Todd Goes Places...

Speaking English

When traveling for any significant amount of time, it’s easy to reach a point of tiredness, when you start to feel slightly jaded with every new city traveled to and every historical site seen. Eventually, the initial joy of whisking yourself around from country to country with no real itinerary or plan eventually starts to fade. As the days start to blur together, you begin to crave something more, something different.

While in Vietnam, I started to research if there was something I could get involved in, something with structure which wouldn’t be focused primarily on only what I wanted to do day to day. The Vaughan Town English program seemed to fit the bill. The idea being that it brings volunteer English speakers to converse in English with Spaniards in a secluded resort town setting. Days are filled with one-on-one conversations, mock conference calls, group activities, and whatever else is necessary to help the Spaniards think in English by the end of the week. Seeing some openings for the program, I submitted my application, got accepted, and then proceeded to forget all about it for the next few months. Then suddenly as I was entering Spain on the last leg of my trip, it dawned on me that soon I was going to be pushed into a job of sorts where I had an hourly schedule and and needed talk for eleven hours a day for an entire week. A feeling of apprehensiveness set in as I wondered what I got myself into.

Yet as I boarded the bus to Valdelavilla and sat next to a 19 year old Spaniard, Ana, and began talking, any sort of nervousness I felt initially washed away. Talking for a few hours isn’t difficult when you’re genuinely interested in people’s lives. And there is something to be said about meeting people from all walks of life and from all around the world. People with unique personalities and perspectives. An Irishman who quickly transitions any conversation into Christopher Walken quotes at the drop of a hat (“There’s this lion…”) or a Spanish girl, studying Biochemistry, who is a self-proclaimed badass at Badminton. A teacher from Liverpool who just fancies a cuddle from time to time or a young Spanish guy who absorbed every piece of American slang you threw at him and would use it at unexpectedly perfect times (“I’m the shit!”). Somehow it felt a little bit like everyone’s personality complimented everyone else’s. And, after the first day or two, everyone was comfortable. Hour long one-on-one sessions passed with ease. Nights went from dinner… into dance parties… then singing parties… and then just kept going long after that. These were people who you felt you could confide in and, if the moment called for it, act completely ridiculous around without fearing being judged. And as cliche as it sounds, I feel I learned just as much as the Spaniards during the week, whether it be about family life in Spain, aspirations and dreams, the (very) basics of salsa dancing (thanks Diana!), green energy, Spanish politics, other’s travels, various ways to use the word “cajones”, terrible hip hop dance moves, or hilarious pickup lines (“Love is like a fountain…” and “¿Quieres desayuno mañana?”). I definitely learned an eclectic mix over the week.

(Lunch at Valdelavilla.)

(Outside the bar, probably talking about stars for an hour.)

After the week was over, the goodbyes said, and I could sit and reflect on it, I realized that somehow despite traveling for months on end it’s remarkable how this trip can still reach even higher and higher points. The week at Valdelavilla is certainly a highlight of the trip. I’ll talk about the week in the same light as seeing the Pyramids, the struggles in India, or the craziness of Songkran in Thailand. The week was a great change of pace and filled a void I didn’t realize I was missing on this trip. I was debating signing up for another program next year but at this point I just don’t know if it’ll be the same. Maybe there was something unique about these specific people coming together now. Either way, I have great memories from everyone in the program and hope someday we’ll meet again. 

So if anyone from the program is reading this and ever finds themselves traveling to the United States, look me up and send me an email. We can grab a beer, speak some English, and if a dance party happens to break out… well then so be it.

(One of the many dance parties.)

(Group photo.)

* Most of the photos courtesy of Mike.

The Bullfight

Watching a bullfight in Spain is just one of those things you do if you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity. The country being in economic crisis and subsequently cancelling many of the bullfights in the summer, I thought I was going to miss out. But as fate would have it, and with a bit of last minute luck, I happened to find myself at one in Sevilla. 

