“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”
Children. They are loving, curious, and just want to be happy. They certainly have life figured out better than the rest of us. While going through some of my old photos I realized that almost all of my favorites involved children, not just because the photos turned out well, but because of the emotions these little human beings invoke. Children are the most amazing people in every country, and have easily become one of my favorite parts of travel.
“Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road.”
People always ask me where I am going. Not just that day or week, I mean, overall. How long will I be on the road, what countries will I be passing through… It is understandable, I mean, you see a gal on a bike and you figure she has a destination, right? And I do always have a plan, my plan just tends to change dramatically on a monthly (sometimes even daily) basis.
“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.”
My tent has turned into my home, my bike into my best friend, and the world into my playground. I have no deadlines to keep or appointments to make. No stress or frustration to deal with. And my hardest daily decision typically involves picking what type of noodles I feel like making. I am living in an alternate universe, in a world where nothing can take me by surprise. I live in a world where seeing an enormous yak meander down the street, sleeping in a small stone hut with a tarp for a roof, and showering in a river seems perfectly normal… because it is. For the last 180 days I have been living the life of my dreams, cycling through the unknown on a quest to live and experience life around the world.
“If your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough.”
(Family picture taken the summer of 2013 before I set off on my journey)
“What do your parents think.” That is one of the most common question I am asked by foreigners and westerners alike. So, I decided to ask them exactly what they thought about their twenty year old daughter setting off to cycle around the world.
“Every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with…”
India is… Well India. It is dirty, it is beautiful. It is chaotic, busy, and tranquil. It is frustrating yet rewarding. It is rude and friendly, peaceful yet scary. And it is everything in between. There are Hindus, colorfully dressed in beautiful saris and suits. There is a wonderful Sikh community, easily spotted because of their colorful turbans and peaceful nature. There are Muslims wearing full burkas, and there are Buddhist, especially in the mountainous regions where many Tibetan refugees live. There is extreme poverty. Children running around cities without clothes, begging for a bite to eat. There are also beautiful farming communities where everyone is self sufficient. Part of what makes India so interesting and immense is how culturally diverse every area is. Though there are many similarities throughout, the clothing, attitude, type of house, and lifestyle changes dramatically every few hundred kilometers, as if you have just entered into a whole different country. It is impossible to know India, it is impossible to even scratch the surface, which is part of the reason why India holds such appeal, especially to us cyclists.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”
As I crossed the border into Nepal I was elated. I was finally in Nepal, a country I had dreamed about visiting for years, and one of the countries I am most looking forward to getting to know. It was time for me to get out of India as well. Though I had a mostly wonderful experience, the last week has been taxing and has unfortunately left me with a somewhat sour taste of the area. (Besides my issues with the men and the constant unfriendly stares, I was also ripped off by rich business men every night for hotel rooms since they knew I had no other choice.) Nevertheless, I will be returning once again to India next summer (after about five months in Nepal), notably to the mountainous regions of Spiti, Ladakh, and Kashmir. But more about that another time, for now, I am in Nepal.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I eat rice everyday, and in India, often three times a day. Even so, I had absolutely no idea where it came from before staying with the Sikh family on their rice farm.
“People always ask me when I am going to come down from the clouds. Never. I like this view.”
Imagine you are sitting on the back of a motorcycle, riding down a winding dirt foot path through fields of rice and sugar cane. All you can see in front of you is a bright orange turban, as the driver is a friendly Punjabi (Sikh) man, the kind of grandpa any child would be lucky to have. To your right are a few teenagers jumping into the largest pile of hay you have ever seen, and to your left, at least twenty ox grazing in a field. Now let’s back up a bit so I can tell you how I got here.
“Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.”
India is known for its poverty. There are beggars in every town, and as a tourist, it is sometimes hard to walk past them without feeling bad, especially if you are holding food that they obviously need more than you do. I usually walk by with my head down and try to not concentrate on how unjust our world is for some. It is not that I don’t want to help them, but if I gave every beggar I encountered money, I too would be broke (plus, by giving money, you can’t guarantee it’s not going towards alcohol or drugs). In Rishikesh there are plenty of beggars, homeless Indians as well as Babas who choose to be homeless, basically relying on the kindness of others to get them through. I decided for a day to change my philosophy, and instead of giving nothing to everyone, I gave some food, a banana, a samosa, and a chocolate, to every homeless I passed.