I’d planned to write another workaway budgeting post. I’d taken so much oddly satisfying pleasure in crunching the numbers and realizing that I’d spent so little the last time. I thought I was possibly encouraging others to do the same if they wanted. Maybe a little part of me wanted to shove a sock in the mouth of those that thought I was “lucky”. “Luck didn’t get me here, but hours of planning and loads of material sacrifice did,” (and singing the ABCs, oddly enough that also got me here) I’d grumble to myself.
So much of this ’round the world trip was planned, thought out and considered carefully. My mouth dropped when one of my co-volunteers said she had volunteered at this vegan, Nepali restaurant in Goa, India and hated the management. I’d seen that volunteer opportunity a whole YEAR prior on the workaway website when I was only beginning to conspire about my long term travel plan. I had fantasized about rubbing elbows with the kitchen staff and sampling their cruelty free cuisine.
I still think budgeting is important. And one cannot budget without a plan. I still want to make it known that anyone can do it if they want.
But so swiftly my way of traveling has changed. The first 5 or 6 months of this trip I was watching every penny go out of my coin purse not wanting to break my budget and spoil my future plans. But more and more I started to hear an internal voice, my diva conscious telling me, “Treat yo self self, girl!” I’d answer back, “K thanks.” Then I’d order a pineapple juice with ginger AND mint (both to be charged, added extras).
A confidant and I recently got to talking about my trip. Most times I answered that I was pursuing more meaningful travel all while finding my place in the world. Which maybe I still am in a way, but this time I surprised even myself by telling him that I was trying to live in the present. He gave an understanding nod which at the time I thought maybe I’d fed him a simple enough answer, so he gave me a simple enough response. “Mmmhm.”
I’ll have to ask him, but only recently I discovered that this answer could have struck a more meaningful chord. Simply put, my friend meditates. He once did a 10 day intensive Vipassana practice that he claims to have changed his life. Vipassana, the extreme sports version of transcendence where meditators sit for 10 hours a day in stretches of silence that last two to three hours at a time. Not your typical “spirituality purchased”!
Being in India, the birthplace of yoga and meditation, I’m of course intrigued by the more intense practice of it as well. I thought to do it in Sri Lanka after my kidney stone removal surgery as a sort of mind and body cleanse. But I ultimately decided against it worrying about the effects my fragile, 26 yrold body would take on my mind. The little knowledge I had of meditation was that it was an emptying of the mind, a refuge from life’s stresses. I wasn’t so, so far off, but now that I’ve begun to seriously consider trying my hand in an Ashram, I’ve learned that meditation also has a lot to do with where you *are*. Or as the author of Eat Pray Love puts it (sorry for the white girl in India cliche), “[…] the dedicated effort to haul your attention away from your endless brooding over the past and your nonstop worrying about the future so that you can seek, instead, a place of eternal *presence* from which you may regard yourself and your surroundings with poise.” She goes on to explain that, “[…] to stay in the present moment requires some dedicated one-pointed focus. Different meditation techniques teach one-pointedness in different ways – for instance, by focusing your eyes on a single point of light, or by observing the rise and fall of your breath.” Note to self: find a guru
I’ve been volunteering at this art gallery/cafe/ecostay for the past three weeks in Goa, India. Sunny, hippy sometimes trippy Goa. I haven’t seen much of India, so I’m thinking about extending my stay, popping over to Nepal for a visa run. But things are good in Goa, man. I’m waitressing the cafe and earning money while volunteering with all the 100 rupee tips my flirty, fake American smile can get me. And this is all while eating three delicious veg meals a day and sleeping there in my own bed in the dorm for free. Good gig, huh? Also, I’ve fallen in with another volunteer, a green eyed, part Portuguese blooded, local Goan boy. We’ve hit it off and have decided to spend my last weekend in India before Nepal in the magical village of Hampi, a wonderland of ruins and unearthly landscapes. I finish my last shift as a waitress (the first time I’ve ever been one before!) and pack my bags to head off into the sun with my fella on his ’86 yamaha. We’re broom brooming our way through fields and later through chaotic Mapusa traffic. I’m wearing my 60L backpack on my back and carrying my rolling duffel bag carry-on in my lap while clawing into his backpack straps. Hanging on for dear life just took a very literal meaning. My small burgundy purse with my wallet, cards, driver’s license, the equivalent of 70 bucks in rupees, my iPhone and my keychain with my cute little rooster for Portugal, bikini bottom for Brazil and Chinese good luck symbol (ha ha!) is hanging on my one (this is important) shoulder and tucked between my legs under the duffel.