For something as gruesome as bullfighting there are plenty of beautiful ceremonial aspects. There’s a large orchestra producing a real time soundtrack to the action. Well trained horses in showy gear and trotted about randomly. Matadors are dressed head to toe in bright ridiculously ornate outfits. One thing is for certain, it is a spectacle. 

I’m not going to get into long-winded descriptions of everything involved in bullfighting but it’s safe to say that in my mind the controversy surrounding it seems largely justified. Matadors get gored and trampled. Bulls get tortured. And at the end of each fight, a very exhausted and bleeding bull gets mocked even further by a matador and ultimately killed, usually in a much slower process than you would hope for. While I’m not a fan, I don’t judge Spaniards for keeping the event alive. The stands were full of both Spaniards and tourists alike. I may never attend a fight again but it’s clear that in most of Spain I’m the minority.

Still, in the end, it was pretty interesting to watch once.

So much to sum up, so little time

I know I’ve been pretty lazy here lately. It’s surprisingly easy to do. All it takes is a hostel with limited (read: no) personal space or simply too much on my agenda for a destination and this journal gets quickly shuffled to back burner. As is it stands though I’ve currently rented an apartment for a week in Granada and have neither excuse to fall back on. So here… we… go….

Florence, Italy

(View from the Duomo in the middle of town.)

Florence is a bit like a touristy fairy tale. While I’m sure it’s classified as a city, most of what I experienced felt like a small town. It’s filled with narrow cobble stone streets extending web-like from a myriad of piazzas and historic churches. Gelaterias, cafes with terraces, and quaint restaurants line the streets and alleys. It felt a bit like a place trying to figure out the most efficient way to fatten me up. I don’t understand what Florence is other than a romantic place to stroll around lazily and eat an endless amount of gelato and drink wine. Actually, I hung out with  a traveler from China, Melissa, who I personally watched eat gelato four times in a single day while we saw the city. That’s just what you do. It’s sort of like if you haven’t just had gelato, you’re walking to get gelato.

(Sunset.)

Milan, Italy

Milan was a bit like what you would imagine a place centered around fashion to be. Everyone dressed impeccably well doing typical, everyday things often to the point of ridiculousness. It wasn’t uncommon to find guys in three piece suits pushing their kids in strollers through the park while eating a slice of pizza in the blazing afternoon sun. I will admit though that there is definitely something bizarrely attractive about women in short skirts and heels riding bicycles to work. Completely and utterly impractical but it felt sort of like I was walking through a city staged in a perpetual fashion photo shoot.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a real city, which is always refreshing to be in. It’s a place you can immediately see does something outside of catering to tourists. Tourism is merely a byproduct of it having a rich culture and active night life. That’s not to say their aren’t exceptionally touristy parts (i.e.; La Ramblas) but I think those exist in just about every city. An interesting aspect is besides experiencing art in it’s many museums, it’s also dotted with beautiful, if not a little showy, pieces of architecture done by Antoni Gaudi. You can easily walk around and find historic houses he was commissioned to do on smaller streets and well away from the crowds. As I mentioned before one of the draws of the city is its nightlife and I happened to be there during a time when Barcelonians were celebrating… well… something. No one could properly explain it to me, but the end results were dozens  of live music venues setup in the streets within such a small distance of each other that when the band near you stopped playing you could just turn and face a different band and different venue. I can easily see why the city is a big destination for people from around the world.

Another interesting aspect about Barcelona is just how much it’s embraced “street” art and graffiti. Most doors, coverings for shops, and well just about anything not historical is covered in often incredibly artistic and beautiful graffiti or temporary art installations.

(A cool art installation in a random alley.)

Valencia, Spain.

Almost everyone giving me recommendations for places to go in Spain told me to avoid Valencia but for the life of me I can’t figure out why. It’s a much smaller place than Barcelona and has a smaller night life, but the city is beautiful and the people were incredibly friendly. The new science and art area is a marvel of architecture, looking like it was ripped from one of those “Worlds of Tomorrow” exhibits. 

