Kathmandu, Nepal and off to Everest Base Camp

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I arrived in Kathmandu.  I have to say it is change from India.  The people and touts are very laid back compared to India. It is really cool here.  It has an outdoorsy feel and a really peaceful Buddhist vibe. I am staying in area called Thamel which is where most travelers and trekkers stay. There are numerous restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops. Most in this area are definitely geared towards westerners and trekkers.  You see lots of people limping in the street that are obviously beat up from hiking.  The Himalayas are no joke.  Everyone is talking hiking here.  Either people just got back from one or are preparing to leave for one. I am in the preparing to leave one category.

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I have been walking the streets and it is seriously sensory overload with all the outdoor shops.  I am not a big fan of shopping but I can hangout in an REI outdoor store all day geeking out on gear. Kathmandu is a gear geeks fantasy land and it is cheap. I have to remind myself I don’t have room for a lot of extra gear. You can get wool gloves for a dollar. A beanie for two. A real nalgene bottle costs 4. A jacket for 20 bucks. A sleeping bag for 35. You may be able to get it for less than that but the quality varies. Some gear is available for rent as well.

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Over the past couple of days I have been for preparing the trek to the Mount Everest base camp.  Honestly I haven’t done much site seeing here because I have been running around everywhere trying to get the logistics done.  There was a Nepalese strike for two days over their constitution that made things a little more difficult. Everything virtually shut down.  I had to purchase a TIMS permit which is required for all trekkers for $20. There is also a parks permit that I will need but the place was closed when I went there and my understanding it is available on the trail.  I have also been trying to update and get gear for the trek.  I’m really excited but nervous at the same time.  The elevation reaches a dizzying 17,598 feet. Living in Colorado, I’m really aware of that elevation.  Honestly I’m not sure my body will allow me to do it.  The journey takes roughly two weeks of hiking and you stay in little tea houses in the villages along the way.  It is supposed to be breathtaking and very picturesque.  This has been a bucket list item of mine for a long time so I definitely have to try!  I have some acetazolamide for altitude sickness and I’ll have rest days for acclimatization. Each hiking day, you have to hike at least 1000 feet higher than where you are going to sleep and then come back down.  This is supposed to help the body with the elevation.  I am trekking solo which is much better than the traveling with a guided group since you can go at your own pace.  In a guided group, you are sometimes pushed to move forward when your body needs a little more time to acclimatize to the elevation.  Surprisingly they say the fit people have the most trouble with elevation since they move too fast.  Anybody who knows me, knows that I have a lot of respect for nature and the mountains. I’m prepared to take it slow if need be and turn around if I have to.  I’ll have to listen to my body and just see if I can make it.  How your body reacts to elevation is a genetic thing and sometimes you don’t have any control over it.  Air rescue can be arranged if in an emergency situation arises in which travel insurance covers. They are use to rescuing people here though.  I believe they rescue a lot of people!  My travel agent, who booked my plane ticket to Lukla where I will begin my journey, got all my travel insurance information.  I registered his name with the permit card and he will be my Nepal emergency contact. He said that if an emergency happens, just have someone in a village get a hold of him and he will be on next helicopter to evacuate me.  I’m pretty sure evacuation can be arranged on the mountain too.  Even the flight to the Lukla is supposed to be an adventure.  The runway is on the side of the mountain and is an epic roller coaster ride through the Himalayas.  I hear it has everyone on the plane clapping when you land and come to a complete stop.

I can’t wait!  The anticipation is killing me and I’m ready to start my journey into the Himalayas!

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Agra and the Taj Mahal

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I honestly don’t even need to write a post about the Taj Mahal.  There are more pictures of this building than any other building but since I visited the Taj, I believe it deserves a post.  Even if it feels somewhat replicated of what we already know.  The Taj Mahal is a consummate example of what humankind is capable of creating.  Construction started in 1632 and took 22 years to complete.  It is said that 20,000 craftsmen and artist worked together to create this legendary building.  The Taj Mahal is a love story.  One man, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who loved his wife very much built this white marble mausoleum for his 3rd wife.  She died after giving birth to their 14th kid.  At the time most mausoleums where built of red stone but there was one building that is called the “baby Taj” that used white marble first.  It is said that this was the inspiration for building the Taj Mahal in white marble.

