2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 21,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 120: Our Currymoon

*We reached 25 000 hits today on the blog!!!  Who knew we had so many followers?  Thanks for reading!

10:30am – After a three hour layover in Frankfurt, we set out for another eight hour flight to Toronto.  We enjoyed the onboard entertainment and laughed out loud during several funny movies.  Our gastrointestinal problems gave us gnarly gas but the laughter helped relieve our bloated bellies.  With the anticipation of returning to our beautiful country, the final hours of the flight passed by quickly and before we knew it the seatbelt light came on and we were bouncing off the tarmac.

FIVE DOWN! ONE TO GO!

12:30pm – We arrive in Toronto with just thirty minutes to pick up our checked luggage, re-check it and run to catch our connecting flight to London.  We sprinted through the airport at full speed with all of our gear, passed through customs for our final frisk and scan of the trip, and made it to our terminal just as everyone was boarding.

SIX FLIGHTS DOWN! HOME AT LAST!

We arrived in London at 2:30pm to big hugs from my parents who were carrying a giant bag of our favorite sour jujubes and Doritos!  In the past three days we travelled 18,000 km by plane, six hours by bus and two hours by ferry and though we were utterly exhausted, there is nothing better than the feeling of being home.  We looked up to the blue sky and breathed in the crisp Canadian air and remembered one last time just how lucky we were.

As the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence teaches, nothing lasts forever.  Though four months felt like an eternity while sitting on the floor eating dinner with our hands among our Muslim couchsurfing hosts in Delhi, 120 days later the trip has come and gone in the blink of an eye.  But what a trip it was!  On this trip we experienced the extremes.  We saw the Taj Mahal which is the most intricately designed piece of architecture in the world.  We were deeply saddened by the extreme poverty in the Delhi slums and were moved by the smiles from the 200 children who accepted our gift of paper kites.  We sat on the banks of the Ganges, the holiest of all rivers, and witnessed the most ancient tradition of escaping rebirth through the burning pyres of Varanasi.  We celebrated the largest ever Kalachakra for world peace, the most sacred of Buddhist initiations, with the 14th Dalai Lama, the wisest living human.  We meditated under the most famous tree where thousands of devotees waited patiently to catch a falling leaf from the Bodhi.  We lived for three weeks in a tent village with hundreds of thousands of Tibetan refugees now exiled throughout Asia.  We trekked for a month in the Himalayan mountains to a height of 5416m and lived for another month at sea level.  We spent weeks wearing six layers in -35C and spent weeks wearing nothing but our swim suit in +35C.  We flew over Everest, the highest point on the planet and did back floats in the Andaman Sea.  We witnessed the Annapurna, the most breathtaking mountain range in the world, and Koh Payam, arguably the most beautiful tropical island.  We reached the pinnacle of exhaustion after our grueling 300km trek with 30lb packs and the pinnacle of relaxation after three weeks in a seaside bamboo bungalow.

After another four months on the road, we are fully convinced that there is no greater teacher.  Living the good life requires forming habits of the mind which are conducive to human flourishing and vagabonding on the cheap is a sure way to foster these habits.  Thoreau wrote, “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”  This trip has allowed us to discover and rediscover these pathways to profound and lasting wellbeing.

In the whole of human history, humans have been nomadic far longer than settled agrarians so a new horizon was always a reality and the adventures of the unknown provided our ancestors with a great sense of feeling alive.  Joseph Campbell said, People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don’t think this is what we are really seeking.  I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”  Our Asian odyssey provided this feeling on almost a daily basis, requiring us to continually reflect on what is truly important and to be grateful for all of our blessings.  The truth is Thoreau was correct when saying that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” and our trip has reminded us that regardless of our trials in life, it is up to us to find the lessons and to create experiences of being alive.

We often wonder what it would be like to travel alone but agree that there is nothing like sharing unforgettable experiences with the ones you love.  We supported each other through very difficult times and celebrated together the awe inspiring moments which forever strengthened our bond.  There is no one I’d rather climb to the ends of the earth with than my goddess, my partner in life, my partner for life!  This honeymoon is a metaphor for our life together in so many ways but most of all, it has reminded us to continue making new memories together.  Since time is our most valuable commodity, a typical week long honeymoon was just not going to cut it for us and instead we enjoyed a life changing four month adventure.  We are forever changed from our Currymoon and we need only to flip through the 110,000 words in this journal to be reminded of all that we can accomplish together.

