Location: Home, Israel
Shalom to you all!
where do I begin?
3 weeks ago I was in India, tossing and turning in my bed. The thought of coming home left me thinking about so many things, which most of them I didnt have the answer to: what would I do, after the hype of coming home fades? What kind or track would I take studies, work? What kind of work? What do I want to study?
I still dont have the answer to these things, but they kept me awake many nights, thinking up ideas and plans for my future. Generally, I was ready to come home and start working hard and fast on building my independent life.
Karen and I parted ways, although temporarily, at Indira Gandhi International Airport. We would meet again soon. Then, the day after Karen's flight, my time had come
when the cars, buildings, trees and life below me transformed into colored spots and eventually disappeared, I marked India as yet another place I would have to come back to, to complete my travel-checklist. My thoughts wandered further onto Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal. What extraordinary places! The way people behave, welcome and make you feel at home is incredible to me, and even puts us, "modern people", in a really bad light in comparison. I think what fascinates me the most about these cultures is their many contradictions to my own. I'm not afraid of those who are different; I will simply be curious and try to understand them.
About leaving Asia - I wasnt sad. It wasnt "my travel in Asia has ended" that went through my head; it was "my journey in Israel is beginning". And that is still the way I feel about it.
So now I'm back home
maybe the only thing that was missing abroad, my family and close friends, are now very near, and I try to spend as much time as I can with them, when I fully appreciate how much these people can be missed. I've never been too good at keeping in touch
but as one of my "goals and plans for coming home" is to improve that
I guess I'd have to be.
And maybe to summarize, here are a few things I've learned about myself in the end:
1. One of the things I loved most about this travel - is the travelling. When I would arrive in a new place, I'd like the excitement and curiosity of not knowing the place, and the process of making that unfamiliar place familiar; getting to know the small alleys in a crowded town, pick my favorite place for morning rice/noodles/chai, casual chats with a water-vendor, and finally directing other tourists in the place
and the next best thing about traveling is the freedom, of choice, of future, of friends, of things to see and do. When I wanted to be alone, it was the easiest thing to do. When I wanted company even easier.
Although the current trip had ended, it was the opening note to a long duet I will try to have with the open road. I'm sure there will be more to come, to different or same places I've already been to.
2. Almost every traveler I've met has his ideal "goal" to break the barriers between him/her and the locals, to get to know their lives, to understand what it truly means to live in that remote place in the world. Well, to be honest, thats probably the most difficult and challenging goal of them all. Even though I've been trying over and again to know people better: sitting down for lunch or drinks with the locals, learning the local language (man, China was hard! And the best
), peering into people's homes to try and have a chat, traveling mostly alone to make people more comfortable, and me more flexible to meet them, and more. But when all of that's said and done, the barriers of culture, and mainly language, make it so hard to interact and learn something from each other. Of course, I've met and had many Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Nepali and Indian friends (no Mogolian friends, sorry. Hard to make friends with people the size of buildings), but the level of conversation always got stuck after a certain point. Eventually, I've realized that us travelers' hope of knowing what it is to "live there", is euphoric. Until we DO try to live there for a period of time, we wouldn't know. But that, I guess, is what it truly means to be a tourist a bystander, an outsider.
In that same breath, I have to mention another part of this equation those with whom I COULD communicate meaningfully and share, learn from and make good friends with my fellow travelers. People traveling are so open to others, and willing to help and share their whole lives with you. I know that without a doubt, most of the things that touched me the most were said or shared by my friends, people whom I've only met days before
and for that I'm grateful to you all.
3. Last, and probably the most important of them all: most of us post-army Israelis who travel, see this trip as something passing by, not permanent. Basically, it's a "break from life", that has stopped and will continue when we go back to Israel. I was feeling the same, maybe not aware of it at first, but still.