(Art and Science Museum)

The aquarium there was a nice change of pace and supposedly the largest in Europe. 

(Inside the Aquarium)


As always here are some Random Ruminations on the places I’ve been:

  1. I don’t know how Italians aren’t all bulbous and obese. For how many carbs almost every dish contains, be it the pizza, pasta, or gelato, I figured they’d all look like Tony Soprano but oddly they don’t. The only way I can explain it is a massive bulimia epidemic.
  2. It’s interesting to see how far I can stretch the three years of Spanish I learned in high school here in Spain. The further I’ve ventured from Barcelona, the less and less people speak English so I’ve had to make do with what little Spanish I know and what little I could quickly pick up. And I think I’m doing remarkably well. I may not be conjugating my verbs perfectly and it may take me a minute to decipher large numbers off the top of my head but all in all I’m able to communicate with people. Although she wasn’t a big fan of me and gave me C’s through most of our years, I think Senora Wilson (Spanish teacher) would be proud.
  3. Spain is one of the only places I’ve traveled to that thoroughly believes in and follows the “hair of the dog that bit you” philosophy. In the morning in Barcelona, everyone heads to cafes and drinks a beer and it’s completely socially acceptable. I watched two ladies in their 70s at a neighboring table drink two beers a piece at nine in the morning. 
  4. The much talked about “siesta” is nothing short of a religion in Spain. For most shops or businesses, siesta runs from about 2PM - 5PM. For restaurants, it’s roughly 4PM - 8PM. Subsequently while traveling in Spain you tend to adopt the same policy; going and grabbing some tapas, drinking your weight in wine or beer, and then lazily retreating for a midday nap. It’s incredibly enjoyable. However, it’s not exactly a surprise when you read about a country’s economy in turmoil when they have 3 hour lunch/nap breaks in the middle of the day.

Welp… I’m currently wrapping up in Granada about to head to Sevilla tomorrow. Hopefully I can do these posts a little more justice as I continue on.

Until then…

Not Quite Up-to-Date

Boy am I slacking on this site lately. Expect a post in the next few days once I get all settled in Granada, encompassing Florence and Milan, Italy; and Barcelona and Valencia, Spain.

Soon…

Where the Buffalo Rome

Rome. Wow. Imagine an outdoor museum that stretches for a couple hundred square miles, throw in some pizza and gelato, and you got Rome. The city is full of things to see. You can casually wander around and literally stumble across a historical fountain or a set of ancient columns, some of which don’t even have a historical reference. Eventually I think the city just decided they were done with the whole historical sight business. After the dozen incredibly famous sights and the thirty or so second tier ones, who’s going to care about a random piazza with some old columns in it. It made my random strolls around town remarkable. It’s not often you can go get some gelato and curiously turn around to find yourself hanging out in the shade of something from 100AD.

Rightfully, as Rome is packed with sights, it’s also packed with people. It’s essentially Kings Dominion or any amusement park on it’s worst day multiplied by a hundred. People will literally wait in line for hours in the blistering heat to get in the Colosseum. If you go to the Vatican on the wrong day, the wait is easily two hours. And I don’t blame people for waiting. I mean a lot of this you have to see when in Rome. It’s a whole lot better than waiting an hour to get to go up in that stupid Eiffel Tower thing at Kings Dominion. And that’s not to say there aren’t tricks to the lines that anyone with half a brain and an Internet connection can figure out (i.e.: audio guide line at the Colosseum is 4 minutes vs. 1 hour without - I’ll gladly pay the extra 4 Euros for the guide and my time).

So here’s a quick list of my favorite sites in order:

1. The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

(Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.)

