Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.
” Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
As you well know if you read my blog at all, travel, to me, is the essence of what shapes our lives and feeds our spirits with experience and adventure. Travel is like going home, but not to a home we know, but to a feeling, an understanding. We hit the road in search of ourselves, and while we are out there we find so much more. In the act of travel is found that which can not be gained through being idle: understanding, tolerance, imagination, courage. These virtues are strengthened by seeking out the power of travel.
One of the things that I love most about traveling is the stories and memories you come back with. With each new place we gain a new set of tales to tell, if not to others than only to ourselves at later times. Remembering a certain place, activity, person, smell, taste, or sound brings all the emotions of traveling back any time we want. The times in our life we cherish the most are at our disposal any time we crave the feel of being out there.
These stories can also be powerful tools in helping others seek an Unboxed Life through world travel. When you choose to share your adventures with others you can never know what impact that will have on a person. Just through the simple act of recounting a certain view from a ridge-top in India might lead to that person quitting their job and trekking through Nepal in search of their own eternal view of the world. In this way we are all connected through not only our shared space and experience, but through the experiences of those we associate with. What I learn and find can be yours too.
With that said, today I would like to share with you some of my favorite stories from the travel I have done in my life. I haven’t always appreciated the value of getting away from the comfort of the familiar, nor am I as regular a world traveler as I would like or have visited near as many places as I want, but there has been some pretty awesome tales!
The Shiva Temple
The setting: Kolkata, India. The characters: Myself, my wife, our dear friend Sally, and her son Eric. The moral: Guidebooks are not always bad. We had the amazing opportunity to visit my wife’s birthplace, Kolkata, India last January. The anticipation of the trip, with excitement and nervousness, could only be surpassed by the punch in the face that Kolkata is. Among the honking horns, shoulder to shoulder sidewalks, and abject poverty can be found such immense beauty that it makes you forget who you are and where you are. One particular day we decided to visit a local temple at the recommendation of our hotel hosts. Great! A real Indian temple. This will be awesome!
We hoped a cab with a seemingly friendly and very enthusiastic driver. He weaved his way through the tapestry and vendors, pedestrians, goats, and sheep and we pulled up to the temple. “Follow me, follow me.” We snake through the sea of people trying not to lose sight of our guide. With great labor we find ourselves in a roadside stand, our shoes in a bag, and flowers placed in our hands. With only socks we head off again, hop-skip-jumping the muddy puddles and what we can only guess is red powder on the ground.
As we enter the temple the sight is without description. Vibrant colors, the low drum of Hindu prayers, the hustle of people around the central prayer building. We meet the goats waiting to be slaughtered, their faces filled with uncertainty about their current situation. Little did we know we would soon be sporting the same looks on our faces.
With the temple seen, donations given, and socks soaked through with “water”, we head back to where we left our shoes. But alas! Our shoes have gone MIA. “Where are our shoes?” A simple enough question right? Well, this question lead to a series of broken exchanges ending with the demand for a ransom. A shoe ransom!? Really? Our shoes had been taken hostage and our “shoekeepers” wanted compensation for keeping them safe. This was a first for all of us.
We ended up managing to negotiate our shoes back and escape without too much damage to our wallets. Later that night back at the hotel I was flipping through the guidebook I had dismissively thrown to the side. Right there, in bold letters is this sentence: “Under no circumstances should you leave your shoes with anyone who tells you they will watch them for you. When you come back your shoes will be gone and you will have to pay to get them back.” Blasted!! At least we weren’t the first to fall victim to the shoe ransom game.
Missing A Tusk Can Make An Elephant Angry
The setting: Masai Mara, Kenya. The characters: Our volunteer group. The moral: Being sans a tusk makes elephants angry. We were on a quick one day game drive in Kenya at the tail end of a volunteer trip we had been on in Kisumu, Kenya. It is amazing to think that there is only one place in the whole world to see some of the wildlife that call the Masai Mara home. Whether you are religious or not, this part of the world must have been the Garden of Eden.
As our van bumped and bounced along the road we could see that a not-so-small object was blocking our path far up the road. We approach we begin to realize that it is a solitary male elephant, the biggest I have ever seen, standing in the road facing our van, still as if he was stuffed. Protruding from either side of his trunk were his massive tusks. Though only one still stuck out in its full glory, the other was broken off, most likely the product of many battles to maintain territory or females, with the last battle resulting in him being here on his own. Even with just the one tusk this old boy was as imposing as any animal you could imagine, a giant in a world or miniatures, and he was not keen on us passing.
With pictures taken and his majesty fully appreciated we inched forward in an effort to force the boss to make way for our van. We came to realize this might not be the smartest move. There came a point when we got close enough to look directly into his eyes. It might have been adrenaline, fear, or just stupidly but I swear he looked into my eyes, shook his ears as if to say “You asked for it” and with that he darted forward with impossible speed right at our van! “Vamanos!!!” An interesting choice of words from an African. But yes, we need to go, NOW! We speed in reverse, the driver looking back, us looking forward as the great beast ran with all his might toward us, bent on turning our van into a sardine can under his feet.
As we put space between us and the assailant our mood turned from fear to excitement! Wow, we just got charged by that elephant! How cool was that? The danger or real harm or death aside, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. A singular moment like that can only happen with travel, it’s not like there are lots of elephants wandering around the streets of Seattle.
I really could go on forever about the most random, unexpected, beautiful moments that can only happen while traveling. Sometimes its hard to convey to people the importance of the simple moments. Everyday tasks turn into amazing adventures and individuals who seem unassuming can become allies in the drama of your day. Besides all the amazing benefits of travel and the immense personal growth that come from seeing the larger world, you are guaranteed to have awesome stories to tell, and sometimes that is all it takes to make an impact on someone’s life. What is your favorite travel story? Where do you want to find more tales to tell next?