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Beyond the self …

Yesterday was the 10th day of a festival here in Rishikesh. The streets were crowded. Fireworks and crackers were blowing off, people were screaming, the devil were set on fire, bands were walking the streets and vehicles with enormous loudspeakers deafened my ears. I decided to stay in. I sat on the balcony and enjoyed the evening coolness.

This Indian man, close to his thirties, comes and starts circling around, being so obvious he wants to start a conversation but doesn’t know how. Eventually he finds the courage and approaches, asking the most common questions. But then he says something that I have never heard before and almost made me fall off the chair.

– Why did you come to India?
– It is an interesting country.
– It is like no other country in the world. But why come here to see this, his hand making a sweeping gesture towards the street where music and firecrackers fill the air, while making a face of dislike.
– Yes, just because india is like no other country in the world.
– But why do you want to see this, same gesture, when you have everything you need in your country.

This dysfunctional conversation continues for a while, me realising I will not reach him. So I ask him why he is here, why is he traveling. Very honestly he tells me that by ten pm every evening he starts drinking and then he sleeps all day. He says he enjoys it. And I realise that no matter what I tell him about my reason for traveling he will not get it.

A few days ago I was sitting in the common area at the hostel and an Englishman asked me, Do you know a good place for yoga. No, I say, I really don’t. But I do know the best place to have chai and conversation. Oh, where is that, he asks. Come, I say, I will buy you a chai. So we go there, order chai, and it doesn’t take more than five minutes before an elderly man joins us and we have the most interesting conversation. The elderly man and I are on the same page. Traveling is not about checking off lists or showing off fancy drinks or filling our daily schedules with tons of activities. It is about what we are just doing. It is about meeting people, having conversations, learning from the locals, observing how other societies work without judging, being the present and a lot of other things. Since then the young Englishman have been visiting the chai stall frequently and even introduced others to it.

He is telling my advice to other travellers, about slowing down, about being present about not focusing on the self but on what is going on around him.

There is so much me, the self and selfies that we forget to see what is happening around us.

To be honest, with all technology provided and with that all the knowledge and videos it contains we really wouldn’t need to travel in order to see the world. I know, it is different when experiencing it for yourself. But to be honest, the only difference would be the interaction with other people. Locals and other travellers.

When focusing on others we not only learn about their lives and culture but we also learn about ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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Who to trust …

Arriving to New Delhi straight from Brunei requires a couple of days of rest and to get my bearings around.

Brunei being very organised, quiet and clean, New Delhi is quite the opposite. There is constant honking, people everywhere, busy traffic, litter everywhere, people constantly wanting to sell things or transport and …. a lot more. But there is that other side of India too. The great food, amazing chai, kind people and a lot more.

 

Since I’m traveling on a budget I chose to stay at a cheep hostel that turned out to be located in a rough area. Locals I’ve talked to shake their heads in … disbelief or perhaps they think I’m crazy choosing that area. It’s dangerous they say, hold tight to your phone, don’t talk to strangers.

It probably is all that. Too. But it is also part of the reality in Delhi. And still this is the backpackers area. I’m not the only foreigner here. And not every person you meet will try to mug you or try to rip you off. There are also all the kind people. But one has to keep the guard up all the time and evaluate every person that passes you by. Using your common sense is essential.

Yesterday afternoon we had heavy rain. The streets were flooded and the hostel lost the power. Just when I was on my way to have a shower. I decided to go and have food instead. At the restaurant next door I was asked to wait until they had cleared the water off the floor and as I was waiting I met Hoa, 29, from Vietnam. We talked, we clicked and decided to go somewhere else. Cafe Madan was the place and the owner, a 49 year old very handsome man, joined the conversation. It turns out Hoa and I are both planing on going to Rishikesh and the man told us to take the train. Not the bus. The train leaves from New Delhi station he say. Good, that’s close, I’ll find where to buy the ticket I said. No, you will not he replied.