I can seriously say that just seeing pictures didn’t really prepare the overflow of emotions I got when seeing this building.  And to think I almost skipped making the journey to Agra to see this masterpiece.  I’m so glad I didn’t make that egregious mistake. As my rickshaw picked me up and was driving me to the airport, he pulled over on the highway where I got my first glimpse of the Taj.  Seeing it even in the distance, gave me chill bumps.  I can honestly say I have seen plenty of beautiful pieces of architecture but I really felt moved when I saw it.  I got to my hotel which was half a block away from the Taj, grabbed my camera and rushed to the gate to enter but it was closed.  Really closed on Friday.  Terrible!  It’s kind of hard to see anything over the walls being so close.  So I met a couple of other people that were bummed too, and we got a rickshaw over to the gardens behind the Taj Mahal.  The Taj Mahal is perfectly square and is the same on each side so we were able to grab a glimpse of the edifice from that side.  The very next morning, I got up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise of the Taj.  It was raining but I didn’t care.  I rushed to the gate and waited for it to open.  There are quiet of a few people who visit the Taj everyday and this day was no different even with the rain.  There were a lot of us but I was nearly in the front.  When the gate open, we were screened by security and the entire mob rushed in like black friday sale.  We all wanted to get their and get that shot before a lot of people were in the picture.  It is the Taj, honestly it doesn’t matter if a few people are in the shot. We all found our spot and literally, you can hear 100s of cameras snapping pictures and people posing.  I took a lot of photos and then walked inside.  Something I did not know is that there really aren’t lights inside the Taj.  It was pitch black when I entered.  No pictures or shoes allowed inside the Taj either.  Some people had slippers but you have to know to get those before you enter.  I was not that savvy. You could see people using their iphone flashlights to checkout the tomb and details.  I actually ended up coming back later to view the inside during normal sunlight.  I toured the rest of the complex that which is bunch of beautiful red buildings, green lush gardens, and numerous cute monkeys.

 

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Baby Taj – The inspiration for the using white marble in the Taj Mahal.

 

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Red building in Taj Mahal complex

 

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Monkeys everywhere in the Taj Mahal complex.

 

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Traveling in India

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Travel can be hard at times. It can be exhausting and uncomfortable but definitely very rewarding. I would say that is the adventure of it though. Like having to share a bed in an all night sleeper bus with a total stranger.  Not very comfortable but funny and part of the adventure. I didn’t get much sleep that night due to bus barreling around corners on two wheels and aiming for every bump in the road but it is hilarious thinking about it now.  I was pretty tired the next day but I survived and got to see a really beautiful city. India, I would have to say has been more challenging to travel than most places I have been so far.  If you are traveling to India, you need time.  Lots of time! And lots of patience!  I have been her for a month but I feel I have barely scratched the surface.  You could literally travel for a year here and not see everything.  India is a big country and traveling from one destination requires covering a lot of distance to move from point A to B.  It seems many trains and buses are typically overnight for that very reason.  I have tried to get normal hour buses and trains but they have rarely been an option for me.  So when the evening departures happen, I have to basically check out of my room early or try to pay extra for a late checkout and then wait in anticipation to leave for my next destination.  Sometimes it is nice to have a bathroom and shower before leaving.  Even trying to figure out what train or the correct train station seems like a craps shoot at times.  A lot of towns have multiple train stations and buses all leave from different destinations. This morning when I got to the train station and all the signs were in Hindi. I had to use intuitive signs such as my departure time for hints on what track my train was on.  I did finally find a sign in english though but I had to search for it.  When I was staring at the Hindi sign, I had one gentlemen come up to me but honestly you have to be careful of strangers trying to help in India.  It is very sad but a reality.  99% of Indians are good but these criminals hangout in those kind of places and target tourist.  I have had these people try to tell me I was in the wrong spot and I need to go to another location or some other lie.  I don’t even respond to those fools now. If I need help, I go ask someone myself, I don’t get help from a stranger approaching me.  Typically I will look for someone that looks official or someone that seems trustworthy.  Maybe a father with his family. Traveling has definitely made me more aware of listening to my gut.  The other thing is in India, sometimes if someone doesn’t know they just point to a random direction like that is the way.  That’s not always the case but just be aware of it if you start walking in that direction and you don’t find what you are looking for.