Ok, the Vatican is bit ridiculous. It’s crowded and I could take or leave 80% of the art found in it. But the Vatican layout is pretty clever. They wind you through halls and halls of repetitive busts, sculptures, paintings, and tapestries for what could easily be an hour. Slowly as you start nearing the end, all of a sudden you start finding yourself in front some of the most famous artwork you’ve seen, Raphael’s frescos. Paintings you studied for the Renaissance period in Art History 101 are all around you. After spending forever trying to hurry through and around the slow people intensely staring at tapestry after tapestry, you find that you are now the slow person. People have to move around you as you stand in their way and study amazingly famous works, like “The School of Athens”. Until finally at the end of the Vatican tour route you find yourself looking up at the Sistine Chapel. And it’s beyond amazing. The whole “cluster” that is Vatican is immediately wiped clean as you stand there trying to take it all in. And that’s it. You leave on such a high that despite the crowds, I would tell anyone visiting Rome they couldn’t miss seeing it.

2. St. Peter’s Basilica.

(Inside St. Peter’s.)

Alright, everything in Rome is some church or some country of churches but St. Peter’s Basilica stands out just for it’s sheer size. It’s the largest church in the world by a huge margin. It’s huge. And yet, still remarkably beautiful. Statues and paintings cover the 150 ft walls lining the aisles. Likewise, the statues are massive. Even the tiny cherubs are 6 feet tall. Paying an extra 5 Euros, I got walk the 550 steps to get to the top of the dome, a feat my feet weren’t entirely prepared for after a day walking. But the view of the iconic St. Peter’s square was worth it.

3. The Pantheon.

For it’s size and fame, it’s interesting that it’s sort of hidden down some narrow alleys in a small piazza in the middle of the city. In my eyes, this is the reason it is one of my favorite sites. I could sit at a cafe a drink espresso only fifty feet from it’s massive columns. Inside is nice as well. And as an added bonus, it’s entirely free.

4. Dali exhibit at the Vittoriano Museum.

Salvador Dali has been my favorite surrealist long before I knew surrealism existed. Having discovered prints of his melting clocks and elephants with spider legs in the print store in the mall when I was a kid, my appreciation of his work has obviously grown since. After discovering an exhibit of his work was finishing it’s run while I was in Rome, I had to go and it didn’t disappoint. (Side note: Dali’s work is also oddly hanging in the Vatican’s Modern Art section.)

5. Colosseum.

(The classic touristy picture of Rome.)

I’m going to be honest, the Colosseum while grand and iconic was a bit of a let down for me. Regrettably, stone robbers and earthquakes have put it in it’s current state of ruin and thus you have to use a lot of imagination to conjure up the visuals for what it was like in its prime. It is still the quintessential site to see in Rome and so I don’t regret going but it didn’t leave me with the sense of awe the other sites did. 

That’s all I’m listing. If you were considering going to Rome ever, go. It’s easy to travel around in, most people speak at least a little English, and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. You won’t get a ton of everyday Italian culture but you will get plenty of history. Just go in the off season… if that exists. 

I’m currently in Florence, Italy for a bit so expect at least one more post on Italian food and how I can’t comprehend how every Italian isn’t fat. Currently, my front running theory is bulimia. No other way to explain it.

Until then…

Prague in 4 Words: ‘Beautiful Architecture, Cheap Beer’

(Liter Beers… these probably only cost us $3.00.)


(View of Prague and Charles St. Bridge)

(View of the Castle at sunset.)


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Ok, I’m being a bit lazy with this post but I’m currently in Rome and I’m exhausted. This is an effort to get caught up so in the next few days I can write a more legit post on the expansiveness and spectacle that is Rome.

Until then, and so it goes.

