sum of it’s parts. It’s larger than life, somehow beyond it’s own identity. India simply is. That’s it. Its all I can say while still being accurate.
Thanks for listening for the last six months. And now back to the usual programming.
This has been DJ AP on the ones and twos, coming to you live from H-bad.
Posted in Photography,TravelJune 5, 2011
Posted in Photography,TravelJune 5, 2011
Posted in Photography,TravelJune 2, 2011
Posted in TravelMay 31, 2011
Bombay now joins a very small list of places that I can truly call home. It was the heart of my travels through India, both logistically and emotionally. It was the context for some of the greatest nights, most intense experiences, and late-night conversations throughout my trip. And it is the place I miss the most.
The city, like India itself, is impossible to sum up. The more you get into it, the more you realize how vast and beautiful of a place it is. The scale is on par with New York, the neighborhoods rival Boston’s, and buildings recall London’s colonial past and Beijing’s supermodern future. The people range from the poorest men and women on the planet to the richest CEO’s and movie stars. You can get dinner for 50 cents or 50 dollars. And the equal parts of grunge and class make it totally irresistible to people like me; people who are in it for the fun and the experiences at their very rawest state.
But beyond the city is a group of friends who defined Bombay for me. To see a city is one thing, but to live in it is quite another. I got to drive to work every day, work long hours, meet up with friends, hang out for hours, then get home exhausted and ready to do it again tomorrow. To me, that is living in a city, and being able to live in Bombay with my friends, even if only for a very short time, was amazing. Thank you.
And see you soon.