I now think that that's a big mistake. Leaving home thinking life had temporarily stopped and will continue from the same point I left , thinking my "real life" only happens in Israel, was a mistake. What I've come to realize is that this trip IS MY LIFE it was merely happening outside of Israel. Everything that's happened to me will affect my future just as if I were to stay in Israel, things that would have happened here would've changed my future. In any way, all this time I was not taking a break from life I was living it .
I think that's it
now begins a new chapter in my life, my journey after my journey in Asia. It was an amazing experience, one that probably changed many things in me, some I'm aware of and some not yet. I'm here in Israel with a lot of energy and optimism, to take my future where I want it to go. Maybe there will be another blog like this in the future, about a different time and place in the world, who knows
at the moment, I'm letting the trekking shoes go. They've done their part for now.
Li hai, Tam biet, Sai jien, Tashi delek, Namaste, Shalom, Goodbye,
Location: Dehra Dun, India
Another month. Man, the times are flying and I don't even notice it. It seems that Patnem beach was such a short time ago, and yet...
Karen and I left Patnem towards Hampi , a nice small village, located in a beautiful scenery of huge boulders and exposed stoney hills. 5 days went by very quick, in which we toured the near temples of the Vijarayana kingdom, played guitar (that was mostly me...) with friends in the guest-house, helped bathe Lakshmi, the town's elephant, and... sweated. Sweated, sweated, sweated our asses off. The south of India felt like it was put in a turbo-microwave, and although I am sure we could've stayed longer, we just couldn't handle the immense heat. And those of you who know how I deal with heat... know that I don't.
The descision wasn't easy - having to accept train-riding for 3 whole days (oh man...) - but the coin was tossed and we rushed to the north.
Our first stop was Haridwar , in Uttaranchal state. This is a very holy town for Hindus, since the holy river, the Ganga, flows next to it. Here I found a very pleasant surprise: back in my first days in India, I visited only one place in the north - Varanasi - before heading south. The beautiful tiny alleys, hot-milk (served in clay pots) stands and general atmosphere vanished when I arrived at the south, and I thought it was what makes Varanasi unique. Yet, I was wrong. It was what makes NORTH INDIA unique. All the sights, smells and holiness were back in full-power in Haridwar, and we had a great time.
Next stop - Rishikesh , a major travelers' hub, located at a different section of the Ganga (thus - popular with Hindu believers). We spent a few nice days exploring the area and planning a short trek further north.
After a week's pause in Delhi , we left for where we are now, Dehra Dun , from which we continued to Mussoorie , a peaceful hill-town at a greatfully cooled altitude of 2000m. This was our entry-point to the hills and valley around, at the foothills of the Himalayan ridge. We left for another short trek, up towards a small village in the mountain and back. Feeling the freedom of nature, cooking for ourselves and sleeping in a tent where we feel like it... was just what we needed after almost a month in various populated towns, hastling rickshaw-drivers and stuffy guest-houses.
Now we're back in Dehra Dun, for another 2 days, and then back to Delhi. Another 3 days after that, and I will be on a flight... back home . It was about a week ago that I descided that it was time to punch out, and finish my travels for this time. A big part of me feels that for me to feel like I've "traveled through and through" in India (or any other place I planned to travel to, for that matter), it would take me 6 more months, at least... and now is not the time to do that. It would have to wait. Now I feel that I miss my family and my friends, and for this time around, if this trip ends now, it would be the right time. And in the same time... I can't believe all these good times, day-after-day experiences and amazing people I've met are going to end... but after all, my time back home is going to be full of experiences too, from a different sort.
I will surely add another entry from home, along with the last photos, in a week or so. Until then - I'm still "on the road again.."
Location: Patnem beach, Goa, India
...Part 2 (yes, there's a Part 1. Read that first)
OK, so we woke up at Alumkadavu, only to find six women of the village, working right next to us... it seemed that we slept next to what looked like a rope-weaving "factory"... the women were using these primitive wheels and hooks to weave rope, in the same way it's done in factories in Western countries. We just looked at them work for about an hour... it's so fascinating to find places where the "new world" hasn't reached.
