I recently spent ten days at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu. It was a very rewarding experience that I probably would not have encountered without Lisa. When we were “planning” our trip, this was one of the few things that she had mentioned wanting to do, and while it wasn’t something I would have thought to select on my own, I was excited about the idea of learning and experiencing something new, even if I had very little idea what I was getting myself into.
The course kept silence from 9pm to noon every day and two full days at the end.
A friend from home recently asked me to describe my travel adventures with one word. After a bit of thought, I settled on “freedom” which was the inspiration for part of my last post. But after giving it even more thought, I’m going to amend my one-word summary to “humbling.”
Having seen more of the Earth, it seems logical that the world would seem a little bit smaller. A little less mysterious and a little more known. Instead, quite the opposite is true. The vastness and diversity of the world has been even more impressed upon me than before. If I thought I was a tiny speck before, imagine how my battered ego must feel now!
May 11th is Matt and I’s six-month travel anniversary! On November 11, we left Denver with nothing but vague plans (if anyone is keeping score, very few of those plans actually panned out which I consider a good thing) and a sense of adventure. It has been an incredible and amazing journey, and I’ve loved almost all of it, but it is drawing to a close for me. On May 26, I begin a 36-hour journey back to Denver while Matt continues on to Europe. This is the homestretch. In three weeks, I will return to the real world.
A lot of people have asked me how I feel: am I sad that this crazy adventure is ending or am I excited to be going home?
That’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. The politically correct answer is “both” (or “neither”?), but we all know that’s not the truth. It’s closer to a ratio, 40:60. Or maybe 30:70. Little Billy can be a shithead, sometimes.
There is an endless variety of travelers wandering about the world. There’s those backpackers who buy hideous elephant pants and wear them everywhere, perhaps not noticing that the only other people wearing them are other tourists. There’s the oblivious, obnoxious, loud-mouthed over-tanned American who considers herself a gift to the world. There’s holiday travelers on the road for just a week or two and splurging in five-star resorts we only dream of. There’s gap year kids whose primary concern is getting drunk. There’s the massive Chinese tour groups that every other traveler hates because of how loud and inconsiderate they are. There’s the retirees who spend half their year on the road and the other half (or less!) at home. There’s those who make a distinction between a tourist and a traveler and pick a side (guess which). If I had to describe Matt and I, we are part of the band of ultimate players roaming around — low profile until we congregate at tournaments and go nuts.
I’ve read a few books while on this trip, but the choosing of these books has mostly been at the mercy of fate. The library from which I could select was whatever books were available on the day’s hostel’s book exchange. Between photocopied versions of travel guides and books in German and French, the selection was often very limited indeed. I had very low expectations of finding thought-provoking reading. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across this quote in “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” by Salman Rushdie and my brain started churning.
We weren’t supposed to make it to Boracay; we’d already been to the Philippines in November and didn’t want to loop back when there’s so much else to see, and the cost of getting to and playing in the tournament on a touristy island was way out of our budget. But we did it anyway, and it was one of the greatest times of my entire life. #sorryimnotsorry
ultimate friends jumping on puka beach, boracay, philippines
Sadly, not all events are fit for public consumption and online perpetuity, so this is a PG-13 version of our week in Boracay.
I needed a ride to the Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery for my meditation retreat. Just the day before, the woman who ran the guest house I was staying at, Boot*, had given me a motorbike tour of Mae Hong Son province. While I enjoyed the day, I knew I had been ripped off, but I had been too tired and unwilling to attempt to negotiate a better price when I arranged the trip.
So when she offered me a ride to the monastery, I was determined not to let her get the best of me again. I bargained harder than I ever have before, and I finally got her down to 450 baht ($14) from 900 baht ($28). I absolutely hate haggling, but I was still proud of my “achievement” (I was still probably paying too much).
Panorama of Long Beach on the backside of Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
After more than a week of non-stop movement and never sleeping in the same place more than one night, we reached Koh Rong Island, Cambodia. We had shot straight down from Laos in desperate need of some rest and relaxation — a vacation from our vacation.
We spent a whopping twelve days in Laos. Even with six months to spend in Southeast Asia, we found ourselves running out of time. There simply isn’t enough time to see everything we want to, and this regrettably meant that Laos and Cambodia got short-changed. We met a German couple who had already spent 4 weeks in Laos last year, were in the middle of a 6 week trip this year, and still had only seen a tiny portion of Laos! I will have to make it back one day, though 10 weeks seems extreme.
We walked into Laos from Thailand across one of the Thai-Laos Friendship bridges. We found out later that this is illegal — you are supposed to cross via bus or vehicle — but no one seemed to notice or care that we had used our feet. At customs, I met a friendly Laotian man, Q*, who lived in Las Vegas for most of the year. On the basis of my Vietnamese heritage, he gave us a quick lift into Vientiane, the capital city.