Modena & Verona, Italy | Zurich, Switzerland | Paris, France

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The past few days have been a blur of beauty, incredible meals, unforgettable architecture, and time to share with my sisters and mom. I think I will look back on these last few weeks fondly for a long time in the future; so much has happened in such a short time.

Two days ago, we arrived in Modena, Italy with the specific purpose of eating lunch at Osteria Francescana, recently named the second best restaurant in the world with 3 Michelin stars. I will write a whole blog about it later, when I have my blog’s storage situation figured out, but it was a 12 course meal paired with wines and quite literally the coolest and most luxurious experience of my life; quite a contrast to Dhaka, Bangladesh. We moved on to Verona for the night, had a great pizza, then left for an eight-hour drive to Zurich today where we ate yet another pizza. Zurich speaks German, but is an interesting mix of Italian, German, and a smidgen of French, though my French has been all but useless here. I am really looking forward to speaking my second language tomorrow when I meet up again with my best friend from Paris. He’s probably the biggest reason I was a French minor to begin with, then later decided to go all out with the major and switch from International business, so I could spend a year in Paris.

Suffice to say that I am very tired of traveling at this point, but also very happy to see some great friends over the next few weeks. It’s ironic how traveling comes in waves and you simply have to go with the flow, disregarding how you feel oftentimes.

I am excited to feel the French side of my personality return to the foreground of my mind; over the past couple of weeks adjusting to my family has done the same for some deep seeded aspects of my personality. The oldest sister is particularly responsible, but in the best way; she reminds me that I only have to be human and that there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes I can be too ambitious.

Verona and Modena beckon return journeys; Italy is a city far removed from certain technologies and has a culture of presence and amiability. I would love to spend a month there at some point in the far future. Zurich does as well, but perhaps in a trip all to its own; if this journey has taught me anything, it has been finding the gentle balance between movement and stillness, activity and resting. I should simply do what my nature beckons me to.

Fatigue is setting in at the apartment in Zurich, but the city is beautiful. Even the gas stations in Switzerland are health oriented, we stopped today and got an amazing green salad, fruit salad, and sandwich before our salmon pizza dinner. I can truly say that I am getting used to the amenities and absolute luxuries of the western world once again, though there is a newfound appreciation that is unexplainable.

My New song is being uploaded now, head over to alienmusique.wordpress.com to have a listen. A new Wanderer post is also on the way, which I have not forgotten about, but am spending a lot of time on the next major section of the “to-be” book. Thanks for reading ūüôā

BudaPest, Hungary

"Panoramic view of Budapest 2014" by Katonams - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panoramic_view_of_Budapest_2014.jpg#/media/File:Panoramic_view_of_Budapest_2014.jpg

Budapest is one of my new favorite cities! It’s rare to see a historic city with lots of modern touches and a culture that is very friendly and accommodating to match. Hungary has seen a lot of tragedy and the memorials there were fantastic; there is an obvious Jewish heritage and luckily I was able to stay in Mavericks Hostel which is in the Jewish quarter. I will admit that I saw more traditional Hasidic Jews in Boston, but I definitely saw the tall point black hats and sideburn¬†curls on several occasions.

Budapest is the largest city in Hungary and its capital, one of the largest in the EU. The metropolitan area houses 3.3 million people while the city proper has a population near 1.74 million and covers 525 square kilometers, though the older and most beautiful part of the city could be covered by bikes in a day (which we did!). In 1873 Budapest became a single city when Pest and Buda joined from opposite sides of the Danube river.

It was originally a Celtic settlement that became Roman, then Hungarians arrived in the 9th century and it was pillaged by the damn Mongols in 1241 (those jerks really kicked ass). It was re-established in the Renaissance (15th century) and was heavily affected by both WWI and WWII, because of its importance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which fell after WWI. After WWII, the country struggled with communism until the fall of Soviet Russia in 1989. To put it simply, the city has a ton of history.

It is also home to the largest thermal underground cave system in the world, the second largest synagogue in the world, both of which I was able to visit and can say that they were both incredible experiences.

