An experiment in daily blogging.
A One Day Blog:
My friend Erin, a lover of blogs, and traveling adventurer herself, has requested that I put forth daily or near-daily blog posts. She would like it if I keep everyone up to date with short entries about what I have been getting into on my travels, rather than the occasional large story.
Okay, Erin, I can’t say that I am going to post something each and every day, but I will indulge you today and experiment with what it takes to do a good one-day blog post.
Before I get started with today though, I want to establish a sense of what is worthy of posting and what is not – for my own edification as well as yours. In order for me to post something on this blog, I have to feel that it is worth my time to take the trouble to write it up, and worth my readers’ time to read through it. So below, I have concocted a short scale of relevant to irrelevant blog update examples.
1. Totally worthy: A story about living through an event like Holi or chasing rhinos through the trees in Bardia National Park These are rich and unusual experiences worthy of reading about. I can pretty much assume that people are going to enjoy reading about this sort of day.
2. Local and fascinating: A note about waking up to see two hundred guys roaring through town on motorcycles, all waving workers party flags and honking repeatedly, with a herd of water buffalo caught up in their midst, charging down the street at full bore, while the guys around them whoop and holler to push them on. I bet that probably, people would find this worth reading a short bit on, or maybe something longer if I can shed more light on it in an exciting fashion.
3. Interesting: Mentioning that I was head-butted by a bull while filming two water buffalo submerged up to their necks in Lake Phewa. Noteworthy, but not a big story.
4. Technical minutia: speaking about how I look forward to every Friday because that is the day that I get to use my weekly rationed Q-tip. Probably at this point, many people are going to lose interest. Unless they are curious about how one can manage resources while on a long trip. Or they are weird.
5. Irrelevant: Updating my audience on the latest round of toe nail clippings.
6. Unless: I happened to slip and plunge my toenail scissors into my big toe, requiring emergency transport to a dingy state-run hospital on the back of an ox-cart filled with chickpeas. This would jump back up into the totally worthy category… so it just goes to show that any event COULD be worthy of a blog post depending upon: 1. The content 2. The reader’s interest and 3. The way the content is talked about.
That being said, here is my day in a nutshell:
I woke up today after a very long sleep. I love this part about traveling! Eight hours of sleep a night is going to be a difficult habit to break when I get back home and get back to work. Maybe I will just keep it!
While in Pokhara, I have been doing Yoga and exercising every morning before I get out into the world. I was lazy and inconsistent in my first 5 months of travel, but not anymore! This morning’s session was great! I felt so invigorated!
Okay, I know that isn’t super-exciting, but here is a bit of human-interest. After Yoga, I went to breakfast at my favorite restaurant, “Once Upon a Time,” and had a bowl of delicious fruit curd muesli. This dish is offered to western tourists all over the region, along with banana pancakes, for those who can’t stomach the local cuisine (or have grown bored with it!) While eating, I decided to write a letter to my 93-year old grandma about my travels so far, as I renewed my vow this morning, to do what matters most to me. (You never know, I could very well never get a chance to tell her myself in person again, so I sent it to my dad to read to her next time he visits.)
So far, I know that none of this has been shocking, but I think that it is fair to put one blog post in here about some of the more normal things that I do and see while on these travels. I think I would go nutso if every day was like Holi was! There has to be some balance in life between the mundane and the extraordinary to enjoy both to their fullest, I think.
While at breakfast, I was approached for money by a one-legged beggar carrying a sign asking for cash, in English. He speaks only Nepali. I regularly see him working the tourists over along Pokhara’s main road. I turned him down. Again. I make a policy of not giving beggars money so as not to encourage further parasitic behavior. The same as the rangers tell you to not feed the bears in Yellowstone because they grow dependent upon humans for food and often die in the winter when the tourists don’t come any more.
He stared at me. I stared back at him. He waved his sign at me. I waved my hand “No. Goodbye,” at him. He stared at me some more and waved his sign some more. I got back to writing to my grandma. He eventually ambled away, muttering something in Nepali for a second before hitting up the next tourist in the queue. I always wonder if I am truly making a good choice by doing this, at least for a moment.
After breakfast, I went for my daily walk along the shores of beautiful Lake Phewa, from which one can see the tips of the Himalayas on a clear day. Today however, was not one of those clear days, so I watched some cows tangled in a head-butting contest along the shore. As I walked, I turned down one of the Tibetan jewelry sellers (again) when she pestered me about seeing her wares, then turned down one of the Nepali hash dealers (again!) when he pestered my to buy some marijuana from him. They try me every time. In order to walk along Lake Phewa, one has to have the willingness to sidestep the hawkers.
