Matt and I are on the road again, if only for two weeks. For ultimate, of course. We’re both headed out to Dubai for WCBU 2015 to play with Currier Island (not a real place). Matt is on the open masters team, and I’ll be playing on the women’s masters team. We’re super excited to see many of the friends we made while we were traveling through Southeast Asia and playing in the various tournaments in that region. Matt and I are both excited to travel together again, and we’ll try to update the @lisamattrtw twitter feed and @toteymoo instagram for the next two weeks or so.
As Lisa departed for home, I was both looking forward to, and anxious about, my new solo travel adventure that lay ahead. It was a fun and exciting prospect to be completely on my own, but would I miss having my good friend with me to keep me laughing through it all?
Well, I’m now over a month into Europe and I still haven’t managed to experience any solo travel. Not even a single day spent without people I had known before hitting Europe!
Oh, hey! It’s me, Lisa, and I’m still alive. I arrived back home three weeks ago, and it’s been a hectic few weeks. But if I was pressed to tell you what’s happened in all that time, I couldn’t give you a great answer. It’s all been quite a blur.
I thought going home would be easy. After six months of every day being a new adventure full of unanticipated situations and meeting new people, I was looking forward to returning to my routine: get up, go to work, go work out and play ultimate, go hang out with friends, etc. Nothing to it, right? Easy peasy. Except…
After a ten-day introduction to Buddhism and meditation at a monastery in Kathmandu, about 40 of us made plans to meet at a restaurant in Thamel (the tourist district) the night our course, and two days of silence, ended. We arrived a little late to the party and soon Daniel came up to me. He was a fellow ultimate player that I had met at the monastery, recognizable because he was wearing a jersey from a Wisconsin summer league.
Daniel: I’ve got a proposition for you. What are you doing tomorrow?
Me: No plans, so probably whatever you are proposing.
Daniel: Bungee jumping.
We had a lot of GoPro footage from Thingyan, Myanmar’s new-year water festival that Lisa wrote about previously. I finally found some time to edit it and spliced in some clips from our other travels throughout Myanmar — sunrise in Bagan, cruising around Bagan on electric bikes, the train to Hsipaw, and our Inle Lake trek.
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.
I’m writing this post on April 28 as we have just crossed Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters (17,769 feet) and made it to Muktinath, a village that sits at 3,800 meters. The following photo of Lisa was taken during our 1,600 meter descent that felt not-so-great on the knees:
Throughout our Annapurna Circuit hike, single photographs have had a hard time capturing the enormity of the landscapes. So my typical hiking day involves taking out my iPhone way too many times, pointing it towards a mountain and awkwardly rotating my body as I capture panorama after panorama.
These are some tips that are good for any trip, long or short. And probably for just going to the grocery store at home, too.
smile and say hello
We noticed in Laos, many people initially regard us warily or suspiciously. But as soon as we smiled and said, “Sabaidee!” (hello), people break into huge grins and wave at us. People are much more welcoming as soon as you demonstrate friendliness and a willingness to try to speak their language. Even something as simple as smiling helps people feel less threatened and breaks down walls, and it’s hard to resist smiling back at someone who is grinning like a fool at you.
Along those lines, always learn how to say: “hello,” “thank you,” “delicious,” “beautiful” and “very.” “Yes” and “no” are helpful but most people understand head shakes and nods or hand signals (be careful with hand signals as they vary greatly across borders!).
Make an effort to learn as many words as you can and people will love you. Even if your pronunciation is awful, people will appreciate the effort.
It’s very useful to have one other phrase up your sleeve, too. In Myanmar, Matt found that saying “See you later!” in Burmese (“nah mah twee may”) was a huge hit — it’s such a simple phrase, but no one had ever heard a foreigner say that! The reactions Matt got were hilarious; lots of gasps and laughs of excited surprise, and people often wanted to engage us even more afterwards. Having a phrase that is more casual or that is slang is a great way to endear yourself to the locals.
The end of our trip through Myanmar happened to coincide with their lunar new year which meant we would be around to see the beginning of Thingyan, or the Water Festival. By far, this has been my favorite local celebration that we’ve come across, and it might be one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip!
What’s a water festival? As best I can tell, it’s a giant water fight that the whole country participates in. This is the hottest part of the year, and the 4-day festival is a way for everyone to celebrate the new year and cool down before the monsoon season starts in May. Traditionally, splashing water is seen as a blessing for the new year or a washing away of sins from the previous year, but it didn’t exactly seem like people had that in mind as they rowdily soaked each other!
I love sweet drinks and, fortunately, Lisa is usually quite excited about them as well. It has become something of a routine for us to find our favorite drinks in each country and then partake in them endlessly. In the states, I usually accomplished this with unlimited coca cola during at least one meal a day. When I travel, it is rare for me to buy soda as I prefer it from a fountain, loaded with ice and free-refills, something you just don’t find often outside of North America.
Here is a recap of some of the better drinks I’ve run across. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of all of them, as I was usually too excited to just start drinking.