Thursday, April 18, 2013

taking off soon, travel notes and the reflective spirit

Soon Ken and I will be leaving Alaska for a seven week journey to Nepal.  We will arrive in Kathmandu, recuperate from the long plane ride and will stay in a comfortable hotel for five days.  (I understand that the Beatles stayed at this particular place.  Maybe it will be our most expensive of places as fifty dollars a night is often a stretch for us.)  Afterwards, we are headed to Chitwan National Forest for a safari.  We have plans to fly to Bagan, Myanmar, Bhutan or head to Tibet, but we are leaving ourselves open to see, feel, scour maps, talk to the natives and other travelers, and ask around to decide what would best fit our travel and budget sensibilities.

At this time in my home though, in Anchorage, Alaska, I begin to look around me and view my surroundings.  A deeper knowledge of place is emphasized and it's luxuries,  like water fountains, the fresh scented snow air as I am skiing in the bright sunlight and an abundance of things at my fingertips. The small things that we often take for granted, like a warm, comfortable bed, a clean couch, adequate lighting and an accessible computer is often much sought after in our travels. 

sunshine and its reflection in Anchorage, Alaska
Most of all, and what intersects these comfortable times of where I am now in the great USA, are the people that I meet on our excursions from all over the world - time spent traveling on planes, buses, hotels, and moments in small cramped coffee shops.  A connection on a universal level is met on my travels making it wondrous and magical.  Written below are just a few memories that stick out in my mind as being prevalent and worth recalling at this time.

After my mother's funeral coming back from the east coast, I took up a conversation with a woman seated next to me on the plane.  We were relating similar trip details, how our friends had changed, how life had become different in scope, experiencing sentiments of growing older and challenges of fighting depression.   

After the massive tsunami hit in 2006, Ken and I sat in a small cafĂ© in New Delhi.  I had grabbed a stray newspaper on a nearby table and read the horrific headlines. I quickly exclaimed how we should fly back to the states.  Around us, people were going about their business, ordering drinks and food, the bustle of the afternoon was in full gear and the day seemed in total neglect of this happening.  

Me and Blue after a ski in Kincaid,
(the one I miss most while on jaunts)
Our eight hour drive to Agra from New Delhi to see the Taj Mahal was a hectic and frantic trip.  The driver, who weaved in and out of chaotic traffic, blasted the same local, popular Indian music over and over again for the course of the ride (and I wound up buying the tape soon afterwards in town.)  The Muslim tour guide, who led us inside the belly of the temple, couldn't be kinder, told us about his family and was elated to show us the massive marble mausoleum.  He was genuine, all welcoming, open and had a great sense of humor.  We shared similar insights and perspectives about lives.

On another bus journey in South Viet Nam, going through several border crossings at seedy stations wore us down.  There was an American family traveling with their young daughter and the father worked in the American Embassy in New Delhi.  How quickly you converse, share your insights and impressions with others especially if they are American.  We struck up an immediate conversation and later saw them on Christmas day.  They wished us a Merry Christmas, and it  struck a deep chord because it resonated heart felt sentiments. These bits of kindness are perhaps stronger because you are far away from home and I am sure that travel in foreign places puts you in a vulnerable zone.

There is a lot of waiting when you travel but I find myself wrapped up in a sensory store of fascination and it is acute visual eye candy.  Observation couldn't get any better.  I cannot begin to express the myriad of people you meet - the immediate bonding, the roundtable of discussions, the stray, brave young American traveling alone, a Montreal woman who we toured with us for two weeks, the German couple who we spent time seeing the Plain of Jars in Phonsavon, Laos, or the British couple, spending the day in the Borneo jungle observing the orangutans.  Australians are to be seen everywhere in Asia and I think they have taken the place of the American.  They can be brash, competitive, loud and confrontational but there is always the other side.  We spent some time with an Australian family in Bali and they were delightful in their scope and curiosity.  They wanted to know who we were as Americans and our politics. Ken and I sometimes remark about the families touring too - small babies slung on backs and children excitedly running close by their parents.  Everyone is happy to be out, you bond in this universal way and you become grateful for this advantage of experiencing the world.  It is a magnificent journey and worth fighting through the barriers of fear that have penetrated our world today.  Travel gives you hope and it adds another dimension to the soul and to the great spirit of awareness.