I am much more graceful about it than some people. I smile at the Tibetan women and tell them that what they are selling is beautiful, but I am not looking for any jewelry, and I hope that they have a nice day. There is no need to be rude. They are just trying to make a living. With the hash dealers, I just tell them no thanks with a dismissive wave. One time, I told one that I am already smoking, then stuck my finger in my mouth, touched my right butt cheek, and made a “pssssss” sound like sticking a hot poker into water. He laughed. Why not have fun with it all, I say?
Some people do not share my opinions. I watched a tall European guy cuss out a Nepali taxi driver who yelled across the street to ask him if he was looking for a taxi. “Do I look like I am looking for a fucking Taxi?!” he said. “Shut the fuck up! Just shut the fuck up! I will tell you if I want a stupid fucking taxi!” Then he walked into the street and gave the taxi driver the middle finger, and stormed off. The taxi driver just laughed and shook his head. I don’t know what got into that guy’s system. Probably he should go take a walk along Lake Phewa and talk to one of the hash dealers instead.
I will admit that there is part of me that completely agrees with telling a pushy taxi driver off in that fashion. All the hawkers and touts and beggars are fucking annoying at times! But seriously, is it really necessary? Does it do any good? Can it not be seen in a greater context? Can it not be taken light-heartedly and as part of the journey?
So, Erin suggests that I occasionally mention what the weather is like. Today, it was sunny this morning, and right now, it is overcast and lightning is arcing across the thunderclouds in the sky, threatening to rain any minute. The wind is whipping through town and kicking up dust along the dirty streets.
She also suggests that I talk about lessons learned. This is a rich topic. Today, three things stand out for me:
Lesson number 1: I learned how to cook myself lunch for just 30 cents, using an electric heating element, and a steel cup. I made green tea with ginger, and instant noodles! Nothing fancy, but it is a start. Plus, it is good to eat something somewhat plain to remind me how nice it is to eat at restaurants all the time.
Lesson number 2: I learned how to give myself electro-shock therapy, using an electric heating element, and a steel cup, while standing barefoot on a doormat that was wet from yesterday’s downpour which soaked the floor under my balcony door. (What did I say? These blog posts are all about context!)
Lesson number 3: I learned about the psycho-dynamics of anxiety-based emotional control systems that operate both within, and between humans.
(What on earth are you talking about, Tyler?!)
Okay – next one-day blog lesson: using abstract, unclear language is a good way to distract and confuse readers unless they also speak psycho-babble.
What I am talking about is that is this:
At nearly six months into my travels, I have come to a crossroads in my life. For the last six months, I have had the luxury to do things at whatever pace I feel comfortable with. If I don’t feel like rushing around trying to do every touristy thing possible, I don’t. I just take my time, and take it as it comes.
At first, I had problems with this style, because my mind was geared towards the sort of travel I am used to doing on short vacations from work. What I was used to was running my ass off from one tourist highlight to the next, before I had to get back on that plane and go home. I wanted to get as much in as I could, knowing that time was short. On this trip, I don’t have the same urgency forcing me to hurry things along, and so I have the great luxury of going where the wind blows me. If it blows me nowhere but to the rooftop restaurant of my hotel for the day, then so be it!
This method of travel has actually worked out phenomenally well for me so far, and though I haven’t been to as many cities and sites as I had mapped out before departing the States, I have had a much deeper experience everywhere I have been. I have met more people. I have made more friends. I have seen what daily life is like in many places I have gone. And my journey into personal awakening has been particularly robust. I have found myself precisely where I need to be when I need to be there, though it hasn’t been by my foresight so much as a serendipitous unfolding of moments.
Now, it is the middle of my projected one-year abroad, and I am having a great time in Pokhara, but some anxieties have been brewing under the surface, disrupting the peaceful flow I have been growing accustomed to.
I am aware that at my current rate of spending, if nothing changes, I will have to go back home in six months and get a job again. If I want to continue traveling abroad, I will probably need to pick up a job teaching English in 4 months time. Personally, what I am really wanting to do is create some sort of a career for myself where I both teach some of the mind/body/spirit concepts I have been studying over the last eighteen years, and also actually do something with them as well. I don’t quite know how I am going to do this, or what I am really looking to do. It hasn’t come clear yet.
One of the reasons that I cut my ties back at home and left on this trip was to help discover what truly calls to me in this life. What can I do that is truly worthwhile to the world and worthy of my full talents? I don’t need to know the whole picture of my life at this point, but I would like to know what is next? Having a deadline to work with to figure this out raises up some of my anxieties. They want to know immediately what the answers are!