Turkey for me, Turkey for you

I’m currently in Bodrum, Turkey, staying in Rauf’s grandparent’s house and waking up to this view every morning:

(Bodrum view)

Staying in a house by ourselves has plenty of advantages; multiple bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, and space to workout. But the main one being that we have a full kitchen and grill. As much fun as it is eating out every meal, the pattern gets old and, Egypt’s food poisoning aside, it gets pretty unhealthy. Waking up, making my own cup of coffee, and fixing breakfast is a routine I didn’t know I missed until now. I can’t count the amount of bad cups of coffee I’ve had over the past three months and it’s nice to finally break the streak. We’ve also spent the past few nights grilling lamb, chicken, steak, fish, and an assortment of fresh vegetables and they’ve been some of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had of late. Sitting out on the terrace eating a steak, drinking some wine or whiskey, and finishing the night with Season 2 of Arrested Development has been a sublime change of pace. Anyone who thinks they can keep up the rate of travel we’ve been lately and not long for some sort of break from it is sorely mistaken.

Besides Bodrum, the other obvious highlight of Turkey has been Istanbul. Istanbul is the first city we’ve hit on this trip that is technically (partially) in Europe and it’s a refreshing change. I’m not saying I didn’t immensely enjoy South East Asia, India, and Egypt but it is just so much easier to travel in European cities. Tons of cafes, tons of restaurants, fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t carry the veiled threat of food borne illness, lots of English speaking locals ready to woo you into their stores and restaurants…. However, you tend to pay for these luxuries. Outside of Australia, Istanbul has probably been the most expensive place we’ve traveled yet. But it’s worth it, I assure you.

(Inside the Hagia Sophia)

The city is divided by the snaking Bosphorus River; one side in Europe and the other in Asia. We stayed mostly in the European side where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and dozen other famous attractions were only a leisurely two minute walk away. The city is beautiful and has that common narrow cobblestone street charm you often hope to find. The skyline with it’s minarets and mosques freckled throughout is amazing. All of the sites we went to were likewise amazing. It boils down to the city was pretty amazing. It’s a city that I could see recommending to every person I know, unless of course I hate you and then I’d just assume a late night arrival to New Delhi or some fresh cucumbers in Cairo. But Istanbul has everything you could want in a city as a travel destination; historic culture, nightlife, restaurants, shopping, sites, strong coffee, baklava, and most importantly the people can speak at least enough English for you to not have to resort to gesturing like an idiot for a glass of juice. Its interesting what makes a city enjoyable at this point.

So what’s next… we’ll be in Bodrum for another week it seems, travel further south to a few cities, fly back to Istanbul for a bit, then into mainland Europe for the final leg of the trip. I’ve got another three months left before I return and the months just seem to be blazing by at this point. Before long it’ll be back to family and friends and whatever remnants of the “real world” still exist for me.

But until then I press on…

Halfway: Some (Rough) Stats

Since I’m just over halfway through the trip, I thought it might be interesting to calculate some statistics on this trip up to this point:

Miles Traveled (roughly):

25,700 Miles ** 

To put this distance in perspective, the circumference of the World is 24,901 miles.

(** I calculated as if I flew everywhere and then added a modest additional 1,000 miles since most of the time we were on trains and buses and had layovers in China and Bahrain.)

Countries Traveled (not counting layovers):

  1. USA (Obviously)
  2. Australia
  3. Singapore
  4. Malaysia
  5. Thailand
  6. Cambodia
  7. Vietnam
  8. India
  9. Egypt
  10. Turkey

Cities Traveled to (at least one night spent there):

  1. Portland, Oregon
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. Grant’s Pass, Oregon (slept in a Denny’s parking lot)
  4. San Francisco, California
  5. Grand Canyon, Arizona
  6. San Diego, California
  7. Oahu, Hawaii
  8. Sydney, Australia
  9. Brisbane, Australia
  10. Singapore, Singapore
  11. Mersing, Malaysia
  12. Tioman Island, Malaysia
  13. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  14. Penang, Malaysia
  15. Bangkok, Thailand
  16. Koh Samet, Thailand
  17. Siem Reap, Cambodia
  18. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  19. Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City)
  20. Hoi An, Vietnam
  21. Hanoi, Vietnam
  22. New Delhi, India
  23. Jaipur, India
  24. Pushkar, India
  25. Agra, India
  26. Cairo, Egypt
  27. Istanbul, Turkey
  28. Izmir, Turkey (Currently)
Number of Flights: 8
 
Number of Trains: 7
 
Number of Buses: 9
 
Favorite Country: Cambodia - some of the friendliest people I’ve met.
 