The thing is that when you buy the ticket at the railway station you don’t pay commission. So when you get there people will ask you where you are going and if you have a ticket. You will say no, but you are on your way to buy one at the counter for foreigners. The will tell you that counter is closed that day and take you to another place where you will end up paying 600 rupees instead of the 140 the ticket actually costs.

Then he drew an exact map over the station and told me, don’t talk to any one, don’t tell anyone where you are going or that you want to buy a ticket. Tell them you already have one and just proceed to the counter. Don’t trust anyone.

So yes, there is this side of India too. The rich are very rich and the poor are very poor. A cow is more worth than a human life. People are know to be hit by one car and run over by another because the traffic doesn’t stop. Unless you are a cow. Then they stop. But that is another story. But people will do a lot of things to make ends meet. To survive.

And still there is something about this country that is so intriguing. It’s extremely hot and extremely rough and we still visit India. 12 October my visa expires. That gives me 2 months to explore this diverse and interesting country.

Let’s see what these 2 months have to offer.

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Let’s start unfollowing …

Wednesday evening in Ubud, Bali.

I’m at a restaurant having dinner. At the table next to mine is a couple. He looks like he’s in his mid fifties, she looks a bit younger. He looks rough. Shorts, tank top, unshaved, messy hair and apparently from New Zealand. She is blond with a nice hair cut, earrings, nice dress, younger than him and apparently from Russia.

He is constantly talking. His phone delivers a pling every few minutes and he emidiately picks up the phone to check it. He speaks loud in a cocky way and interrupts her. He tells her different stories which all is about how amazing he is

She is timid, speaks with a low voice and looks at him in an admiring way with a smile on her face affirming him with tine nods.

He is the rooster showing off his tail feathers and she is admiring them.

The other day I had lunch  at a local place. A family consisting of father, mother and two children came and sat at the table next to me. They seemed to be in a hurry so they finished their lunch quickly. 45 minutes tops. This man didn’t stop talking during these 45 minutes. The wife tried to say something twice but he interrupted her efficiently both times.

These are just two examples out of many I have seen during my trip around Asia. One might think that this is a cultural thing locals engage with. But no, these are tourists. Caucasian middle aged med being so full of themselves.

What I can not understand with this is how these women put up with being treated that way. Are women so desperate for not being single? Is this how women were brought up? How is it possible this is still happening.

Manspreading, Mansplaining, Mantalking …

I read an article about a research done on how men express their opinions on things they don’t know for sure but say it in a very assertive way. And people never question them.

I saw a video showing scientist Veronica Hubeny being interrupted and mansplained her own research by the male moderator. Fortunately there was a woman who finally reacted and asked him to let Ms Hubeny talk.

I read an article telling about an Uber board member tried to joke that women talk too much. But the reality is that ”women have not been judged on the grounds of wether they talk more than men, but of wether they talk more than silent women”.

Why not start doing as J.K. Rowling did the other day when she unfollowed a man on Twitter because he called Teresa May a whore. Aren’t we all, just like Ms Rowling said, sick of men whose mask slips every time a woman displeases them and who reach immediately for crude and humiliating words.

Let’s start unfollowing men who doesn’t deserve the attention they want and show some self respect.

Let’s start unfollowing.

And for the record. I don’t dislike men in general.

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Kindness and Compassion …

We all travel for different reasons. We all find different things interesting. I love interacting with people. And I sometimes interact with people just as a social experiment.

I have been in Saigon for 15 days now. The city as such is not the place to linger in but still there are a lot of tourists visiting. Passing by. There are also many expats here. Some are working and some are just …here. Many of the latter for the simple reason of money. As one of the staff at the hostel where I’m staying put it. It may be cheap for you spending 6 dollars a night here but it provides 3 of us here with salary. Please note that for 6 dollars a night I also get a good breakfast that keeps me full for half a day.

Here in Vietnam you can get a beer for 50 cents, and decent meal or a pack of cigarettes for 1 dollar. All those cheap places harbour some of the expats. The only thing they ‘have’ to do is to keep track of when have to do their next run to Cambodia for the visa extension. In between those occasions they drink beer from noon until late evening, get drunk, tell the newly arrived how much they know about this country, constantly comparing prices informing others of how cheap things are or where to go to get the cheapest price and complaining. The complaints are about the locals, the traffic, the food, the people, the culture and how this country is governed. While getting drunk on cheap beer.