We are like the spider.
We weave our life and then move along in it.
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
~
The Upanishads

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Day 119: Kathmandu to Frankfurt

7:00am – 2:00pm – We spent the morning running around Kathmandu buying some last minute gifts, exchanging currencies and stopping for a final bowl of Thenthuk soup.

2:30pm – We took a very hot and bumpy taxi through the crowded back streets of Kathmandu and knowing this would be the last time for a while, we soaked up the chaotic beauty of Central Asia.  The streets were haphazardly busy and the brick rubble which lined the roads was a final reminder of the enigma that is the East.  Old ways are quickly being torn down to be replaced with the ideologies and economies of the modern West.  Kathmandu will be a whole new world the next time we venture to this side of the planet.

4:00pm – Our Spice Jet flight was delayed 2.5 hours so we lounged on the sofas in the hot Kathmandu airport until our 6:30pm departure.  We entertained ourselves and the other restless travelers by strumming and singing our favourite songs.

6:30pm – After being frisked seven times with three bag searches and two scans, we boarded the plane bound for Delhi.

THREE DOWN!  THREE TO GO!

8:00pm – We arrived in Delhi to the very familiar and not at all missed Indian culture of the individual.  We had to fight our way to baggage and we got the head bobble after every navigational question.

10:30pm – Checked into our flight and passed through more scanners, frisks and custom stamps then found an empty set of reclining chairs to sleep on until our 2:30am departure.

2:45am – India got under our skin one last time as we walked down the long aisle to the very last row of seats.  We asked several times in several different ways to confirm that we were sitting together for the eight hour flight and when we arrived at our seats, we were beside each other but with an aisle between us.  A nice man wanted an aisle seat anyway so he offered to switch and we were not surprised to hear he was Canadian.

3:30am – We each took a Gravol and shifted between states of consciousness for the remainder of the trip.

10:30am (6:55am Frankfurt time) – We arrived in Frankfurt and had another difficult time navigating through the different terminals to find our gate but we were excited to be more than half way home.

FOUR DOWN! TWO TO GO!!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 118: Phuket Town to Kathmandu

The journey home continues…

1:00am – Mad stomach gurgles followed by more diarrhea so Alyssa busted out the four emergency Travelers Diarrhea pills. I thought about the dirty salmonella cutting board we used to cut our pineapple while I swallowed my four bits of hope.

6:00am – Woke up to catch the bus to the airport

7:00am – The bus was late and Alyssa laid flat out in the parking space where the bus should have been. I felt for her as I watched her raise her arms whenever a scooter came close to avoid being run over.

7:30am – Bus arrived and we enjoyed a nice hot start-and-stop ride all the way to the Phuket International Airport

8:30am – I checked in our luggage while Alyssa gagged into a garbage can right at the main entrance. We laid flat out on the floor at the security check while sipping Gatorade to prevent dehydration. We laughed at all the people setting off the metal detector like it was the first time they had ever been to an airport. “OH right – the coins and keys in my pocket are made of metal!” An alchy lost it when her 2L bottle of rum was confiscated because fluids have not been allowed on flights since 9/11. She insisted on dumping the full bottle in the garbage can so the security guards could not enjoy it in the break room as they played with all of the confiscated scissors, nail clippers and even a screw driver…why the heck was there a screw driver in someone’s carry-on?

9:30am – Both ready for our funerals as we take off for Bangkok

ONE FLIGHT DOWN! FIVE TO GO!

11:00am – Claimed our baggage, made our way to the fourth floor, then laid flat out on the benches until we could board our next flight to Kathmandu.

2:30pm – Our flight was supposed to leave at 2:30pm but good ole Royal Nepal Airlines threw in the towel today. We were rerouted to a 4:30pm flight on Thai Airways. We were so out of it that we approached two different customs officials with the wrong passports. The guard stamped my passport, which was really Alyssa’s passport, anyway. That’s what you call tight security.