I also spent a couple of nights out which were just as fun as touring during the day. I met people from all over, including an Australian guy who had traveled through all of South America in the same way that I traveled through Southeast Asia; it was a blast to share the experiences because both were rough and extremely rewarding!

The architecture of the city is breathtaking; spires line the skies and buildings hundreds and hundreds of years old are completely commonplace. Statues line the streets and sit atop rooftops, though the river is definitely the central point of the city. All of the bridges were destroyed by Germany during WWII, so none of them are nearly as old as the Charles Bridge, which I mentioned in my article about Prague.

The weather was spectacular, but very cold during certain parts of the night so I could have used a warm jacket. During the last day we visited one of the 80 thermal springs in the city that was in a cathedral-like building, and enjoyed 100 degree+ water. One of the nights where we ate at a nice restaurant across from the Opera, we were able to catch a classical band performing. It was an amazing city full of experiences I will remember for a long time; I would love to visit Budapest again.

Today I am in the city of Zadar and have a lot to talk about from Croatia, next stop is tomorrow in Split. Yesterday we spent the day in SplitVice, in possible the most beautiful national park I have ever seen. Feeling so grateful and lucky to be where I am, above all with my family to share it all together.

Check back soon for more updates on the trip

Mysore, India

Mysore Palace, India

Arriving in Mysore concluded one of the longest days of my life. I have trouble sleeping on planes and I was sitting in the middle the whole time, thank god for spinal twists. I got into the airport and paid for a taxi to Mysore which was about $80 for a 4 hours trip. It was 3am and my only option until 9am. Pretty easy decision to make.

So I get my driver, he is very nice and respectful, etc and we drive for a while until stopping for tea. Now this was an obviously milk based tea, in India they call it tapas, and I was very happy to not get sick. This is when I started to realize that nobody here really speaks english, but some can communicate a little. I need to learn Hindi.

I arrive while the sun rose, though there wasn’t a sunrise due to the indian_cow_eating_trashfog. Trash is everywhere. So is shit. So are stray dogs. Cows line the streets. Some are yellow, probably from eating curry and such, it didn’t seem to be a problem of malnutrition because a lot of the white cows were eating¬†trash too.

So the driver found my hotel and I knew that I would have to stay up as long as possible to beat the jet-lag. So I strapped on my Vibrams, took out my camera, and went to go explore Mysore.

The first thing that really caught my attention was the stray dogs. They are everywhere, and you can tell they are nocturnal because stray dog in mysorethey were active in the morning then slept in the afternoon. So they litter the streets, searching through trash and tend to be individuals, at least from what I saw, there wasn’t much pack behavior during the day.

This brought me into the streets. Litter is everywhere, though there isn’t too much fecal matter on the sides of the streets, because it’s mostly in the gutters and in random grassy patches.

Mysore city Streets

Mysore Streets

Mysore Streets

So I spent the day meeting people and taking their pictures and just generally trying to be friendly and nice. People here are extremely nice and just want to share a smile, I think a few of them think that me taking their picture is a big deal. Most just make jokes with me about it when I try to take their picture though.

So I headed over the palace after a while, I wanted to see where the Ashtanga Yoga Shala was because I have to register today. I got lost.

There’s nothing quite like being lost in a foreign country with no knowledge of the local language or customs. It’s like a whirlwind of trying not to get hit by cars or scooters as you walk, avoiding stepping into a big pile of cow dung, trying to find a bottle of water, telling rickshaw drivers to leave you alone because you just want to walk. Seeing weird crow-like birds, stray dogs, cattle pulling carts, markets with random stuff I have never seen before makes me feel free in a way that nothing else can. There is a lot of pain and suffering here, but¬†there is so much happiness. I’m writing another post about the people, so you will see some faces in my next post.

