At the beginning of the month, I took an unplanned three day trip to visit two small towns in the mountains north of Kathmandu where an NGO is helping build schools for children in Nepal. That last minute decision turned out to be the highlight of my entire six month journey.
After returning to Kathmandu, I went with a friend to Pokhara where we spent six days trekking in the Himalayan mountains. When we were finished, my friend returned to Kathmandu but I stayed behind to spend an extra week in Pokhara.
I then took a bus back to Kathmandu where I spent one week in the now familiar backpacker district of Thamel. Of the eight weeks I've spent in Nepal, five were spent in Thamel. Although it's probably one of the most expensive places to spend time, it removed any need for transportation and made getting online easy and (at least somewhat) reliable. Continue reading →
For days after returning to Pokhara, my stomach was upset and my body refused everything I fed it. My head was on cloud nine and my body was endlessly tired. My inner energies were dissipated and my life felt out of whack.
Any attempt to reply to emails, work on writing, catch up with social media, or even explore the city, was met with solid mental and physical resistance. All I could focus on was eating healthy and resting until my health improved.
I could have struggled. I could have sucked it up and battled through it. I could have ignored the fact that my temple was in need of repair and instead focused on work. I could have ignored my own needs and told myself that I needed to sacrifice.
But what good would that have done? How would being selfish towards myself help me in my quest to help others?
The words "be the change you wish to see in the world" are easy to say, but the danger behind the simplicity of those words is that changing ourselves is not an easy task. It's a complex and oftentimes difficult endeavor. In fact, it can be so difficult that neglecting ourselves and choosing to help others is often the easier option! Continue reading →
This month has seen me travel more than 6,000 miles in three countries: India, Vietnam, and Nepal. As a result, the expenses this month are the highest since I paid for my round-trip ticket to India when I started my journey back in March.
However, I've been extremely fortunate to have had free lodging, food, and transportation for my last two weeks in India, free transportation, food, and some free lodging during the two weeks in Vietnam, and now free lodging and some free transportation in Nepal. Continue reading →
This past week marks three months since I left the place I called home for the first twenty-eight years of my life. I spent the past three months in India, a world away from my familiar home in the Northeast United States and I'm currently staying in Vietnam for two weeks before going to Nepal for two months.
Part of the reason for leaving home, changing my lifestyle, becoming a nomad was to rediscover myself; to strip my life of everything that might distract me from the process of inner discovery.
I was beginning to feel as though my life had gone down the wrong road; as if I had accidentally walked down the wrong path and I was watching the correct path disappear through a thick forest. I had to cut across. Whatever it took, I had to get to the other side. I felt an uncontrollable urge to follow my inner compass.
I read somewhere recently that bloggers should be transparent to ensure authenticity. It made me think about my own writing and question whether or not I was being fully transparent with you, my readers.
I wondered, what does it mean for me to be more transparent? Since I'm traveling, does it mean writing about the little things that I generally avoiding talking about? Does it mean sharing my thoughts more often?
Perhaps I could write about my worries of running out of money or the several cases of mild travelers diarrhea that have started to get annoying. I could write about how I sometimes feel guilty for spending too much time in high-end cafes, enjoying the air conditioning and delicious coffee when I should be outside exploring the small local shops. (In my defense, it was a safe place to work on my laptop.)
What about writing how I felt for ignoring the handicapped guy with no legs who extended his hand and asked for money while I was in the beach town of Gokarna? If I help him, I thought, why shouldn't I help all of them? How do I choose who receives help? Continue reading →
In my recent reader survey, several of you mentioned that you really enjoy these Frugal Travel Reports. This month, I have been even more meticulous with tracking my expenses and I have discovered that it really helps me see exactly where my money is going. I've been keeping a single page in my notebook dedicated to all the expenses for the current month.
The month of May has seen me travel the most since I arrived here in India more than 80 days ago. In fact, I moved around a lot more than I would have preferred. However, I was invited to a wedding in New Delhi and decided to take advantage of the journey and stop in several places along the way, including Gokarna, Mumbai, and Udaipur. Continue reading →
After three months of budget hotels, rough buses, and grimy restaurants, the past few days here in Delhi have been nothing short of luxury. I've been in New Delhi only a few days, but it feels like it has been weeks. The wedding I was invited to has been incredible and I'm sure you will all love the photos (I will upload them soon, I promise!).
I'm staying with close friends whom I consider family and they have been incredibly generous to me; tea in the morning, home cooked meals for lunch, afternoon naps, a nice place to sleep, and an abundance of love and kindness.
Their home is located in a relatively new area of Delhi, with gated communities, wide streets, and a partially running metro that is still under construction. The wedding itself took place between their home and the only five star hotel where pure vegetarian food is served.
A few weeks ago I announced that I was doing a reader survey to help me better understand what you were interested in hearing more of on this blog. The response has been fantastic and I really appreciate everyone who took the time to complete the survey. Continue reading →
The beauty and energy of Udaipur left me at a loss for words. The morning I arrived, I could feel there was something different about the place. It was very subtle, but clearly a deep and calming energy. It was as if I could feel a culmination of all the life and royalty that had once lived or visited there.
I spent the first two days walking around the old city and exploring the three lakes from various points. All three lakes were far more dry than I expected and I was later told that there had been very little rain in the past five years and that the lakes were getting drier and drier each year.
