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May 11, 2013 | Assume nothing, appreciate everything

“I hope you enjoy India”, a man told me as he left the train one stop before Mumbai CST. I had spent the night curled up on the second of three bunk beds on the sleeper class train between Aurangabad and Mumbai, and I wasn’t particularly in a good mood, since I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep. The train was so crowded when I boarded I had to ask a train conductor to help me get in, and I had to boot off three people sitting on my bunk, which I didn’t feel particularly nice about since they had nowhere except the floor to sleep on. This experience was both slightly traumatic and exceedingly humbling, because I would recognize later, in reading Shantaram, that I could totally have seen the same scenario in a more positive light.

It’s taken the better part of two weeks for me to have enough organization and time to write a sort of summary of the trip that I took across 6 countries and 2 special administrative regions across Asia and New Zealand. I sent my camera in for repairs that took a little over a week because of an extended holiday in Japan, and I wrapped up my journal writing within a couple days of getting home. As I make my transition to Switzerland, I’m going to take a moment to reflect upon the adventure, and save it as posterity for the “future me”.

I think it all boils down to realizing that any extended trip is bound to be a very humbling experience. The theme that I had throughout my trip was “experiences that make me feel small”, and I tried to make sure I would seek out those kinds of experience wherever I went, or, if not seek them, at least recognize them.

Some highlights:

There were many others, but a highlight has to be just that. Along the way, I met many interesting travelers, many of whom were traveling for longer than I was – I met someone who had just biked from London to Hong Kong taking 18 months, as well as someone who had just picked up a bike in India and was making his way around the country. Everyone had their own stories, and their own reasons, for seeing the world. It makes sense that they be the most hardcore of travelers, though, since the time between January and April is hardly the time for most vacation-seeking tourists. I had the chance to travel with a friend for a stretch of my solo drive around New Zealand, too, which was a neat experiment.

I realize that even as I told myself to “assume nothing and appreciate everything”, I was still missing out on the opportunity to see the true beauty of the people that I had the chance to interact with along my trip. In particular, India was a country where I gave myself ample resources to prepare myself for the culture shock, but I was hardly prepared, and that barrier prevented me from seeing the subtle things that made India beautiful. In particular, the train trips that I took around India gave me neat opportunities to meet wonderful people, but I was always a bit overwhelmed by the crowded and chaotic atmosphere that I never quite got around to realizing how nice those people were.

In the end, I am glad that all I lost of significant value was an iPhone, and that my most severe injury was a gash from a tumble from a mountain bike. My travel story is by no means special, or unique (though I did manage to catalog a variety of Oreo cookies and knock-offs), but it is mine, and it is an experience that I hope inspires others to do the same.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 11th, 2013 at 5:30 am, EST under the category of Future Me. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.