So I made my way to the palace after finding a map and it was 200 rupee to enter. 3 bucks, pretty expensive for India. Inside, some kids saw me and wanted to take pictures with me and as soon as one saw that I was responsive, the whole group started taking photos together with me. It was fun for a few minutes while we were messing around and I was trying to get them to take serious and funny pictures, but a line started to form and people started to encircle me. I was not down with that so I said thanks and took one more, then left to keep walking around. Here are my good pictures from the palace:

Mysore Palace Statues

 

Mysore Palace Wall Statues

Mysore Palance Entrance
Mysore Palance Entrance

Mysore Palace Towers Mysore Palance Trees Flowers in Mysore Palace

The architecture here is amazing. There is a juxtaposition of rich and poor, so close in proximity that you see such nice things surrounded by absolute poverty.

After my trip to the palace, I headed back to the hotel assisted by a rickshaw driver that definitely took advantage. Instead of about 10 or 12 cents, it cost me half a dollar. Suffice to say I am putting my game face on and that is not happening anymore (I am on a strict budget). I don’t like people trying to take advantage of me because they feel they deserve my money, because they don’t unless they provide enough value in their service to earn it. I don’t like charity or donations, because economically it is unsustainable and I usually find there is a lack of responsibility behind how the money is used, making it wasteful. How can I know if that driver used my money for his own booze, or for food for his children? I can’t and it’s not my responsibility to know.

I’m always kind of surprised at how impervious I am to people selling me things and trying to convince me of things. Must be all of the propaganda I am regularly exposed to. What can I say, it is the American in me to be skeptical of everything.

An Interview with Colin Wright

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About 5 days ago, I wrote to Colin Wright, an indie author, expressing how much I appreciate his work and how he has really inspired me for 2015. He travels and has written a buncha books. Well, being the responsive young chap that he is (though I think he’s a bit older than me), he responded and said he would be happy to answer some questions for my blog.
I couldn’t resist the chance to ask a fellow traveller about their perceptions of yoga and go figure, he’s a yogi. He also written over a dozen books and travels constantly, exploring the world and staying in each country for about 4 months at a time.
Besides having some incredibly interesting things to say about yoga, Colin has developed a very balanced approach to traveling and never being in one spot for too long, so he has a great perspective and a provocative voice. Enjoy!
1. Do you have any experience with yoga? Favorite poses? styles? Any experiences you would care to share?
CW: You know, I actually practiced yoga every day for about ten years. Love it as an exercise and means of better understanding my body/managing my health. Have never really been into the spiritual side of it, but I think the health/meditative benefits speak for themselves.
I’ve tried a lot of different modalities, but tend to prefer those that focus on postures and stamina. Doing yoga was one of the few things that allowed me to wear myself out and sleep well back when I was working myself to death in LA. Very valuable habit.
2. I heard you visited India. What was that like? What were your favorite places?
CW: I lived in Kolkata for about 5 months, and it was tragic and educational and inspiring in equal measure. There are so many problems that operate on the foundational level, there, and so many people suffer day-to-day as a result. On the flip side, I met some incredible people, and learned a whole lot, especially in terms of attaining new perspective; it was so radically different from anywhere else I’ve lived, and far astray from any lifestyle I’d lived before.
3. What are a few places you are planning to travel in 2015?
CW:¬†I’m in Seattle at the moment, and will be heading to Missoula, Montana for three months at the end of February to prepare for a two-month book tour through the western half of the US and Canada. From there, I’ll tally the votes my readers cast through my blog and see what country I’m headed to next.
4. What kind of music do you listen to on the road?
CW:¬†All kinds. And I don’t mean that in the ‘I have no preference’ way; I actually have a collaborative playlist on Spotify that allows folks from around the world to add whatever it is they’re listening to, so I get to ‘taste test’ all kinds of genres, artists, and styles. I like mixing it up and having stark contrasts throughout my day, and music is one means of achieving that.
5. What is your social life like on the road?
CW: Usually one of two extremes: either very social and meeting and meeting up with many people every day, or completely hermetic, only leaving my flat to take long, silent, meandering walks, and then returning home to sit and write and be entirely in my own head. I need a balance of both to be at my best, in terms of happiness and creativity (and productivity).
6. What is the nicest hostel you have stayed in?
CW:¬†I don’t stay in many hostels, actually. I tend to rent flats in the countries I visit, as I generally stick around for four months or more. I will say that renting is a pain in Kolkata (which is sometimes called ‘the land of paperwork’) and super-easy in Prague (which has many Facebook groups that act as short or long-term person-to-person real estate listings).
7. What was your favorite read of 2014?
CW: Oh, there were a lot of good books last year. One that stands out (and that I find myself referencing in conversation quite a bit) is called How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. Really compelling read, and some fascinating stories.
8. Any recommendations for India?
CW:¬†Be friendly, be open to new experiences, and be aware that the cops will sometimes hassle you (or even pull over your taxi) looking for bribes. Eat all the food (it’s cheap and delicious), but know that most of it isn’t very good for you. Don’t stick to the tourist track; try and check out some legitimate neighborhoods where people actually live. Have fun.
Thanks Colin, I’ll be sure to have a good time over there. Good luck with your tour and thanks for sharing!
If you are interesting in seeing more of Colin’s work, head over to his blog¬†exilelifstyle.com, you won’t be disappointed!