3:30pm – Alyssa laid flat out on a comfy sofa while I updated the journal

5:00pm – took off from Bangkok International Airport two and half hours late

6:00pm – Felt very weak from traveling on only a few crackers and some Gatorade but it seemed the four little magic pills were working

6:55pm (Nepal Time 1.5 hours back) – After a three and a half hour flight we touched down in Kathmandu feeling much better than when we took off. Since we already had our visas we were the first to be processed at customs.

TWO DOWN! FOUR TO GO!

7:30pm – We got our luggage and recruited some whiteys to split a taxi with us. They were total newbs and freaking out about the conditions and people in Nepal. They were happy that we bargained the price and got them safely to Thamel

8:00pm – Checked back into Hotel President and were happy to find our luggage was still there after storing it for one month while we were in Thailand

8:05pm – With the little energy we had left we went to the 50% off bakery to stock up for our long travel days ahead and sold off all our books at the used book store, earning us 1200 rupees!

9:30pm – Lights out with the white noise of the fan taking the place of the ocean waves

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 117: Koh Payam to Phuket Town

The journey home begins…

1:00am – Pack of 20 dogs started howling outside our bungalow and do not stop until we get up

7:00am – Woke up dead tired. We have had sound sleeps every night until the day before we were to begin the long journey home

8:00am – Hung on for dear life on the back of a scooter taxi

8:30am – Climbed aboard the ferry bound for Ranong. We were both feeling the effects of a sleepless night.

10:30am – Shook off the taxi touts and hung off the back of a tuk-tuk bound for the bus station

11:00am – Made it just in time for the 11am bus for Phuket but there were no seats left so we needed to stand for the first “30 minuets”. Our journey to Canada had only begun and already we were exhausted from those dogs. We laid flat out in the aisle of the bus.

12:00pm – The first seats came available and we curled up in balls battling the car sickness from fatigue.

4:30pm – Arrived in Phuket Town to a blistering 35C outside. I arranged for our airport shuttle the following morning while Alyssa ran to puke in the corner. We could not believe we were already so out of commission.

5:00pm – Found a room with AC and ate a helping of Pad Thai despite me already having had four gnarly bouts of diarrhea.

7:00pm – The diarrhea laughs in the face of 4 Imodium pills and we called it an early night

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 116: The Final Sunset

It is always difficult to say goodbye to people but for us the same applies to some places. India will definitely never make this list, especially with the exuberant celebrations that took place the minute we crossed into Nepal, but we sure were sad during our final day on Koh Payam. At the end of every summer we have a difficult time closing up the camp and we always take time to enjoy the ‘lasts’. The last trip to the spring, the last paddle down Distress River, the last walk into town for ice cream, and the last sunset. Today was no different. We took extra time during our morning swim, lounged extra hard in our hammocks, chose an extra juicy pineapple for our afternoon snack and watched the full sunset.

 

How can one not feel the connectedness of everything in nature when watching the sunset at Aow Yai? The sun, nothing more than quarks and electrons. The sky, the clouds, the sea and the humans differ only in how these basic building blocks are arranged. The whole bay was sparkling silver as the high sun reflected off the windy sea. At 5pm the sun was still too hot for comfort but we did not want to miss the final descent. Just like our trip, the first few degrees of the setting sun seemed to take ages where the final few degrees passed by in the blink of an eye. As the sky changed from a crisp baby blue, to a pastel yellow, then to dark orange and pink, we thought about all the shades of change we experienced in ourselves over the course of our travels. And as the sun dipped behind the distant Myanmar island, outlining the clouds in dark purple, the finality of our trip became real. A deja vu of emotions flooded our souls like watching the final sunset on Malpais in Costa Rica. Vagabonding is an experience afforded only to those who take to the road for extended periods of time and though the motion stops, the emotions continue. We gained comfort in knowing that as the sun disappeared from our island paradise, it was rising in the most special place of all; home.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 115: Island Inspired

Played in the key of D to a reggae vibe

Written in the seaside hammock on a beautiful sunny day in Koh Payam, Thailand.