For the first two days, I roamed for hours on foot, through small, unmarked streets that were not even on the map, passing tiny nooks that looked as if they had been transported directly from Venice itself. Incredible artwork of royal elephants, horses, kings, and princes graced the entrances to each house. The colors were usually faded, but you could always see how vibrant and striking the original paintings were. Continue reading →
The four-hour train ride from Mumbai to Surat was cool and comfortable. It was my first ride in an AC2-class car, one of the best classes you can take on a train in India. The first thing I noticed were the passengers: they were much different than those on the lower class cars. Many of them spoke English, even to each other, and they spoke more quietly.
Several passengers used their laptops during the journey and listened to music on their smart phones. Each seat came with a complementary bottle of water, a blanket, a pillow, and even dinner! Talk about luxury.
As we left Mumbai, the man sitting next to me asked me where I was going.
The fully booked train rolled into Mumbai Central Train Station at four o'clock in the morning but even with nearly all its passengers on-board, it was eerily quiet inside. As the train slowed to a halt, the passengers, only half awake or still sleeping, slowly moved about like zombies, speaking in a mumbled tone and quietly shuffling through the narrow, dimly lit isles collecting their luggage.
I was lucky to be on this train. Sixteen hours earlier, I learned that the last bus to Karwar, the town where the train to Mumbai departed from, had left Gokarna earlier that morning.
After asking a random travel agent, I discovered that my only option was to take a forty-five minute bus ride to Ankola (a bigger town further north) and from there catch a bus to Karwar. Continue reading →
It was my first day in Gokarna, a small beach town on the west coast of India. Getting here had been an all-day adventure of trains, buses with flat tires, and a sketchy taxi driver who had us switch cars halfway to the hotel (he told me his driver was picking us up... I thought he was the driver!). However, after spending several months away from any large bodies of water, I was looking forward to enjoying the beach. Continue reading →
[Note to email and RSS readers: You may need to click through to the website to view the video.]
My first night in a cheap Indian hotel was not without its surprises. As this was my first experience, I somewhat overreacted to the visitors. In hindsight, the unexpected visitors are to be expected in these places. Continue reading →
As promised in my previous post, The Plan: 6 Months, 3 Countries, and $3,000, I will begin doing monthly travel reports that detail how I spend my budget each month as I travel through Asia. This monthly report may become a regular long-term thing, but for now I'm committing to doing them for at least the next six months.
My initial six-month journey has a very tight budget: $250 USD per month. I already outlined some of my first-month expenses in a previous post, but this report is a more formalized overview and explains how I actually lived on such a budget.
Frugal travel involves more than simply setting a budget and then looking for the cheapest places to stay. It also means traveling more slowly, always accepting invitations and offers to stay with friends, and choosing to have a more authentic experience by living like the locals.
Without the generosity of friends in India, I'm not sure I would have made the first month's budget. However, I don't have friends everywhere (at least not yet!), so once I move on from my current location in Ujire, meeting this budget will become a lot more challenging.
This first month was an opportunity to see just how realistic my $250/mo budget was and I'm happy to report that it's absolutely realistic! Continue reading →
I'm currently about a month and a half into my life-changing, soul searching, press-the-reset-button-on-life trip to India and I realized that I have yet to announce my plan for the next five months.
The word "plan" may be a little too concrete though; it's more like a rough outline. When I decided to uproot my life and switch to the lifestyle I had always dreamed of living, I knew that I needed some direction.
After all, how am I supposed to book a flight if I don't know where I'm going? Continue reading →
It's been almost one month since I arrived in India (26 days to be exact) and I have finally spent my first $100 USD (that's approximately 4,500 Rupees).
In fact, it was less than $100 because I got ripped off twice: The first time was with a $28 currency exchange fee when I changed a $100 bill for rupees during my layover at the Heathrow Airport in London.
The second time was when I stopped in a small town near Mangalore to refill my local Airtel SIM card: I gave the agent Rs.300, but when I was finally able to check the balance, it only showed Rs.1 (as I later learned, my unlocked iPhone didn't work with the local SIM, so I couldn't check the balance until I purchased a basic Nokia phone a few days later).
I cooked my first substantial vegan dinner on the farm in Ujire, India using rice, channa dhal, and onion's that I purchased from town and some local veggies that were growing on the farm.
I have since gotten more creative (standby for future videos!) but there's something beautiful about the simplicity of a meal like this: It never leaves me feeling like crap and it always fills me up (thank you fiber)!
There I was, walking around the busy center of town in Ujire, India, sweating more than everyone else around me and clearly not looking or feeling like a local. But I was already used to that. I've been into town twice now and the strange stares and odd looks are practically expected. I've discovered that if you stop looking at everyone in the eyes, it's easy to forget that they're staring.
It was about twenty past four in the afternoon and I was headed back home; a remote farm nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats about 10 miles from town. I had two options for getting there: Wait for the bus and be crammed in with students headed home from school, or look for one of the jeeps and ride like a real local.
I noticed a bus arriving and waited to ask if it was headed to Kukavu (pronounced "kokow"), the name of the area about two miles from the farmhouse. The ticket attendant on the bus gave me a disgusted look and shooed me away. Continue reading →