Posts tagged “travel

Accidental Mindfulness

Posted on 13 April 2017

How many hours have slid by as I peered out of a window, strange lands passing along beside me? Of those times, how many have I disembarked from a train, bus, plane, shouldering my pack, unsure of where I was going next, where I would sleep? Enough to almost fully know that fluttering panic won’t help. Enough to often suppress the urge. Enough to observe what comes and go along with it, nearly sans distress. A shaky stillness came to me unconsciously, over time. This isn’t my natural state: it took plenty of those trains, buses, and planes to reach a place where—had you told me this before, I would have laughed at you, askance—I don’t think too hard and instead calmly move along.…

A Place Is What It Is

Posted on 14 March 2017

Alaska in winter. Skeptical and bemused expressions acknowledged my plans. “What will the temperature be? Will there be any daylight?” Interesting questions and yet, the answers don’t matter. My friend alerted me to an airline ticket sale to Fairbanks, where she lives. I could get cheap tickets through February. So, I went when I could go and I was glad. February is a reality. Winter in Alaska is a longer reality. The point is: I’ll go at any accessible time. The corollary is: I want to see a place for what it is, not what I want it to be. Of course, everyone has a mental filter through which their impressions fall. What is called reality is only a part-truth, for no one can…

A Storm in the Desert

Posted on 22 February 2017

I had never been here before. The excitement of the new sprung out at me and I sprung back. And a rabbit sprung near me as I plunged down a hill, exclaiming at each new variety of cacti that I saw. The sun was strong and light and in the distance the cliffs of Sierra del Carmen rose above the border. The cacti distracted me from the greyness approaching, but then I felt a raindrop in the desert. And another. And I covered my camera with my arms as best I could and galloped back up the hill toward our vehicles as the drops became steady and hard. We huddled in one of our cars as the steely blue sky swirled above us, and…

Borderlands

Posted on 18 January 2017

Ink, after drawn, can blur, but a pen can tear through paper. Borders are a human invention. At times, they stand in the way of geography. But like many other abstract human creations, they have great and terrible consequences. I’ve passed through many borders. Some hardly seem to exist: you’re riding down a road and, at some point, unnoticed, pass over an invisible line. One country to another, passport still tucked away. Other borders are chaotic: long walks over dirt roads, popping in one building after another, unsteadily securing visas, customs forms, stamps. There are other borders, torn down borders, whose remains I have stared at: a concrete wall which held a no man’s land, crosses line the grass today. Some borders kill slowly,…

Too Briefly, Yangon

Posted on 18 October 2016

The roads were wide and the buildings were tall. Our taxi circled roundabouts with traffic. After the hills of Shan State, Yangon was big and hot, but exciting. As our driver took us from the airport to our hotel, we sped by malls and apartments on the rise. He pointed out Inya Lake as we drove by. “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi lives there. You know her?” Less than two months prior, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won a supermajority of seats in Myanmar’s parliament – a rapid change given that she had only been released from fifteen years of non-consecutive house arrest at the end of 2010. Dissidence had been brutally crushed over decades of military rule, but now, our driver…

An Infiltrating Soft Light

Posted on 30 August 2016

We stepped into a small concrete and corrugated metal shelter just off the rutted dirt road. I sat down and bent forward slightly; some digestive issues had presented themselves that morning, a couple of hours prior. Our guides dipped a tin cup into a pot of water for road wayfarers and took some sips. I took a few gulps from my water bottle. Then, we all shouldered our packs and trudged onward. The road veered to and fro, switchbacking up the steep hillside. Periodically we’d cut upward on pedestrian paths, shortcutting the curves. I grabbed the fabric of my elephant pants which weren’t particularly well-fitting on my thighs for the steeper climbs. We dripped sweat. Frequently we’d hear the telltale chugging of a trucktor…

Where I Cling To

Posted on 8 August 2016

Ten years ago I saw an empty city. The sun still glowed above the roofs, despite the hour, and brightened the grey streets that hardly anyone trod upon, apart from me, my family, and my friend. We looked for food and all that was open was a McDonald’s. I think I ordered an ice cream for dinner. And yet, in the photos I’m grinning, my cheeks almost uncomfortably wide, flashing a thumbs up. It was juhannus, midsummer, and it was my first time in Finland, in Helsinki. My first impressions of Helsinki were a bit weird, being based on the unusual reality of the city’s population clearing out for the holiday. Finland drew me in, to be sure, but my first visits were centered…

Just Ahead and Right in Front of You

Posted on 20 July 2016

Just walk down the road. Walk that way. And then turn right. The stairs are there. We had ascended through the hills to Pindaya in the early afternoon. In short time after checking into our hotel, we’d arranged a trek to leave the following morning. Eagerness was rustling beneath the surface of my skin as we set out to explore for the day. The stairs we were directed to were longer and steeper than we thought. Straight up the wall of hills as Myanmar rises in the north. Sweat soon got the better of us. The cave, however, swallowed us with a welcome coolness. We milled around with others through the winding passages, some wide, some very narrow, making our way between, underneath thousands…

Things That Are Shared

Posted on 30 June 2016

The early morning chill that had settled under our skin had dissipated, hastened away by two cups of delicious chai at a Nepalese restaurant during our early lunch. We now walked the glowing tan streets of Nyaungshwe, just peering around, wandering. By the canal I heard Russian, two men taking photos. In accented Russian I inquired: do you want me to take a photo of both of you? Fluently they responded: where are you from? They became enthusiastic when they learned I was from the United States and knew Russian through my studies. They were Oleh and Dima, from Ukraine. Oleh was working in Myanmar, but taking a little vacation. Dima was with him. Their excitement bounded over: what are you doing tomorrow, here?…

To Be Light

Posted on 30 May 2016

It’s 5am and we’re speeding down the mostly empty road, our electric scooter’s headlight cutting a path through the dark. Intermittently, motor scooters speed by with a polite warning honk. I crouch lower behind Ben, shivering in the wind, while widening my eyes in search of our turnoff. We found the correct location, scouted out on our wanderings a couple of days before. The temple we had planned on entering was locked, so we scaled a stupa across the way. Sitting on a ledge, we fiddled with our cameras and shivered as the black gave way to grey, illuminating the clouds overhead. The sky turned grey-blue, then patches of pink flared. To our left, hot air balloons appeared from behind one of the larger…