India and Nepal, ~8 weeks in:
- Been to Delhi, Rishikesh, Dharamsala, Manali, Leh, Delhi again, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Kathmandu again and some places in between
- Eaten with my hands - including rice, but using chapati, parantha or some other bread as the scooping vessel
- Eaten take-out Indian food - it was packaged in plastic bags
- Eaten dessert after lunch almost every day
- Obliged to something like 20 photos with strangers, including the Nepali man sitting next to me on my flight from Delhi to Kathmandu. He asked for a photo within the first five minutes of sitting, and then we couldn’t really understand anything else the other was trying to say.
- Had what I now consider to be the scariest moment of my life: a panic in a four way intersection in KTM that I tried to cross like a boss and got stuck in the middle of for at least 30 seconds.
- Had one 10-minute stand-off with a cockroach, felt like a big human monster
- Had one protective dog join a hike for four hours. At the beginning we were like, why is this dog following us. By the end, we were like where’s our dog, DID WE LOSE OUR DOG, love our dog.
- Observed two Jewish holidays - Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - at Chabad in Kathmandu. The Torah was kept in a cabinet because they did not have a proper Ark.
- Slept on a panel of wood with a sleeping bag on top of it surrounded by a mosquito net for three nights. It was a white lace net and reminded me of the canopy I had on my bed when I was a little girl which made me feel like a princess.
- Participated in one baby’s 2nd birthday celebration at my guest house
- Participated in my friend Thomas’s (pronounced Toma, he's French) birthday celebration with his Nepali ‘family’ in Chaughada (a village four hours outside Nepal)
- Ridden on the roof of one bus.
- Had 2 Ayurvedic massages
- Drawn 3 maps of NYC
- Met two other New Yorkers — not NYC, though
- Eaten rice with my hands
- Had a manicure/pedicure
- Paid more than $5.50 per night for accommodations (I rarely go above $3)
- Drank soda, with the exception of a Coca Cola the other day… it wasn’t that cold.
- Eaten meat. Oddly, I’ve been a vegetarian. The first two cities I went to were entirely vegetarian so at that point I was veg by default. Then it became a challenge to myself. And then as I spent more time with animals it really did become about animals.
- Drank alcohol, with the exception of the time in Dharmsala when we bought some rum in an attempt to make some kind of fancy liqueur drink by mixing it with chai tea... Terrible idea, not sexy at all and in fact disgusting
- Used fake sugar
- Had anything ‘to-go’
- Had anything delivered
- Watched TV or a movie
- Used a credit or debit card to pay for anything.
- Used a guide book at all. Word of mouth, baby.
- My tool belt. It’s a suede waistbelt-slash-crossbody bag that I bought in Rishikesh. It carries everything I need on my person at all times. Each and every thing has its place in one of the bag’s five pockets. I have repaired it at the tailor once already.
- Sitting on the floor cross-legged everywhere. A typical dinner scene: laying down in a wraparound, ground-level, pillow-covered booth drinking ginger lemon honey tea and then eating a veg burger or paneer butter masala.
- Every guest house is a cafe is a laundry service is a chillout spot is a travel agency is a family.
- Using my Apple products in public. Whether I'm around locals or other travelers, they are unmaskable symbols of wealth. “OH is that the iPhone 6?” ...cringe...yes…
- Being asked on the street where I’m from and where I’m going. It is so hard to blend in when my skin and hair are light. I’m obviously not from here. “You need something? Anything? Guest house?” “Where you from? US? USA?” Some of the same locals ask me day after day.
- Love: The ability to get anywhere by bus. Hate: Having to get everywhere by bus. Driving up and down the sides of mountains. How uncomfortable the buses are. I’m too tall for these places.
- Love: Playing every single day by ear. The freedom to do or not do whatever my heart desires in each and every moment. Not being urgent about anything. Being in exactly this moment. Being present. Taking time to appreciate. It is such a luxury, such a gratifying feeling. Hate: That without a plan, without any sort of date as an anchor, the decision of whether to move or not to move is upon me every day. It’s hard not to think about whether I am making the right decision to stay or go. If I stay here too long, am I sacrificing the opportunity to see other places? If I leave, am I sacrificing the opportunity to get to know this place on a deeper level?
- Love: Being from the United States. Hate: Answering the question, “where are you from?” For some reason, there is no name for the US that feels natural to me. United States? US? The US? USA? AMERICA? These all seem wrong. Also: In Manali I had met two Irish boys and one of them explained what he believes to be many others’ view on the US: “It is a country that wants to take over the world and thinks it deserves to.” Couldn’t help but think he wasn’t totally wrong...
- Love: How much less waste there is here. Less packaging. Fewer plastic cups and plates and containers. More conscious water usage. Hate: That unfortunately for the waste that is produced, the garbage is pretty much the floor.
- Love: The gift of meeting new people every day. Hate: I’m always saying goodbye.