Our second stop on the boating trip was Amma's Ashram . This Ashram was founded by the followers of Amma - "The Hugging Mother", a woman who's dedicated her life to expressing compassion in the form of hugging people, from all over the world. Throughout the years, Amma has gathered many followers, and the Ashram hosts several hundreds of people daily! For us, it was interesting to see the way an Ashram of this magnitude operates.
At last, we reached the northern point on the rivers - Alleppey . This is where me and Karen's ways parted for some time, because I was on my way back north, to meet... my father! Yes, he decided that enough is enough, and after 10 months he should see his son again. And what better place than in India?
(Here's a thought: could my parents be using the fact that I'm away as an excuse to see the world?... Hmm...)
I reached Kochin and met Dad at the airport. Needless to say, seeing my father striding from the plane towards me, all smiles, was a very happy moment for him and me both. We spent the next 2 days in Kochin, eating great sea-food and strolling around town (and running into a couple of my friends from Nepal - Shay and Lilach), and then had to make our way... towards somewhere. It took me - as our "tour guide" - about 2 days to realize that my plans for our 2 weeks together were unrealistic - just because India is TOO BIG! A temple in Tamil Nadu, a hill-station in Karnataka, a national park in Kerala... "no possible, sir". So, we changed plans to travel much shorter distances. Together we reached the backwaters of Kerala for a nice canoe-ride in the canals, enjoyed great coffee at The Indian Coffee House in Trivandrum , Kerala's capital, sun-bathed at Kovalam beach , touched the end of the world at Kanyakumari , India's south tip (looking south is Antarctica), where at both sunset and sunrise, the sun touches the ocean... Strolled around Hindu religion at temples in Madurai , and went for some cooler weather and beautiful nature surroundings at Kodai Kanal hill-station (and ALMOST had a 9-hole golf game!...). To top it all off, we finished our 2 weeks in the busy Mumbai , India's south capital and Maharashtra state capital. These two days in Bollywood-city, where you can see the ridiculous yet beautiful contrast of movie-sets siding with cows in the streets, were a great final-note, and a good taste of India's finest for my Dad.
More than this, what was best about our time together was... our time together. It's been a long time since me and my father could have a good talk, a nice laugh or a glass of beer together. Dad was very cool about walking the streets, riding a few local-packed, steamy buses, or bargaining fishermen down on calamari prices... I enjoyed our time very much - there's nothing like family. And let us not forget the steep incline in living conditions for me :)
Timing was on our side, as my Dad's flight and my train-ride were at the same time in the night. We spent our last day together, and I headed back south to where I am now - Patnem beach , the south most in Goa state. This detour (from heading up north already...) had a purpose - to meet up with Karen, and to look for a motorbike. Many travelers in India pick a motorbike as their way to travel, and I can see many reasons why that's better than the usual buses/trains. Some places you just can't reach without it, not to mention the freedom of it, the great feeling of riding (and you motorbike-license owners would agree with me) and the millions of new opportunities you come across, traveling through roads less visited. However, I didn't want to make the decision (and purchase) too quick, and especially not before I get a "feel" for India's roads, and more importantly - its drivers!! You have to see it to believe it - a no-overtaking line is invisible to them, every lane can fit at least 2 or 3 cars/motorbikes at a time, no speed limits, braking is optional... I had to be sure I can handle it for a long time, and not be afraid for our safety.