India 2015 Itinerary

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Planned 2015 Travels in Asia and Europe

I am starting to get excited to leave for India, I bought some great hiking boots and a solid camping backpack for traveling around Asia. I will be trying to post the entire time I am there, but am leaving room for lacking technology in Asia. Things have started to come together in the past few days in ways that make me ecstatic to leave, including time with my girlfriend in Southeast Asia!

I’ve also bought all of the flights that I will be needing, except for the one home. I’m hoping to stop in Paris and London for a week a piece to say hi to friends, so that is what I am still figuring out.

I leave for India on the 22nd of January, to fly¬†into Bangalore where I will immediately head out to Mysore. In Mysore, I have a high luxury hotel waiting, with Wifi, a queen size bed, and satellite TV. A whopping $16 a night haha, this will be my nicest accommodations of the whole trip, at least that’s how I am planning it now. I am hoping to stay in places for about $2 a night for the rest of the time, after I stay for three days in the hotel.

On the 26th of January, I start practice with Saraswathi. This will last until April 1st, when the Shala closes from Summer and Sharath goes on tour.

On the 3rd of April, I leave Bangalore for Kathmandu. I am looking forward to this city more than anything else, the fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism is something I am really looking forward to. Nepal is also somewhere I have been hoping to explore for a while, maybe I can spend some time in a monastery there. In any case, I will have hiking boots and a backpack, so hopefully I can check out the mountains while I’m there.

On the 17th of April, I fly into Yangon, Myanmar. I will be meeting up with Talia there and together we will start to explore southeast Asia, flying to Chiang Mai on the 22nd and then traveling down Thailand through Cambodia to the coast of Vietnam, then up the coast to Hanoi. This is the part of the trip that is a little more disorganized and discovery oriented. We essentially have 26 days starting on April 22nd to get Hanoi by the 17th of May. We’ll be traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and possibly Laos, hopefully we’ll get to play with some monkeys!

On May 17th, I will arrive in Berlin. This is my first visit to Berlin and am ecstatic about Germany. This is where the second leg of my journey begins, with my sisters and mom! We will be backpacking and traveling though Eastern Europe together, starting in Berlin, Germany.

We arrive in Prague on May 21st. From there, we move onto Munich, Salzburg, Budapest, then spending a full week in Croatia. I am really, really excited to experience Croatia, I’ve heard some incredible things about the country and moving around eastern Europe is going to be so cool after having done the same in Asia.

We fly to Zurich on the 4th¬†of June,¬†afterwards I am thinking about going to Paris for a week, then London for another week. This is still up in the air and depends upon a couple of friends, so I’m not planning on it right now. But this is pretty much the end of the trip, and I will be heading back to the states to work again. Hopefully I won’t be completely broke, but I am sure as fuck going to be close!