"So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains. Soon Bilbo's stomach was feeling full and comfortable again, and he felt he could sleep contentedly, though really he would have liked a loaf and butter better than bits of meat toasted on sticks. He slept curled up on the hard rock more soundly than ever he had done on his feather-bed in his own little hole at home. But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor rember what it looked like." --J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I loved my week on the road chasing the Seven Wonders of Oregon and sleeping by creeks in my cozy tent. But one of the best parts of any adventure is finding your way home to your own soft bed. And, when you wake up refreshed the next day, setting about to writing about all the memories you just made.
Real talk: This may be controversial to say, but I didn't ❤ India. I'm a pretty seasoned traveller comfortable in different kinds of cultures and environments. My whole travel career people have been like "oh you are going to LOVE India!" - probably because I love color, textiles, ancient spirituality and temples. And yes - India has all that. But let's be real - India is difficult! I'm not sure what sort of experience everyone else is having, but out in the sticks, down on the ground, away from the well-trodden tourist trail up north and a million miles from any foreigner-enclave ashram or yoga school, India challenges - the body, soul and heart. Now I fully recognize my privilege in being able to experience another land. And believe there is certainly beauty to be found everywhere. But I feel like these days all these travellers' instafamous ambitions to assert an aspirational lifestyle, aesthetic or experience creates this false sense of reality and inauthentic portrayal of places like India. Outside of this temple (and inside if we are fully real) is extreme poverty, beggars on every corner, air and noise pollution, trash and urine filled streets, cows shitting in the roads, children running around with no parents and hustlers either yelling at others or scamming outsiders. Now I get this is the reality and thereby normalized to a sense of desensitization amongst locals. And they cope with the chaos as any of us cope with chaos wherever we live. But I feel like this aspirational spiritual-seeking Western new age phenomenon puts India on a pedestal sending droves of seekers (of all degrees of authenticity) to this ancient land expecting to find 5-star serenity, peace and enlightenment at all corners. Or at least that's the inclination all these insta-perfect photos of beautiful temples, princely palaces or under the arches of the gates of the Taj Mahal in the best yoga pose would suggest. But that isn't the India that most Indians experience. Nor I. And I want to be real about that and the fact that it was a pang in my heart to walk outside every day and acknowledge and confront that chaos. And feel it my responsibility to not live in a travel bubble.