We decided to rent a motorbike as a "tryout", and use the time to go through some of Goa's more touristic beaches (Patnem is great for hanging out, not for potential bike-shopping). We went through the busy Arambol beach , headed north for Tarkali beach (in Maharashtra state), came back to Vagator beach , and finished in the Wednesday market at Anjuna beach , all in 5 days of riding. At the end, through all the chaos, heavy smoke from trucks, heat, continuous honking, ridiculous Indian direction-giving (pointing straight every time...) - riding the bike was an awesome experience. The freedom of going wherever you want to go, seeing whatever you want to see, stopping for lunch in the middle of nowhere - those things are irreplaceable. And even the butt eventually gets used to 4-hours of constant riding... However, knowing myself, I realized that if I buy a bike this time around, and use it for 3 months at most - I would feel a sense of disappointment. I would feel like I should have bought it when I had more time, to spend a serious amount of time riding throughout all of India, instead of a "sneak peak" at what it's like to travel with a motorcycle. So, we've decided to give up the bike idea this time, but I am sure - and especially now, after having "tasted" the feeling - that my second time in India will include a backpack - and a toolkit...
Now we're back in Patnem beach, making arrangement to leave towards Hampi, about 300km east. From there - we'll see as we go along.
In a very "interesting" coincidence: last night, as I was writing this entry, my plane back to Israel was just taking off from Bangkok International Airport... in 3 weeks from now I will have been one year away from home, and by god - if you'd ask me about it a year ago, I would say 6 months is more than enough. This trip took me to so many places, places that just made me want to keep traveling and traveling and traveling... but even though traveling can go on forever, everything has to come to an end, and I can feel that soon, I too would be concluding this chapter of my life. If I were to go back earlier, I would perhaps feel like I cut the trip short, while I still "needed" to travel. But now, when comes the time to go back, after more than a year away, I know I would feel my heart and mind were good and right with the decision. By now, I feel like I'm almost ready to end this experience...
...for this time around.
Hugs to you all, keep safe.
p.s. pictures of these past months coming soon...
Click on any of the headings above to see some photos.
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Response: shit, now i feel like an angelica too... especially since the only malawach around is just a big Chapati... i'll post more pcs, give me time!!
dash 2 vazana and tal
Response: How are you, Chen Fei? it is good to hear from you again.
You can keep writing to me in Chinese, I can translate it. I just hope yu can read my English...
I have been to many places in China like you say. I am happy you can see the photos of these places. You have been in some of these places too, correct?
If you would come to my country as you say you want to, I would be very happy. You know you have a friend to visit in Israel!
Keep in touch, Amit
Response: hey bikum!
how's goa? hot!! really hot, but nice, for a week... beats Nagarkot :)
u should've told me about the book sooner, man...
dash to maya, i miss u too!
Response: Hey Gar my man! always a laugh to read your comments...
i guess my slow travelling is what makes me finally realize that u CAN'T see everything at once. just means another trip after this one... my facial hair, have u know, is fine. but the hair on my head... damn!! can't it get past the stage when it's too short for a pony-tail, and too long so it gets in my eyes?!
congrats on the job!! i'm especially happy, since it's so close to China, so u'll probably have time to visit the Peking rastaurant again (and again, and again...). send me a Gong-Pao chicken, will ya?
Response: hey off!
no, u're not wrong, u're actually right on the date... thank u for the wishes, and i WILL see u soon.
write 2 me sometime - i hear u have a new job, one u're very good at... so tell me about it!
dash to the pool table.
Response: thanks ronit... kisses to you, and send my love to ofer and omeromiko...
Response: hey auntie, uncle and cousins!
thank u so much 4 your wishes, the birthday itself is not such a big deal - but hearing from u is great! i miss u and love u very much too. Happy Passover, too!...
Response: hey mano! congrats on your "closet"... (bad translation, i know, but it's the best i could find). man, when i come back u're getting a HUGE kafa on your back.
tell ofer to tell the shalishut to call my guest-house in india, i'll answer.
dash to VaseBLV, and don't 4get the boogie!...
these sure are interesting times for me in india... taking thing sday by day works well.
i don't know about the yoga - the only kind i know (which u taught me) is Kundelini, and that's f&%kin' hard! i'm using my guitar as therapy/meditation, works like a charm.
