For those of you that have followed me for a while, you know I share my Cousin Robb’s worldwide adventures.
Cousin Robb is a workaholic who saves his money and then quits his job to go travel the world… usually as far from tourist destinations as possible.
Other adventures of his can be found by scrolling down and looking on the left side of this page for links to his unbelievable photographs and stories.
I’m splitting this entry into two parts…
The guy got a little wordy in his last email…
Is it because his dad and my dad both came from the same storytelling grandfather?
(Angkor Wat… built in the 12th century)
Friends and family!
Funny how many emails I’ve received asking if I am still alive (it’s not that bad out here)…or, even more prevalent, merely requesting something new to read while supposedly working… Interestingly, in parallel for the last few months, I have asked the same of myself: When will an extraordinary experience unfold worth sharing, worthy of words….worthy of your employer’s time and money? Well, it took me quite some time to realize that the experiences I seek were not lacking – as they truly unfold daily. They had just become, curiously enough, unconsciously mundane…quite extraordinary in and of itself!
Since my last communiqué, my travels have included Southern India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and now Thailand. Yet what does one do? Where does one go when the extraordinary becomes the ordinary…when new beginnings are rife with routine: another amazing sunset; another timeless artifact; remarkable painting; beautiful sculpture; beach paradise; priceless ruin, wat, temple, monastery, cathedral, tomb …this world is full of the priceless. What are you suppose to feel over and over again? Awe? or Yawn? (extraordinary similar in tone and mouth structure). But, of course, it is plainly just a matter of perspective…and simply this regurgitation at your (employer’s) expense has been most helpful! (As well as remembering that as late as 35 years of age, I was still working in a windowless cube….).
In context, it does makes a bit of since, considering I am pushing into nearly a year without knowing where I am going to sleep each night, where or what my next meal will be, who my next friend or foe will be…..so the search for life continues rather quickly, yet over much time.
So as I think back over these months with a beginner’s mind, several experiences do feel valuable, thought-provoking, or simply entertaining:
- Sharing meals with homeless, street kids. When traveling alone, I eat from streets stalls or vendors 80% of the time. Over the last few months, if there is a street kid around, I’ve taken to waving him/her over to eat with me. After their initial disappointment that money is not being given (a real no-no), the experience comes in one of four forms: 1) they refuse 2) they accept, take the food and run away 3) they stay and eat, but I don’t exist to them and they run away with a full mouth, or 4) they eat, smile and laugh with me for a few minutes (unfortunately, this is quite the minority). I had forgotten how priceless this simple act really is…. And remember, they don’t know a word of English.
- My morning game: As I wake each morning, instead of turning off an alarm, I calculate how many seconds it takes me to say (out loud) the name of the town and country I am in. And as I will have been in six countries in five months, rarely sleeping more than two nights in any one place, it is sometimes not so easy. This now mundane game used to be an exceptional feeling of exotic freedom…..
Tests of will:
- Night diving in deep uncharted waters of Cambodia (monsters always just out of flashlight range and being so far from anywhere, you just don’t bother with the section entitled “Emergency Contacts.” My dives here in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand were fantastic – including Tiger sharks (one snuck up behind me for a nice little surprise), Black-tipped sharks, Sea snake, Morey eels and the extraordinary feeling of vertigo and lost direction due to swimming through huge schools of yellow snappers. On a secluded island beach in Vietnam, I swam through a jellyfish – imagine 37 people sticking needles into you for three hours (pain may be the ultimate rush, but it takes a lot of energy to endure that for three hours…and, of course, the boat to pick us up arrived as the pain subsided).
- Paying a soldier to take you to the real Viet Cong underground tunnels – football field in length, creepy dark, and sometimes too small to crawl through without taking off your daypack and pushing it in front of you as you crawl on your belly (and impossible to turn back) – the most claustrophobic I will ever be (and the most scared I’d been since that girl told me she was pregnant 20 years ago).
- Local culinary “I dare you’s” such as: Vietnamese canine cuisine! Cambodian moonshine shots with huge centipedes (hallucinogenic?), cobras and scorpions in the bottles. Fried spiders, ant larvae soup, fresh grub worm snacks at the market, snakes, eels, goat scrotum soup, etc. As they are not picky about their proteins, the markets in North Vietnam are a culinary nightmare for any westerner. By the way, I had fishballs for dinner last night (quite the paradox, as they’re huge in this part of the world, but you’re always hungry after….).
After this list of fun foods, and the crazier experiences in general, my thoughts turn to a junky….one who needs a consistent, if not increasing, fix in order to remain, as only the junky would explain, stable. Why else would I put that stuff in my mouth?
(To be continued… this is one of his little tour guides…)