Before I left for my travels to Asia last fall I knew some things for absolute certain, and some things I gladly had absolutely no certainty about whatsoever.
The things I had no certainty about were many, vast even. For instance, although I’d spent some time in Southeast Asia prior to this trip, I had never been to Bangladesh, Nepal and India and I had no clue what to “really” expect when we walked off the plane and into the chaos of places like Dhaka, Kathmandu and Kolkata. Naturally I’d heard stories from people with “travel experience” but until you walk out into that mind-blowing crush of mayhem for yourself, you honestly just don’t know. Jason and I both vehemently vowed that we wanted our travels to be as organic as possible, not plan much of anything and just let things happen the way they would without the prior “help” of anyone.
Well, despite my months and months of telling people that’s exactly the way I prefer to travel (without pre-existing filters), people still insisted on sending me articles about various places I should go, sent me links to the “best” hotels, gave me the names of various travel agents their friends/family suggested, and best of all, gave me sound advice from their vast experiences gained from cruise ship excursions to see the “real Cancun”. I know it was all well intentioned and meant to be helpful and I truly appreciated it, but again, Jason and I set off under the pretense that we’d just figure it out when we got there.
As a side note, I actually thought about the article titled “Kathmandu’s Best Hotels” one night when we wound up in a hostel that was so disgusting we actually wouldn’t even use the advertised western toilet (we went across the street to the squatter in a dodgy café!). I’m pretty sure this place wasn’t mentioned in the article.
Conversely, the things I knew for certain were few and finite. For instance, I knew once we walked down the jet way at the airport in San Francisco and boarded that enormous Asiana airliner, our lives and the way we saw things would be forever changed, again. It’s been that way every time I’ve traveled independently and I knew for sure it’d be the same that time. It’s WHY I travel in the first place. I also knew that once we fully immersed ourselves in the cultures of Southeast and South Asia there would be simple, unexpected experiences which would mean infinitely more to us than simply visiting the staple tourist track sites mentioned in our Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books.
Another thing I knew for certain was that two months would vanish so quickly we’d barely remember traveling at all.
Once those two months of traveling did in fact zoom by, I then spent the better part of December and January back here in Colorado editing and paring down my 3,850 photos. The task became so onerous at one point I decided I would have to tackle only 100 per night. Still, I was finding the humongous task of editing them became so mechanical I began losing, or simply ignoring the emotions tied to each photo. Nevertheless, I waged on and finally got them to a point where I was happy at about 1,700-ish photos.
As I mentioned, we returned late November and now it’s the first of April. Just this past week Jason and I finally got together to look through the photos and earnestly reflect on our travels. Ironically we both agreed that it’s taken this long to begin to process our individual, much less our collective experiences. Similarly, we’ve both encountered the same difficulties in re-acclimatizing to a life “not out of a backpack”. Harder this time than ever actually. Funny, I’ve thought almost daily about how my friend Eleanor Moseman, http://www.2wheels4girls.com/ , who has been traveling for almost two years, could ever possibly hope to adapt back to a life of not traveling. Maybe she won’t — and I’m envious.
Anyhow, it was interesting to sit down with Jason, drink a couple of bottles of wine over the evening and start sifting through everything — photos, laughs, emotions, memories. We literally looked through each one of those hundreds and hundreds of photos. As expected, we’d both react to some of the photos the same way, sometimes react differently, or individually not react at all. But once the photos started rolling through the little slideshow I’d done, we agreed it was a bit cathartic to break down our protective shells and start talking openly about the experiences which until then we’d kept to ourselves.
Until Jason and I got together last week, I’d personally been very careful about sharing too much of anything because I selfishly want to protect the integrity of the experience. Jason said the same. So again, true to the underlying theme during our travels, we never forced things to happen as far as processing the experiences and emotions, we just let them develop at their own pace and saw where they led us. We both knew we’d get there, we just didn’t know how or when.
Looking back, we met some amazing people along the journey who somehow I know we’ll always consider friends (Michaela, Tom, Xena, Rejane, Tsering, Puja, ‘the bald dog”, “the Bird Lady”). Additionally, I could literally spend the rest of my life writing in my journal about the infinite number of experiences Jason and I shared — and I likely will. And out of the 3,850 photos I took, there will always be a few that hold the key to some of the most influential moments of my life thus far. To most everyone else they’ll likely just be pictures from halfway ‘round the world, but to me, they’ll always be so much more.
Climb high, paddle far, run long, ski hard and be happy with what you have.