So my 6 AM boarding time this morning required me to get to the train station early so that meant leaving at 4:30 am from my hotel.  I always like to arrive early because if there is an issue, I have time to resolve it.  I actually got dropped off at the wrong location once on this trip but I was able to get to the correct location in time due to being early.  There are also all sorts of other delays that can happen such as traffic or any other unforeseen issues. You can count on on any bus or train taking a few hours longer for any arrival.  So a 7 AM scheduled arrival might mean you are getting in at 12:30 PM.  It seems every bus and train that I have taken in India has been really late or the estimated arrival time is done by a person who can’t read a clock. The beauty about doing this round the world trip and having a little more time, is that if it takes a little longer than I’m not really out anything.  I’m just along for the ride. It is definitely a luxury and I enjoyed the I’ll get there when I get there attitude.  I think to the person that is on a serious schedule, it can be quiet annoying.

Also with my early morning departure this morning, I tried to see if my hotel had anyway to arrange transportation yesterday but they didn’t.  The guy at the front desk said no problem just go out to the street at 4:30 and get a rickshaw.  They run 24 hours a day he said. I was like, “really they will be waiting for passengers at 4:30 am.” Everything I have noticed about India seems to say things start a little later in the day.  Using my own intuition, I went to the street and found a rickshaw driver who agreed to pick me up in the early morning.  I didn’t negotiate too hard and paid him a generous 200 rupees in which my arrival to Agra only cost me 80.  200 rupees is like 3 or 4 dollars.  I wanted to make sure he was there and Indians believe that a big sale for their first sale of the day will bring them good luck for the rest of day.  So this morning when I walked to the street at 4:30 AM and he was the only one there. The street was dark and empty. I thought that is exactly why you have to use common sense while traveling.

India has been a really amazing place and honestly I don’t think I can accurately describe it.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the colors, the food, and just about everything has been intense.  It has definitely made me work for it though. I have learned a lot, had a great time, saw many interesting things, and feel that if I can travel in India, then I can travel anywhere. I visualize India like climbing to the top of the mountain and looking at the spectacular view.  Your legs were burning hiking up, you were a bit uncomfortable, but when you finally reached the top, you were like “Wow!  Look at that view!”  I suppose earning it has made me appreciate that much more!  I’m so stoked to say I have been to India!  What a cool country!

So tomorrow I will by heading to Nepal.

 

Getting sick in India and how to avoid it.

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Wasn’t sure if I was going to post anything about this or not but then I thought getting sick is part of the India experience.  Pretty much everyone that comes here gets sick.  Getting sick in India is a rite of passage.  After you get sick, you have something in common with pretty much anybody who has travelled here.  I only have met a very few that haven’t been sick.  For the most part, you just chalk it up that you are going to eat some of the most flavorful and tasty dishes of your life but getting sick is inevitable.  You don’t want to come here and only eat bread. Eating and tasting new foods is part of traveling! Most of the times the sickness is not too bad and doesn’t prevent you from doing anything, while a few other types of sickness are a little rougher.  When you meet any westerner, it seems to be one of the first things that are brought up.  It is actually hilarious about how open everyone is here.  Back home, I don’t think any of us would discuss things in detail like we do here.  Nothing is off limits and even discussions about sickness at the dinner table are perfectly acceptable here.  Even Indians get sick here.  When power goes out all the time, the weather is steaming hot, and I’m pretty sure nothing is thrown away, it is going to happen.  There a few types of sickness and yes, I have had two of them.  They vary on intensity and length.  One knocked me out for a day where I couldn’t even move.  That was in Palolem Beach when I decided to order bacon after a night of a few beers.  It sounded so good and I clearly wasn’t thinking.  I can’t be positive that was the bacon but it is highly likely that it was. The rest of the day I was so sick that I couldn’t leave me hut and literally had to beg someone walking by to go get me a coconut water.  The place I was staying had waters 50 feet away in a cooler but I felt that was way to far.  I finally made my way over to the cooler and grabbed as many waters as possible because I knew that I couldn’t make the trip again.  The owners of the hut where I was staying were really nice and when they saw me sick, they kept checking on me. I was extremely appreciative of that. They actually went to the store to get me some medicine.  Indians are really friendly and caring people. The second time wasn’t too bad and it lasted me only a few days. Each time, I took Azithromycin which is used for fighting the bad bacteria and I think it did help.  So people say the yogurt here with all the powerful probiotics is good too.  My travel doctor prescribed my medicine before I left for my trip. Some people go untreated without the use of antibiotics but it seems they have the sickness for a long time.