Also, as I have mentioned, I met a girl that I REALLY like, while on this trip (Sen.) I told her this. I also told her that I recognize that we both need to continue along deeper into the solitude of our personal journeys to discover what we really want to do with our lives BEFORE we will know if our life paths might be congruent. Only then could we pursue something deeper, when we are sure that it isn’t a compromise to our personal integrity and happiness. It is important to me to honor this, regardless of whether I ever see her again or not.
However, it isn’t everyday that a guy meets an incredible, amazing woman whom he knows he would make a stellar match with, and then says, “Goodbye and let’s just see what happens.” So, naturally, I have been having some anxieties coming up, urging me to keep in touch with her more often just so they can feel better. Like the bears in Yellowstone, I feel that it is better not to indulge them.
Finally, I want to go trekking, I want to get to Kathmandu, and I want to go to the Last Resort for some adventure sports like bungee jumping and canyoning before I leave Nepal. The monsoon season isn’t too far off. I have to get the show on the road if I want to make all this happen before my visa expires. Oh yeah, and I still don’t know where I am going after Nepal for sure. Though I have been “planning” to go trekking for coming on two weeks now, something keeps coming up each day which invariably turns out to be some lesson I needed to learn, and though this is great… it is pushing into my deadlines and has stirred up the urgent pestering of more anxieties.
So, what do I mean by “Anxiety-based control systems?”
When we as humans get into situations that are unfamiliar, perhaps threatening, or just not in our comfort zones, one way which our mind works on us, in order to ensure survival, is by raising anxieties that force us to focus on our insecurities. If we are personally strong enough and clear enough in our vision, then we can disregard these anxieties in the moment, embrace uncertainty or threat, and focus on a healthy solution that takes the bigger picture into consideration. If not, if we give into them, then we react in a stimulus-response fashion as an attempt to control ourselves or our environment until we feel secure again. This is not always pretty, and often causes more problems than it resolves, in our rush to “fix” things that seem, in the moment, to be too much to handle.
The resolution lies in embracing the true consciousness that transcends the survival mechanisms of the body-mind.
Five and a half years ago, I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park with my mom. It was the first trip that just the two of us had taken since I moved into adulthood. We flew into Billings, Montana, rented a car, and drove for the closest entrance to the park, through a remote mountain pass in the northeast corner. I was behind the wheel. We were heading in a riskier direction than the main entrance, but I felt confident that we would make it just fine. I called the national weather service just to make sure that the pass was clear. They reported that it was open.
To get to the pass, meant driving up a winding switchback road, littered with rocks fallen from the cliffs above, which sometimes forced me to drive into the oncoming lane of traffic, or close to the edge. My Mom has a fear of heights, which was amplified because she wasn’t the one driving. She cringed when we drove near the edge of the road, and asked me to let her drive. I told her that I wasn’t interested in driving off the side of the mountain, so she didn’t need to worry. She laughed and backed off, but was still on edge all the way up, gripping her seat and giving little gasps of fright meant to warn me when I was driving too close to the edge again.
We made it up to a viewpoint overlooking the wild valley below. The air was crisp outside. Only two other cars were here. The starkness and the solitude of this place called to me to get out and take a look. Opportunities and places like this only come around every so often when you live in the city, and I wanted a few moments to savor it. Mom didn’t want me to get out of the car. She was feeling worried that we weren’t going to make it to the cabins before dark and didn’t want to waste any time. I was sure that we had plenty of time, and that it would not be a problem for me to walk around outside here for a few minutes. I didn’t want to squander this opportunity.
I got out and walked up to the viewpoint, assuring mom that I would not take too long. The view was breathtaking. The empty valley stretched away to the horizon, full of boulders fallen from the mountains above, a blanket of green grass and wildflowers, and the sort of wind-whipped spaciousness that strips the mechanics of city life away from a person and leaves him raw and exposed to the majesty of the universe. I could have stayed for hours.
A car’s horn cut across the valley from the viewpoint. I chuckled under my breath in dark mirth. I knew it was my mom. Honk! Honk! Honk! HONNNKKKKK!!! I hadn’t even made it to the end of the viewpoint yet, a full two minutes walk from the car. I steeled myself against the onslaught of anxious honking I knew would not abate, determined to breathe in the cool mountain air, and just stand there for a moment in reverie with nature’s silence.
Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.
I started to feel bad for the other people up here who also wanted nothing more than to enjoy a moment of beauty and silence, so I headed back to the car. Slowly. –HONK!- Still trying to savor –HONK!- the beauty –HOONNKK!- as I went.