 

No one owns my soul but me

I have not sold out to the global economy

No big house, fancy car, debt free,

Cause I want nothing that I do not need

 

No one owns by soul but me

No need to cloud my reality

With booze and beer and pills and weed

Cause I want nothing that I do not need

 

No one owns my soul but me

Truth is the only thing I seek

I don’t need to work 40 hours a week

Cause I want nothing that I do not need

 

No one owns my soul but me

No network news or reality TV

No Facebook or Nintendo Wii

Cause I want nothing that I do not need

 

No one owns my soul but me

I choose to live virtuously

So the mirror reflects what I want to see

Someone who has lived to be free

 

All I need are the birds and the trees

All I need is the sand and the sea

All I need are the rivers and the peaks

All I need is family

All I need is you and me

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 114: Free

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.

~Henry David Thoreau

Buffalo Bay is divided in half by a large craggy rock face so today we walked further down the bike path to the other side of the beach. Since Koh Payam is quiet to begin with and Thailand is now approaching its off season, Aow Khao Kwai was deserted today. What a feeling of freedom to be eating muesli at a fancy teak table in an open air restaurant which has been shut down for the season. As we enjoyed the breakfast and solitude with the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea as our backdrop, we talked about this sense of freedom we have felt throughout our trip. Whether it was climbing the steep ascents in the thin air of the Annapurna or swinging in a hammock at sea level, the feeling of being free has always been with us. We both agree we are experiencing the same feeling yet neither of us can fully describe it or account for its origin.

 

Does this feeling manifest because our time is not bound to the obligations of work or school? There must be more to it since retired people exist beyond the nine to five and have a high degree of autonomy over their time yet retirement is the most dangerous year of one’s life. So surely not all retired people are feeling the contentment of freedom.

 

Does our experience of freedom come as a result of having few responsibilities? Other than the minimal requirements to maintain employment and ensuring another great year of camp, we do not have the responsibilities of raising children or keeping a home. Yet urban teenagers have even fewer responsibilities and they are quickly becoming the most unhappy demographic in the West. And some of the rural teens we have met in developing countries hold great familial responsibilities yet do not appear to be trapped. On the contrary, if freedom is an ideal held among all people since the dawn of time and too many responsibilities dampen this goal, why are responsibilities held to such a high esteem anyway?

Maybe this feeling is a result of owning nearly no material possessions and having no debt whatsoever? Yet this lifestyle is contrary to the zeitgeist of the free-market. If everyone lived like a monk, what would a global economy look like? Also, many wealthy people have no debt and still do not feel this sense of freedom.

Do we feel free because we spend so much time outdoors? We have watched dozens of people come and quickly leave our beach paradise because they were unable to handle the peaceful stillness. They had to always be occupied and on the move because the stillness of their mind was an uneasy place to be. Being outdoors is little better than a prison if the mind cannot be satisfied with the present.

 

After a long series of deductions, we settled on two simple facts. One, we had glowing childhoods which taught us how to flourish (of which we have our parents to thank). And two, we developed together the skill to want for nothing. Or at least very little. The former allows us the freedom to look pleasantly on the past. The latter allows us to look pleasantly on the future. And since the past and the future do not look so bad, we can remain still in the moment and mindful of our natural surroundings. Our past allowed us to fill our minds with positive character strengths, our future is not concerned with the Jones’ and thus, our present is content and free.

 

After all this talk of freedom we did not want to be bound to one half of Buffalo Bay by the rock cliff which separated the sands so we laced up our shoes, timed the down flow of the waves, then ran for the rocks. The hundreds of green crabs who sunbathed on the cliff were not happy with our adventure and quickly scurried away into the safety of the water. We clung onto the cliff edge like the angry crabs and tried not to look down at the rocks which poked out of the ocean below. At about the half way mark we made the decision to turn back when we came across a few jumbo bees flying busily around a bush. This was the last place we wanted to be if we were too close to a nest.