Did I mention that all these complaining individuals are all men.

The staff at the hostel are amazing. Always tentative, always trying to make sure I get the best breakfast, asking me if I’m ok and in any way possible trying to make my stay as pleasant as possible. With age I have started waking up early. So I sneak out of the dorm and go to the kitchen to make myself coffee. I love sitting outside watching the city wake up starting the day. Everywhere I’ve been in Asia there’s always someone sleeping in the reception. Also in this hostel. A man, probably my age, sleeping on the couch until it’s time to unlock the front door. Third morning he was already up when I arrived at 6 am. It turns out he prepared a table and two tiny chairs outside and made coffee. So this has become our morning routine. He makes sure I am ok, makes himself an iced coffee and get started with his morning chores and occasionally sits for a while sipping his coffee. That is just one of the many things he does every day for other people.

I would marry that man any minute if we had been able to communicate. A more kind and compassionate man is hard to find.

When I was in Hanoi I met a couple coming to the same cafe every morning at 7 am for tea. Every morning they payed for my coffee and made sure I had tea and breakfast. In Mui Ne I had almost the same experience. These are just some examples of good people in Vietnam.

Kindness and Compassion.

Two winning components in a person that will always gain my respect.

 

 

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Grateful …

When traveling for a longer period of time and through different countries it is obvious that you will meet a lot of people and different cultures. There is a big differences in the use of gestures, body language, sounds made to get someones attention, how you greet or ways of showing respect . Sometimes it is connected to religion and sometimes it is strictly cultural. This is one of the most interesting things with traveling. Seeing the differences and deciphering them. Understand what they mean and because of that having the privilege of beeing a participant more than a spectator.

People. People in my life. Old friends, new friends, people I will never forget but probably never meet again, some I wish I could forget and hopefully never meet again, some will stay in my heart others will be the best thing ever happened to me because I learned from them.

Like this 84 year old Scottish lady I met in Pushkar, India. She has for the past 20 something years traveled the same rout in India for six months a year. First I was thinking that must be boring, going to places she had already seen. But then I realised she had not only made friends along the way, she had gained families. People she loves and cares for and they love and care for her to. Her prime purpose of traveling started out as escaping the Scottish winter but it became so much more. She showed me the result of kindness and compassion. But also the importance of knowing who you are. When you do know, then no one can hurt you. She also told me you have to tell people around you what you want otherwise you will never get it.

The 35 year old man working as a guide in Kolkata. He is a very kind person, always helping others. Family, friends, strangers. Even though he is poor, struggling to make ends meet he always gives a helping hand or gives a beggar his last money. We talked about his life and if he had any thoughts on how to change it, make it better. It turned out he can’t read and write. So I offer to pay for him to go to school and learn how to. He said he doesn’t want to go to school. I learned that you can’t have a change in your life unless you put some effort in doing something. At least trying.

I’ve also learned to be more compassionate. Confronting peoples anger or fear with compassion doesn’t make their frustration stick to me and it takes the edge off their feelings. Compassion and kindness always pays off.

Love can be expressed in so many different ways. I have learned that words are of no consequence if the action is missing. Action is worth more than million words. I knew that before I left Sweden but it has been clarified to me. Emphasised. I’ve seen it both in old and new friends.

Friendship, relationships and love evolves. Nothing stays the same. Thinking otherwise is an illusion. Doesn’t mean it’s easy facing changes. Bad can transform into good. Good into bad. But good can also become better. That’s how it goes. The only thing we can do is to be present when the good is going on. Stay focused on what is inportant when the bad comes. And the most important thing, try to do the best out of what ever is given to you. If something is good stay, if it is bad then leave or make a change.

I’ve traveled for five months straight. Now I have given myself some time to reflect. In our fast and furious society we to often forget to push the pause button. What does quality in life include. Is it having more and bigger or is it being grateful for the good we experience.

Grateful.