Most travelers have a bucket list. I have been lucky enough to have checked quite a few off my personal list, but one place I have not yet reached is Jakarta. The 13,000 islands of Indonesia are astonishing, and having spent a month in serene Bali, my dreams now turn to city life. Enter Jakarta, the massive capital on Java, the mixes cultural influences from around the world.
What drives us, we nomadic types? What causes us to leave stable jobs, lovely homes, friends and family, to throw ourselves out into the world? To force discomfort upon ourselves by the mere act of having no home base, no tribe to reach to for comfort? To live a life outside our comfort zone, both mentally and literally?
Time is always surprising; It seems like just yesterday, not nearly 27 years ago, that I first locked eyes with Jim, in Ken’s living room. Jim, full-bearded and scruffy, just off the boat from Alaska. Myself, fully focused on going to school for international law and moving to Paris. An unlikely pair? Apparently not~ Six days after our first date Jim asked me to marry him, and the rest, as they say, is history. Astonishingly, June 2nd we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. 25 years… it seems unreal, and presents a very literal example of how fast time moves by.
I dream of travel. My nights are spent luxuriating on the beach in Mexico, eating my weight in SE Asian street noodles, being awoken long before dawn by the roar of an African lion. Sometimes my dreams aren’t quite as vivid, rather than memories of past journeys, they consist of the anticipation of what is to come. These days those dreams have a lot of llamas in them.
I sat in the rickshaw, trying to think of anything cool, sweating profusely in the mid-afternoon heat of Southern India. Jim was in yet another seedy hotel, searching for an acceptable room, a dismal possibility, even according to Lonely Planet. As usual, my job was to wait with the bags and the tuk-tuk, rickshaw, taxi…. whatever our current form of transportation entailed. It had been one hell of a day, beginning with us arriving late for our water taxi, being forced to run along the banks of the river with our full packs, and leaping aboard as it pulled away from shore. After a 4-hour journey through the back canals of Kerala, we arrived in a no-name town, our stop for the night en-route to get to Kumily. And it was hot. Like 98 and humid hot.
Any long term traveler knows that if you have been on the road for any length of time, standards shift. Standards in hotel rooms, safety concerns and, well, it has to be said, personal hygiene. While we have never been particularly fussy regarding our accommodations, by the time we arrived in Goa, India, we were simply thrilled to have a beachfront room, even if it was of questionable design.
The doors of the world are varied and exotic. I could fill calendar after calendar of photos of them I have taken from all over the world, but many of my favorites belong to India. The one is particularly interesting in that it is both a very large door and a very small one! A predecessor of our modern dog door, perhaps?
India, a magical, life changing place. For months, everywhere we went, we were mobbed by Indians wanting to take their photo with us, invite us to dinner, and chat with us while we tried to take in a serene sunset. What to do? Surrender to the power of India and embrace the chaos!
No, You did not read that wrong. This post truly is about finding solitude in India, an oxymoron to be sure. India is chaos personified. Everywhere one turns there are bustling throngs of people, thousands of cars and rickshaws, camels, cows, and endless shops and spice markets.