 

The long sweltering walk home was made easy with some more refreshing bubble teas and we spent the remainder of the day free and content reading, swimming, and eating noggin sized pineapples.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Day 113: Coast to Coast

When traveling through Central America we spent a lot of time hugging both coasts. In Belize, we enjoyed the calm aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea and from El Salvador down, we enjoyed the powerful waves of the Pacific Coast. Koh Payam has the best of both coasts in one. Today we set out at 7:30am to walk across the island to Aow Khao Kwai, the only other inhabited beach on the island. After spending nearly three weeks listening to the powerful waves on Aow Yai, we were surprised when we happened upon the calm clear waters and white sands of Khao Kwai (also known as Buffalo Bay). We ate our bowl of muesli and banana next to the sea then walked along the shore until we ran out of beach. The soft white sands were gentle on the feet and the towering rocky outcrops made for scenic photo shoots. We wondered how long it took the ocean to carve out the tunnels in the rocks and how it was possible for trees to grow on its barren peaks. Since there were no waves, Buffalo Bay was perfect for swimming and we laughed when the curious schools of fish swam up next to us. A long iridescent swordfish found its way into the mix and we watched as it’s silver translucent body glided through the water. We did not want to leave the warm, still water but we also did not want to get trapped walking in the heat of high noon. On the sweaty walk home we stopped for delicious and icy taro and vanilla bubble teas and picked up some more bananas for our afternoon snack.

 

The afternoon was spent hiding in the shade of the mangroves, reading, napping and chatting about life and since most of our frisbee players have left the island, we spent most of the evening swimming in the sunset. We so enjoyed the feel of both coasts that we decided to float away the following day in exactly the same way – nature hike, beach walk, ocean float, bubble tea smoothies, monster waves and hammocks. Another beautiful day in paradise.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 112: Equal Night

 

Today we said goodbye to Phil and his kids Joe, Imogen and Zack. At the camp families come and go all summer and each time a family leaves there is always an emotional goodbye; hugs, pictures in the garden, second round of hugs, circle hugs with jumping, and then a procession of farewell honks from the red pickup truck until our friends have driven around the bend and out of sight. Though there were no double hugs or circle hugs with jumping, our goodbye with the kids was just as sentimental. We enjoyed going on the hike, playing frisbee, listening to their Harry Potter accents and hearing Phil’s travel adventures which once landed him in a Salvadoran prison. We gave everyone a high five as they drove away in the scooter taxi with a makeshift side car and thought about the hundreds of families we have said goodbye to in our years at the camp. We have helped to run the camp for ten summers, welcoming an average of 70 families per year which equals 700 drawn out goodbyes. So you can see why over thirty years, my mother is so well loved. 2100+ goodbyes. 2100+ hugs, double hugs, circle jumping hugs and honks. We have been blessed to offer such a fulfilling experience to so many people and to feel the joy of their gratitude.

 

We both finished off another book today while lying in the hammocks and since there was a new shipment of fruits off the ferry, we bought a jumbo juicy, sweet drippy pineapple for our afternoon snack. This thing was the size of my head and we enjoyed every last tongue numbing morsel until our bowels gurgled with delight. Eating freshly cut pineapple by the sea has become one of our favourite daily rituals. Apparently there is only one way to cut a pineapple here in Thailand because whenever Alyssa begins, the old lady who operates the stand pulls the knife from her hand and shows her the “proper” way. So now I always volunteer to cut the pineapples because the old lady would not dare take the knife from a man! Oh the joys of traveling in patriarchal societies.

 

After our nightly game of ultimate frisbee, we jumped into the ocean and could not believe the difference in the waves. The nice predictable uniform lines of barreling breaks were replaced with a mishmash of swells being pushed and pulled in all directions at once. We have swam in the ocean every night for 15 days and had yet to see the Andaman sea behave this way. This did not detract one bit from the fun however. Later that night when we were waiting for our dinner, we realized what date it was. Every time we hear the date we are surprised because we never have the slightest clue. Some days seem to last for ever as you bake away in the tropical heat, while others pass by in the blink of an eye. Was that yesterday or two days ago…no, that was this morning? These are common occurrences for us.

 

We realized it was March 20th. The ocean was all flustered today because it was getting ready for its dinner date with the Spring Equinox. Equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night) because around this time of year, the night and day are of equal length. This happens twice a year and unlike us, the ocean was not confused with the dates. Our planet’s cycles are truly amazing and to witness the semiannual dance between the cosmos and the sea was spectacular. WOW! What more can we learn from our great teacher?

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.