Truthfully I can’t tell you all this with 100% assurance. The last time I vividly remember seeing that bag was 10 minutes before that moment when I was hugging a co-volunteer goodbye and I opened that little burgundy purse to show her the part of my charger she’d given me and double check it was mine to keep (ha ha!).
What happened next to that little burgundy purse? You’ll have to ask the guy or gal who has it now. That’s right. That purse is gone baby gone. As of a week ago, that purse along with all its contents have ceased to exist to me. Did it fall off the motorcycle in all my squirming to keep my own rump on? Yeah, I think so. Did it go flying because of my carelessness to forget to put it around my neck? Erm probably. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t have it anymore and likely never will again.
Of course I mourned its loss. I lectured myself on negligence. Although I didn’t cry until we were reporting it missing in the police station and a group of officers carried in a wailing man and started beating him before my eyes. He fell to the floor, his ear bleeding and the officers continued to kick him all but 5 feet away from where I was seated. I looked into my very own accomplice’s brilliant eyes baffled hoping to see my same shock mirrored back in his own. But this boy is Indian and it wasn’t his first time witnessing firsthand police brutality. His face was a cool mask compared to my wide eyed horror. I broke eye contact and began to feel myself slip into the twilight zone. A tear came and then many and once my man friend saw my face he gave me a little squeeze, but all I could mutter was a teary eyed, “Can we go?”
We made our way back to the art gallery/cafe/ecostay to the bewilderment of all our friends. “What are you two still doing here?!” the head chef asked. Everyone knew about our little “office romance” and weekend escapade. It was unpleasant (to say the least) to retell the story the amount of times I did.
But something about my reaction surprised even me. A person I’ve known for a long time! (hehe) A calmness came over me. I started saying things like “Money comes into your hands and later it comes out,” among other cultivated quotes along the lines of “Some people are so poor all they have is money.” Which is FAR different from the profanities and grievances I’d sobbed that one time in Brazil someone had lifted my iPhone. Just my iPhone!!! No wallet with cards (potentially irreplaceable cards being that they’re Chinese and my contact with the Chinese banks has been anything but hopeful). I was a bawling mess those two years ago. I was shaken to my core by the loss of this possession. I thought of nothing more than how difficult my life without my phone would be. How would I contact my students?! How would I rent city bikes without the app on my phone?!
But no, this time ‘round I fell silent. I absorbed and gathered all the negativity, crushed it down to a tight ball and flushed it straight down the squatty potty. The boy and I hit the nearest beach for the weekend instead. A little vitamin sea was just what the doctor, if I were my doctor, would order.
We returned from our seaside romp to pick up my bags from the art gallery/cafe/ecostay happy and well fed. One of my covolunteers spotted me and asked, “Have you digested it?” I had to ask her “What?” just to buy time to realize what I needed to digest. “Oh, *that*” I thought in my head. I’d forgotten I still needed to be grieving rather than smiling, windswept and minisculey tanner.
I paused for another moment and told her, “I’m at peace.”
There are times when I curse travel. It was only when my mom wrote me, “No more motorcycles,” did I realize the ludicrousness of me being on the back of a yamaha strapped with a 60L and a rolling duffel in my arms. I’ve been out of “normal life” so long it didn’t even occur to me that I would have never done this when I was living in the U.S. This motorcycle fiasco is truly something that would only happen to me while traveling.
But it’s these goofs that are beginning to reveal to me an inner peace I didn’t quite know I had. While all my plans go up in smoke and the English speaking representative from Bank of China repeats the same useless phrase over and over much like a robot and very little like a human, I remember I’ll be okay. I’ve got clothes on my back and a nearly clean bill of health (just two tiny bastard stones in my left kidney).
I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try to organize and control every detail of a trip, every dollar allocated to some expense, some little disaster will come my way, knock me on my ass and sabotage my plans. I’ve learned that planning for a trip is exciting, but being in that moment and living it is the most profound experience.
And yes, these blunders come with the territory. I’m a solo female backpacker that travels on a shoestring.
The latest fiasco taught me to stop trying to control the adventure and instead to live it and roll with its punches.
Furthermore, could I really relish in the joy of traveling if I hadn’t suffered its hardships? Would I fully appreciate the comfort of a warm bed if I hadn’t slept on the cold airport floor? Would I acknowledge the luxury that is having body wash if I hadn’t had to use the residual bubbles from my shampooed head to wash the “important stuff”? If I hadn’t endured hours of mindless small talk with strangers endlessly repeating my own elevator pitch would I know and recognize the sweet pleasure of making a connection with someone far from home… meeting their eyes with my own and sharing a laugh that’s so genuine and true it starts in the belly and works its way up to our gaze?
Me, I think not.