After meeting travelers that haven’t been sick and have been here for a while, I get into an in depth conversation on their daily habits, what they eat, and how they have managed getting so lucky.  Luck could definitely be a part of it.

Here’s the conclusion of what the people I have met did that didn’t get sick here.

How to reduce the risk of being sick

1) Keep hand sanitizer on you at all times and use before each meal.

2) Stick with vegetable dishes.

3) Stay away from western dishes.

4) Avoid any kind of meat (chicken, lamb, cow) – Honestly some of the best meals I have had in India were chicken and lamb.

5) Avoid any vegetables or fruits with the skin on it.

6) Make sure anything you eat is cooked or boiled.

Please note these are not full proof on avoiding sickness…just helping.

 

Street food is okay as long as it is cooked, fried, or boiled.  I think drinking chai tea from the vendors is fine too.  I haven’t had any issues with it.

Varanasi

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Varanasi is considered one of the oldest continuously lived in cities in the world.  It dates back to the 11th or 12th b.c. and is considered one of the most holy cities to the Hindus. It is located on the Ganges river (known as Ganga river in Hindi).  The town is nestled with a labyrinth of narrow cobble stone alleyways that can really take hours to navigate your way out. Occasionally you have to move aside for a herd of cattle stampeding along the corridors or a motorbike try to squeezing through. It really has an old world biblical era feel to it.

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Walking along the river has a very powerful energy that you can truly understand holiness of this place.  There are holy men, priests, and numerous Hindus making the pilgrimage to the river. There are a lot of people here and people watching is some of the best I have ever experienced.  As westerner, I’m gaping at all the interesting Indians but the Indians are doing the same with me.  I snapped a picture of one kid taking a picture of me. I also had the occasional person sit next to me and try to get a sneaky picture without me knowing it.  I always knew but didn’t mind.  I talked to one traveler that always made really funny faces for those sneaky photos .  Haha

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The town itself has over a million people.  The Ganga river represents life and death.  The Hindus believe bathing in its holy water washes away any sins.   An Indian told me that every Indian must come here at least once in their life.

The dying come to this city to spend their final days and the dead are brought here to by cremated.  They carry the deceased down to the river to be burned on its stone shores.  Their is a tiered class system of where people are burned on the stairs lining the river.  The relatives build a fire around their loved ones and it is very intense moment to watch.  The Hindus don’t cry though.  Not at this moment at least, for that would bring bad karma to the after life.  After the body is burned for three hours the ashes and remains are thrown into the river.  Some ashes are kept though.  I have to say it was a pretty emotional experience seeing this. Photographs of this are highly forbidden and very disrepectful.

Each night there are high priest initiation ceremonies along the river.  It starts at 6:45 and ends at 7:30.  The ceremonies involve clapping, chanting, drums, music, and a choreographed routine.  It is really interesting and you can really see the meaning of the ceremony in the initiates eyes. I sat on the side to watch but some guy started yelling at me to not sit there.  I found myself somehow being ushered to the front row.  I have to say it was a bit awkward to be sitting there when for everyone around me this was a really big religious deal.  The guy next to me asked if I was Hindu when I sat down and I kindly told him no. During the ceremony, I clapped and smiled as the guy next to me kept elbowing me, smiling, singing, and looking over at me.

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Varanasi has been extremely exotic and such a great and interesting experience.  I have to say I missed a lot of photo opportunities due to me being a little shy of shoving a camera in peoples faces and snapping pictures.  I realize I have a little growing to do to become people photographer but even with my version of sneaky photos they were still a lot of fun!  Varanasi was really exciting and if you ever come to India, definitely put it on your list.  I was told that Goldie Hawn just visited a couple of weeks ago.

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Follow my Facebook

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Due to unrealiable internet and power in India, I have been posting a lot of short blurbs and photos on http://facebook.com/UncommonGlobe

Feel free to give that page a like to follow as well.

