Shit. It happens.

All flowery language aside, the point you start shitting blood is usually the point when you should stop naively hoping your body will sort through the problem and go seek medical attention.

I hadn’t been well in some time. At the start of the trip I was flying, sampling every street food I could find and priding myself on the fact that I seemed to have beaten my belly into submission after the initial round of violent nausea on day 3. I pictured my stomach as having given up on me after the fifth meal of mystery chaat and having left me to my own devices. “Fuck it,” the mental image of my stomach said. “Eat what you want. I just don’t care anymore. Whatever.”

But 3 weeks later in Rishikesh I found myself in the hospital to get a prescription to combat a sudden bout of food poisoning. It delayed our bike tour departure date by a couple days but, after the round of meds, I was feeling good again.

Until I caught a cold.

That was around Vrindavan. Having been slammed by gulal for Holi meant that whenever I blew my nose the tissue came away tie-dyed into a colorful snot Rorschach. And that lasted well into Jaipur where everything went south in more literal ways than even I care to elaborate.

Until, finally, when leaving to view the infamous Taj Mahal in Agra, I dialled a good friend back in Canada who happens to be a pharmacist, looking for advice. The call ended up having to take place in two parts as, halfway through, I had to cut him off to search for a toilet IMMEDIATELY. Continue reading

On the common error of confusing reasons and excuses

A very good friend of mine recently wrote a great post on pushing through excuses to do the things you love, even on days when you’re not in the mood to do them. And it lit a fire under my ass. Steph’s good at lighting fires under my ass. It’s one of the (many) reasons I love the woman.

A month and a half into my most recent bout of travel, I had a lot of excuses for why I wasn’t living up to the goals I’d set for myself. From keeping up with regular posts on a shiny new blog site to the photo sets that remained sorted, but unpublished, on my desktop, to the neglected runners that had only seen about 6 km of Indian trails to the deadline for travel submissions to an anthology that had come and gone. . .why wasn’t I keeping up with this stuff?

Well, there was the initial round of unexpected culture shock I’d been slammed with upon arrival in Delhi. Paired with general jet lag, it took me a couple days to find my feet. Then there was the general minutia of getting set up in a new place you’ll be traveling in long term; arranging a working sim card, laying down the initial frame-work of your route and just developing a general sense of how basic things work in the area, from food to transportation to usual social rules.

And I felt like any time I had left I wanted to use to squeeze every ounce out of Delhi I could, while I was still in the city. Rishikesh, I told myself, I’ll get things sorted in Rishikesh. It’ll be calmer there. And all the time I was telling myself this, little warning bells were going off in the back of my mind that reminded me this excuse sounded awfully familiar, even if the locale didn’t. It sounded an awful lot like a pattern that had been tried and failed already.

Still, how much can pile up in 10 days, right? Continue reading

This post is 2.5 pictures long

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. They do not, however, say anything about the accuracy of the stories said words tell.

As I prepare to upload 6 photo sets from my time thus far in India to the FACEBOOKs, it seems a good time to address what I hope many people who use any sort of social networking site or follow any sort of media source already know: That a picture painted by a series of photos can, frequently, be a less than accurate portrayal of how events actually transpired.

First, a quick catch up from where we left off: Departing Rishikesh with our newly serviced bikes and heading towards Vrindavan for Holi.

Holi is a Spring festival in which Indians celebrate the coming of Spring, the miraculous escape of Prahlada, the burning of Holika and the general awesomeness of Krishna and his female counterpart Radha. They celebrate this by hurling ‘gulal’, a colored powder, at each other. They also hurl colored water called ‘rang’ and, my new disdain, colored foam (which wouldn’t be so damn evil except that it’s scented, and its scent seems to be ‘rank’).

The drive there was long and hard and contained another 3 repairs: Sheila took a tumble during a railroad crossing and busted her mirror from the hand brake. Hrithik snapped a piece off his exhaust that required an. . .interesting welding job. Another tumble down a dirt road knocked another screw from the exhaust mount (In case you’re wondering, no, bikes are not supposed to fall over this often. But then, that’s when you’re driving them on roads, as opposed to collapsing mounds of dust). We’ve been fortunate, at least, in being rather close to a mechanic each time we’ve busted up the bikes. Though that may have less to do with luck and more to do with the sheer number of bikes and prevalence of shitty roads in this country. Continue reading

Reasons to Travel #1

There are a lot of reasons to travel.

Despite ‘travel’ being a popular answer to questions like “What would you do if you had more time/money?”, “Why do you travel?” is still a question I get asked frequently, particularly entering my fifth year of living nomadically. And it’s still a hard question to answer.

Not because I can’t think of an answer but because I struggle to place one above all others as being my primary motivation. The truth of the matter is there is no one answer for me, beyond the very general reply of “I enjoy living nomadically more than I enjoy being static.” Getting more specific than that would involve explaining why a mobile life brings me more pleasure than having a fixed address, and that in turn involves laying out every reason, big and small, one by one. Which would take more time than the usual ‘drive by’ conversations you tend to have with other travelers typically allows.

One of the small beauties of keeping a blog, however, is that it allows you to have a longer, extended conversation that people can enter or exit as they like. And so, here, I have the benefit of taking the time to go through those answers as they spring to mind, for others to check out, should they be interested to do so.

And so, as the start of this series, reason to travel #1:

It makes you question things you never thought to question, and presents you with alternatives to things you didn’t previously consider could even be done in a different way.

Like, for instance, the waning of the moon. Continue reading

3 weeks later

I spent 10 days in Delhi, in the end. I heard from many travellers afterward that they couldn’t get out of Delhi fast enough but I found something about the ever-changing atmosphere of the city oddly endearing; the stark contrast of its neighbourhoods, littered with still standing remnants of empires long fallen, the mix of old and new, privileged and poor, and the general chaos of its many streets and markets. Every day I left the hostel I saw a different face of Delhi, and each one had very little in common with the last. From the high rise buildings of Connaught Place to the littered alleys of Hazrat Nizamuddin, the energetic vendors of Paharganj to the quiet tranquility of Lodi gardens, from a flashing McDonald’s sign to the Mughal grandeur of Humayun’s tomb. . . and all the small places in between, some of which I wouldn’t even be able to tell you the name of.

I spent time wandering the streets with a Dutch photographer who was shooting for Lonely Planet, oggled at Qu’tub Minar with a group of backpackers of assorted nationalities and rocked the dance floor in a bar in the suburbs with a dead cool British chick who had chosen India as her first backpacking destination (brave gal).

I also spent near 3 days at the start of things bed-ridden with ‘Delhi belly’, jet lag and a massive migraine. Never underestimate how strongly a bad chicken tikka masala can kick your ass. Or at least stop it from functioning in a desirable manner.

10 days went by in a flash and, by the time I left Delhi, I felt I was only beginning to scratch the surface of the very basics of India. Actually. . . I still feel that way.

Continue reading