I knew that I was in for a tirade when I got back to the car, so I prepared myself mentally. I felt calm and at peace myself, but I knew that we were in new and unfamiliar territory, heading to an unknown destination that we didn’t know quite what to expect along the way, traveling high up in a cold mountain pass, trying to get to the cabin before it got dark in the very large park. Mom was out of her element here and I had to keep this in mind when listening to her, even while at the same time trusting in my own confident knowingness that all would work out.
Six minutes after getting out, I stepped back into the car. Mom was livid. She lit into me, telling me that if she could, she would get back on the plane right now and go home! She wished she had never decided to travel with me! She told me I was just as selfish as my father, for not listening to her and just doing whatever I wanted to do! That we needed to get to the cabins and we never should have come this way, but I had to be a stubborn man and prove something by going over the mountain, and standing out at the viewpoint!
I listened as calmly as I could. I pointed out rationally that we had only been here for a few minutes and that we would still make it in time. She wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t listen. She was in the full throws of an adult tantrum and couldn’t see things objectively. I pointed this out to her, hoping that the fact that my Mom was the one throwing the tantrum at her child, would be enough to jar her to her senses. She got out of the car, and stormed away, crying. She slammed the door as she went, and stomped off up the road around the corner and out of sight.
I could have gone out and chased her down, tried to calm her down, apologized, told her I was wrong, etc. in order to placate her and ease the tension in the air. But, this would just be feeding her demons some justification for her over-reaction. I just sat in the car, waiting and taking some deep and calming breaths. I let her stew in her emotions while I tried to gain some new perspective that might help me ease the situation. Eventually though, I just pulled the car out and went to gather her since we actually did need to keep moving along.
I found her around the corner, on the edge of the road, looking out into the valley, still sobbing and heaving in the cold. I had to wait and coax her back into the car. When she got back in, I told her that I didn’t mean to upset her, and we needed to keep going. She got back in and slouched into the passenger seat. I drove the car up higher into the pass, and snow was on the ground. It wouldn’t be good to get stuck in the snow in the cheap rental sedan we were driving. Mom shivered in her seat and whispered, “Cold,” as she looked out the window, still trying to convince me that we were in mortal peril.
We made it to the pass, and it was closed due to snow. A barricade sat across the road. The weather service had been wrong! We would have to turn around after all, and head towards the main entrance. So much for shortcuts! This one cost us two hours of extra time.
As we wound back down the mountain, Mom’s mood improved the lower we got, and by the time we reached the bottom, we had ironed out our differences well enough for the moment. We still made it to the cabin just after dark, and having had this conflict early on, everything else was easy afterwards, and we got along fine for the rest of the trip, with this out of the way. All and all, it was worth the hassle.
(Mom, sorry for calling you out in my blog, but it was just so relevant. Plus, everyone should know that she put up with a hundred times worse from me while I was growing up!)
I was reminded of this story when reflecting on the recent batch of anxieties coming up within me right now. Here I am in Pokhara, on the trip of my dreams. I have come to a place of deep peacefulness recently that is akin to finding that empty mountain vista within. But, I am moving into unfamiliar territory in my travels around Asia, and in my love life, and on my life’s path. I don’t know quite what I am going to do with any of it. I just know that things will work themselves out for the best, so long as I persevere, make good decisions, and do the work that I need to do. I love this level of adventure, and I know I can handle it.
My anxieties are coming up as a system of controls meant to keep me safe based on what I am already comfortable with and understand. They demand a precise timeline and specific answers right away, to make sure that I am not leading myself into disaster. They need to know exactly what is going to happen down the road, so they know what to prepare for. They need to see immediate, concrete action to calm themselves down with something tangible. All this “up in the air” stuff isn’t real enough for them. It just sounds like fantasy and time-wasting! They need me to check in on Sen and “make sure” she doesn’t think I am a waste of her time. They need me to get the show on the road, damnit!
The truth is that I am really not concerned by most of what my mind, in its need to ensure my survival, is throwing up at me right now. I know that I can handle this next part of my journey into the void. I myself don’t know precisely what will happen. I just know that it will unfold as it needs to, my feet will find the path they need to find, and in the meantime, I will enjoy every last moment of it along the way.
So Erin, there you go. This is what happens when I try to do a one day blog post. It isn’t short and sweet. It still ends up being seven pages long! It took me three hours to write up. I will draw what lessons I can from this, as I develop my blog craft. But I think that perhaps now you can see one reason why I feel reluctant to blog every day. Most of my days are as rich with insight, and it takes time for me to digest it all myself, let alone condense it into a blog post. Still, I will do my best to find a happier balance between the occasional story and the daily digest. I just hope that in the meantime, you can enjoy the spaces between the notes as well.