 

 

Hampi

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I have been so busy and excited with everything that I have missed out on writing a post about my visit to Hampi.

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Hampi is a village in the middle of a hot arid Indian desert with numerous temples dedicated to Shiva, a hindu deity, and is still considered a holy place to hindu Indians.  Many Indians still make the pilgrimage to this desert oasis to worship and bath in its holy waters.  Lonely Planet named it one of the top things to do in India and I can see why.  There are incredibly beautiful rock formations that remind me of Utah mixed with the spiritual sense of Sedona, Arizona.  Then add ancient ruins and temples and you have Hampi which means “champion.”

My arrival to Hampi started at 5:30 am on an overnight bus from Chaudi (closest town to Palolem Beach, Goa).  The sun was still down and I was still dazed waking up when I shuffled off of the bus.  I was greeted by overly excited touts begging to check out their place.  The touts obviously really didn’t understand the term “let me wake up first” or at least “let me sip on a cup of chai tea first.” Getting the first glimpse of Hampi was beautiful, I just wish I got it more on film.  As the sun was starting to rise, the rocks formations, ruins, and temples appeared everywhere and it looked liked I just arrived to an ancient city.  It definitely had a very majestical exotic feel. There were hundreds of monkeys jumping off of the ruins, temples, and bouncing all around the town. The monkeys here have a notorious reputation for stealing food off of your plate and then giving you an inimical look as they chomp down on your dinner.  That happened to my one of my friends.  I had another friend who had a monkey jump on his back.  haha.  As I walked through the maze of streets in the village, it was lined by old two story connected buildings.  There were shops, guest houses, and rooftop restaurants.  I checked out a few but ultimately decided to make my way to the river.  I had heard from travelers in Goa that the other side of the river is where to stay. It is considered more laid back and has more alcohol options.  Although alcohol is not really allowed or available on the town side of the river, there is an establishment that does serve from my understanding.  I think the other side of the river is a bit safer as well. One guesthouse I checked out had a sign saying beware of people putting things in your drink and don’t walk the streets alone at night.  Probably good advice for traveling anywhere but the fact that I saw a sign for it just made me a little more aware.  I ended up opting to stay to on the other side just because it was more laid back. The only way to get across is by boat ferry which costs 10 rs  and 10 extra rs per luggage and only runs roughly from 8 – 5. As I arrived to the river, waiting for the ferry to open, there were Indians in white robes bathing and there was chanting on a loud overhead speaker.  I felt too weird snapping photos of people bathing and felt a little out numbered if I took a photo that was taboo or something. It was a pretty incredible experience though.  I definitely had one of those “I’m in India!!!” moments.

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The other side of the river was really cool.  There was a monkey temple, cave, and a lake where people go cliff jumping to escape the heat.  I hiked to the lake the first day which probably took about 40 minutes each way. It had beware of crocodile signs everywhere but that was just to scare tourist away from swimming. At least that is what locals told me. The other side of the river definitely had a little bit of a hippy vibe and each night everyone hiked up the rocks to a place called sunset rock and watched the sunset. The sunset was ridiculous with views of the temples, the rocky landscape, and the village below. People brought all types of musical instruments up there and played music to the sunset. It was kind of nice. I learned that the Indian entrepreneur will climb any precarious rock and make any perilous journey to sell a 10 rupee chai tea.

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The temple shape shadows in the sun.

 

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The Hindus followed the elephant into the temple to be blessed by him.

 

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Hampi was euphoric, interesting, and little on the hot side.  It was pretty hot and I would definitely recommend maybe going when it is a little cooler.  I would also suggest to wear to socks if going to the main temple.  They make you take off of your shoes to enter and the rocks can be a little hot on the uncalloused feet.  Glad I made the trip there!  What a wonderful time!

 

 

Mumbai and getting my travelling legs

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I feel that I’m becoming a better traveller and more confident in my abilitity to get around in a foreign country.  I have always thought of India similar to what mountain climbers think of Mount Everest. This place is the pinnacle of travelling in my opinion. It is challenging, confusing, and keeps the brain thinking.  I love those moments when you are aware an trying to figure out what to do when travelling. It is the adrenaline rush.  Getting on a bus where you are the only foreigner and hoping it is the right bus and you get off at the right moment. 