Response: Hey Shawarma-lover! what's up? Merry Xmas 2 u too, man, what did u wish for?... I bet it was a few more months with Mei from our guest-house :) Anyhoo, no snow around here yet, but u can count on the beer! Happy new year my friend, good to hear from you (as always).
Response: hi there! kisses to all, and i'll keep posting stories...
Response: Hey roza! nice to know you're alive, how 'bout mailing me once a year?!
And forget the teesing, this is not 9th grade anymore!!
Kisses back :)
Response: hi Shifra,
certainly, the time with Mom was great... now comes dad's turn :)
Response: hey baba, send me some beach-sand, will ya?!?!
poor guys, having to stay on the beach all day long... when u guys go back 2 Israel, i extend my Nepalese Visa :) i really enjoyed our week together, and keep playing chess! (u too, Maya!)
Response: hey Helen! great to see you're still on the road, I love your pics too (noticed your "landscape" obstacle is gone by now...), I'm still gonna be in Nepal for some time. and about 2 Kwai - he's constantly on my mind, of course :)
Response: Hello Dong! great to hear from you again!
I will be happy to travel with you again, meeting your friends in Chi Hua Shan (and sharing lunch) was really great! as soon as I'm back in China, I'll be in touch...
Response: hey Dogi,
i'd have to say i agree with u - i also thought it would be hard to stay away for so long, but when u're seeing and meeting new things everyday, it's easier not to "think about it"... but don't worry, i'll be back for u to complete my "tochnit imunim" :)
keep in touch some more, will ya?! we almost haven't talked at all!!
Response: Hey Dana - out of Thailand by now? hopefully - for your sake... man, Kawasan Road... not a pleasant place, as i remember it.
nice of u to be so "thoughtfull" to post a message... don't worry, i'm a loyal reader of your letters, too.
the trip to Everest was nice, walking up to the Base Camp. but not much more to write about it... as u can imagine, i didn't reach the top :)
Response: Hey Anh! (and of course i remember our night of drinking, with Sam, from the Philipenes, too)
great to hear from you, man! it's been SOOO long since Vietnam - i really enjoyed it there. maybe i'll be back one day, but for now - so much more to see...
congratulations for graduating! i'm sure u'll find a job soon enough.
keep in touch, man!
Response: hey didi! first thing - i just found out, two days ago, that the Nepali word for "older sister" is - "didi"...
u know, with all of this Buddhism & Hinduism, meditation, yogis etc., i'm constantly reminded of u - as u know, i was never quite "in" to this spiritual-yoga stuff... but it IS very interesting. kisses ans hugs, to u and Avi both!
Response: Hey Gerr, namaste... u know that u really SHOULD be saving for China - i do remember you moping about having to go back to Australia. and about the local Nepali brews - i'd have to disagree, Everest beer tastes like CRAP! only draft is OK...
Response: Hey Uriah the Hitti.
FINALLY!! out of the army... about fu^%kin' time. and i'm sure u'll get the "satlan" look in no time - i still remember u had long hair, even if u don't...
Response: Hey JT, how's it going?
Of course I remember our talk, although I'm not sure - was it YOU that was drunk? well, I'll settle for both of us.
Damn, I'm sorry to hear about your things getting stolen... I know the feeling (a little), 'cause I was pickpocketed. Not a nice experience...
Keep me "in the know" from time to time!
Response: Hi Yohanan, good to hear from you again.
Send my best wishes to Ilan - man, Bar-Mitzva ALREADY?! you know that grandma-sentence: "I remember him when he was THIS big!" well, that's exactly what's going through my mind right now... Tell him I will throw candy at him the next time I see him, ok?
Keep in touch!
Response: hey In Motion, what's up (finally)?!
yeah, it's been a long time, tell me about it... long timt since we beat up some pistonim in the huliya together :(
and for the last time - nobody wants to see pictures of you, man!!! (especially not naked, so stop sending them!!)
as usual, give a big hug to Pita, Orchi, Ami and Off for me.