Favorite City: Istanbul, Turkey.
 
Top Three Sites Seen:
  1. The Great Pyramids
  2. Grand Canyon
  3. The Taj Mahal

Top Three Worst Moments:

  1. First night in New Delhi.
  2. Food poisoning in Cairo.
  3. Actually, I’m listing the first night in New Delhi again. It deserves it.

Animal Ridiculousness:

  1. Held a koala bear.
  2. Fed kangaroos.
  3. Fed wallabies.
  4. Pet dingo.
  5. Fish spa.
  6. Fed, rode, swam with elephants.
  7. Pet tigers.
  8. Rode camels into the desert.
  9. Rode horses.
Top Three Favorite Moments:
  1. Riding a horse alone for the first time around the Pyramids.
  2. Arriving on the last ferry of the night to Tioman Island with no reservations, praying the hotel we got off at had an available room, ending up with an amazing room overlooking the ocean, and spending our last few dollars on beer.
  3. Seeing the Grand Canyon after a night spent driving through snow and sleeping in our car due to landslides and road closures.

Top Three Bizarre People I’ve Met:

  1. The taxi driver explaining the origin of the name of Tioman Island. “Tio - BIRD! You, me, us - MEN!”
  2. The Chinese Monk staying in our hostel in Penang who would just perpetually  pat my belly whenever he saw me.
  3. The taxi driver in Bangkok who would yell as loud as he could when he saw lady-boys standing on the street. “AHHHHHHHHHH!”
Top Three Things Missed (outside of Family and Friends):
  1. Taking a shower in a legitimate shower. 
  2. Not having to pack all of my possessions into a backpack every few days.
  3. A Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger.
Most Expensive Beer Purchased: An $18 Tiger Beer (think Budweiser-esque) on top of the Sands Hotel in Singapore.

Man, I would kill a person for a bacon cheeseburger right now… 

The Pyramids and the Pharaoh’s Curse

(I just realized the title of this post sounds like an episode of Scooby Doo.)

When we left the States a few months ago, Egypt was still a maybe. The political unrest and occasional news report showing the military dispersing violent protesters in Tahrir Square weren’t exactly reassuring. But frankly after India, I feel I could probably vacation in Afghanistan with ease. And thus, we flew to Cairo…

Maybe at one point there were violent protests but the entire time I was there everyone was remarkably peaceful. There was an excitement about the upcoming election (I think it’s today actually) but that was all. Campaign marches and people honking horns were the wildest it got. And we frequently walked through Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests. And nothing crazy. So if you were worried about going to Cairo, don’t be. Go.

Which leads me to the Pyramids, which are amazing. To add to the event, having never rode a horse alone before, we decided to do a horseback tour of the Pyramids. And it was all awesome. There’s really not a lot more to add. If you ever thought you might like seeing the Pyramids, do it. It’s worth it ten fold.

(It’s safe to say I was excited to see the Pyramids.)

Yet with every peak there is a valley. On day three, while we were wandering around with some other Americans we met in the hostel, we decided to eat some koshari at a roadside restaurant. The koshari was spicy and delicious. The tiny bag of fresh cucumbers in vinegar that came with it were delicious too. Wait… Fresh cucumbers? Fresh? Like not cooked? Like washed in common tap water? Fresh?! Ah fuck.

We somehow skated through the food gauntlet of India and South East Asia without any food borne illnesses and not for a lack of trying. We rolled the food dice quite a bit. But all it took was a few innocent cucumbers to do us in. Thus began the aptly named, Pharaoh’s Curse.