Yesterday I rode the local bus from Hampi to Hospet which is about a 30 minute ride.  Your awareness is hightened in these moments.  You watch people telling jokes, people thinking about their day, and basically people living their daily lives. Then are trying to figure out which stop is yours.  As the bus came to a stop that I thought was mine, I got off and just started walking.  Having a smart phone with gps has made life so much easier.  I just plugged in the landmark and marched across town looking for my destination where the overnight bus was to pick me up. Hospet was hilarious with a some strange stares, a few hellos, and random people take phone pictures of me. 

After I walked across town and getting some attention, I waited for a while and my overnight bus finally arrived.  I was really happy about having my own bed this time and not having to share a bed with a stranger.  The last overnight bus I had to share a bed with a stranger and it was hilarious.  Every bump and turn, we would roll over on each other. He totally was a bed hog but I put a good fight. Hahaha

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Old bed

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New bed

After the all nighter and a 3 am bus switch which was not expected, we finally arrived in Mumbai.  By the way there was only one bathroom break for 15 1/2 hour bus ride. I purposely did not hydrate much the day before and made that no issue.  Veteran move 🙂

When we were pulling into Mumbia some dude came by and was wondering what stop I was getting off.  In a confusing game of sherades, he decided I should get off at Sion.  Hmmm…..another Indian did a head shake in agreement so I did.  There wre taxis waiting so I grabbed on.  Now here is where technology gets great.  I just plugged in the address and was able to see if I was going the right directions.  I have heard of a lot of Indian taxi or rickshaw horror stories.  Not like the ones that it happened to some random people but it happened to the person I was talking to.  Fortunately, my taxi driver took me on the correct path and everything worked out.  He did tell me I got off at the wrong stop though. Lol!  Oh well it cost me $10 and I’ll survive. 

So after my accomplished day, I tried to get a taxi after my trip to Leopolds but had no luck.  No taxi would take me for some reason or another.  I showed them the map and everything but I didn’t get one taker.  Not sure why? Was it amount of the fare? It was 5pm rush hour. Or was it the gps map?  I will never know but that is the beauty of travel. I made the 30 minute walk and survived.

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Anyways I’m stoked about being in Mumbai.  People seem so laid back and friendly here.

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Learning to longterm travel in Goa.

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Yesterday I wrote a beautiful post and accidently deleted it.  I’m still learning this new phone.  I decided to stay in Goa for a little bit longer and delay my Hampi trip.  My decision came after meeting a Canadian couple that had been traveling for 6 weeks.  I realized that I don’t know how to longterm travel.  My mindset is go go go but longterm travel shouldn’t be about that.  The goal is to temporarily live in place, experience new things, meet people, and do things that couldn’t be done in short vacation.  Or if they are done, they are crammed in with so many things that they are a blur.

In my time in Palolem, I have met a lot great people and I think I am actually starting to learn how to slow down and take it all in.  Today I did some hatha yoga in a thatched roof hut which was an exhilerating experience. 

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Yesterday I explored some cool rocks on the beach after looking over at them and thought I’m going to go check those out.

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And tonight I got to experience women in full decorated Indian gowns jumping into the ocean and running from waves.

There is saying in Belize that says, “go slow.” Even though I am not in Belize, I think I’m finally starting to understand the true meaning of it.  So I’m going to chill in Goa for a little while longer, enjoy a few more beautiful sunsets, do a few more yoga session, and explore a few more beaches.

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Palolem breakfast

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Breakfast.  I have been hitting the Cafe Inn each morning because they actually have a espresso machine and make fresh coffee. They also have mean smoothies.  This is definitely the best coffee in Palolem that I have had.  I get the Americano which is espresso with extra water.  Many places here use instant coffee which tastes like dirty shoelace.  This place might be an Isreali establishment or caters to Isrealis.  There’s another place that I got an excellent cup of chai tea yesterday that I want to try.  They have an egg omelet masala that looks terrific!  They weren’t open this morning yet when I went there so I came back to Cafe Inn. Many places don’t open up that early here and I’m an morning person.  

Egg Cruissant 



Banana Nutella Coconut Pancake. I had to try it.  



Beach Dream Smoothie – banana, pineapple, & papaya



Marsala omelette, french press coffee, butter toast, and banana milk shake at Dream Catcher.

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