I’d love to tell you about the library in Alexandria or the Valley of the Kings in Luxor but if it wasn’t between our room and the bathroom, I didn’t see it. I can tell you how many tiles are in the hostel bathroom though. The next five days were spent in the hostel, with the occasional trip out to get some french fries from McDonalds.  I can safely say I’m fine now but those last days in Cairo were not pleasant.

And that’s how I’ll remember Egypt; the immense high of seeing the Pyramids and the terrible low of food poisoning. 

Fucking cucumbers…

India - The Adventure

I knew India was going to be difficult. Food poisoning, poverty, scams, language barriers, culture differences, no beef, food poisoning… did I mention food poisoning? The country has all of the obstacles. Naively I thought since I had been traveling for three months in south east Asia I could just waltz in and figure it all out. I was wrong.

Lessons I learned within five hours after landing in India:

1. Don’t fly into the country late at night. Everything closes after midnight. Everything.

2. Despite the fact the taxi driver assured us he knew our hotel and although we had an address and a map of where of the hotel was, we still ended up painfully lost.

3. Confirm and re-confirm and re-re-confirm your hotel bookings as close to you arriving as possible. Our hotel gave up our booking because we arrived late in the day and there was a festival and cricket tournament in Delhi at the time, so they could afford to give our room to a higher paying customer despite our reservations.

4. There is only one legitimate government tourist office in New Delhi and it’s open 9AM to 6PM. I ended up at two “government” tourist offices (scam) between midnight and 1AM.

5. Money can’t solve every problem.

The quick and dirty of it is that we landed around midnight, our taxi driver got lost, our hotel gave up our booking, every hotel (EVERY) was booked because of a festival and the IPL tournament, trains were booked, nothing is open, scam offices tried to sell us drastically inflated trips (thousands of dollars), and the streets are unsafe at night. It’s rare to not have any options. Usually in a worst case scenario you can pull out a credit card and book an expensive hotel or go to something that’s open all night and just hang out until morning. Delhi squashed both of those options.

Thankfully we had a tuk tuk driver that stayed with us and exhausted every contact he had for hotels and drivers and any person he knew for hours trying to help us out. Eventually he found a personal driver, Bablu, who would drive us between some destination towns and cities and arrange accommodation for us along the way for a fraction of what the scam offices were selling. So at 3AM we found ourselves being driven for six hours to a city we had never heard of until 2 minutes ago. And that was all in the first few hours of the trip…

(Floating Palace)

Jaipur was our first stop and the floating palace was probably the highlight for me. The bottom two floors of this palace are under water in the photo above. What’s crazy is in one month that lake will be completely dry and kids will play games of cricket on the lake bed. 

(Our transportation)

In Pushkar we rode camels into a hail storm and ultimately ended up having dinner in the desert with our only light being the heat lightning above. Hanging out in the desert at night, having a few beers, and listening to our guide, who used the word “fuck” like it was his job, describe how he would fight the husband of the woman he loves was a crazy, great time.

(The Taj)

And of course the highlight, while in Agra we went to the Taj Mahal. I can confirm that it is beyond amazing. Even though the pictures of it are pretty great, it doesn’t quite do it justice. And to be there when the sun was just coming up in the morning and the white marble started to have a pale yellow glow, just added to the event. 

(Us with Bablu)

The last few nights we hung out in Delhi and saw the sights. The highlight being when our driver, Bablu, invited us to have dinner at his house with his family. We spent the night watching cricket and eating a home cooked meal with a normal Indian family. A very humbling experience.

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That was India in a nutshell. It was amazing. It started out on as low of a note as I’ve experienced on this trip and yet ended on some amazing highs. In the end, I’m glad things turned out the way they did. Without the initial setbacks which led to the spontaneous road trip, I know I wouldn’t have had the great time that I did. In the end, India felt like the first country where I actually experienced some real adventure.

Just next time I’ll plan accordingly…