Aushwitz

I went to Aushwitz because part of my family has been in a concentration camp.  My grandma herself went to Aushwitz, and was a survivor, due to her late arrival there. It’s extremely confronting to imagine growing up in such a world. What happened there, in smaller scales, happened in a lot of other places. It’s a dark topic. Dark theme. But it has a sort of importance that only needs to be addressed a few times to leave a lasting impression. It has a magnitude and gravity which is so encompassing and hard to believe.

I was in Krakow (the big city near to the small town of Aushwitz) and had a sort of emotionless readiness to going to the concentration camp. It’s so strange putting your clothes on that day, getting breakfast, it’s all so frivolous and innocent in the shadow of what you are about to see.

A few times I wondered if I should go. It’ll be too heavy, to unlike the no frills backpacker life I’ve been embarking on. I did go; I would have felt too conflicted to miss it. It was just that hard to go as an observer, imagine being forced to go, during the time many years ago.

Just the historical impact on my family during the war made me feel obliged. So I took the train, to this small town an hour outside of Krakow. The historical site was packed, and you had to have a guide to go in. It took a few hours to get a guide, so in the meantime I walked to the other part of the camp, Birkenau. Aushwitz is a two location camp. One was a work camp, the other an extermination camp /housing place. Aushwitz began as the small work camp, and expanded to the other camp called Birkeanau (It was in this camp where the majority of deaths occurred).While waiting the few hours for my guide I wandered around Birkenau alone for a bit. What a weird, gloomy, toxic place to find myself. The grass grows; the buildings are sparse and ghost like. Hard to believe the lives lived (if you could call it that) and lifelessness created in such a place. What an odd backdrop for an awful history of humanity. Wandering for a few hours, I returned back to Aushwitz to begin the tour. Walking through the office buildings, the housing areas. They had these displays of human hair, since everyone who arrived got their heads shaved. How many peoples human hair you could fit in this massive part of a room. Enough to fill a small apartment. A symbol of the magnitude of people.

When I was in Berlin before this, I remember seeing a photo of some Nazi’s at Aushwitz smoking cigarettes and having some beers. The caption said “Taking a break from mass murder”. Really struck me that moment, they looked indistinguishable from regular people, enjoying regular life. Laughing and having a relaxing moment. How brainwashed the times must have been back then. Really hard to understand.

I captioned abit of this in my journal at the time. It read:

If you imagine a regular prison to be housed with murderers, now imagine a prison full of innocent people, now run by murderers. Aushwitz was a very dark place. At its peak it could execute 4000 people a day. A small town a day, 365 days of the year, for a few years. A total 1.1 million are said to of died.

It was very surreal to be on one plot of land, at one point on the earth, the span of a house, where perhaps 100s of thousands of people have died.

The Nazis were propagandist. Misleading and downplaying every step of the way. “It’s just a shower, bring all your belongings.” It was a reality no one challenged, they had no belief it could be as it truly was. No one said prove those are showers, or prove you won’t kill us. Everyone marched into a room because of the story they were told, the humanity they thought people had to have. If they were told it was a gas chamber, they would riot, so lies were the easiest form of control. 

I couldn’t understand why other countries didn’t bomb the railways, bomb the fences of the camps, and disrupt the flow. It took years to walk onto the soil with the intent of helping. For years, governments felt their hands were tied, or simply didn’t know. I wondered about that.

They had a room, the size of a small closet, where they made people just stand. Where there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit. Imagine 40 people in a tiny closet. For a few days.

They had German war criminals run these camps. The imagination of an individual like this, able to beat, yell, and practically kill at will, a license to act out his darkest fantasies. What tragedy that humanity let such people indulge like that. In the biggest housing of the camp they would have 5 people to a bunk. The bottom people had sometimes been eaten by rats during the night. People’s feces from higher bunks would fall on these people. It was a mud, blood, feces bath on the bottom bunks. 

Prisons would get cold coffee (I think more like black water), soup made of rotten vegetables, and a piece of bread all day. It sounds like I’m over dramatizing it, but I believe that’s actually what it said during tours and books I’ve seen. My breakfast was more than these people who worked sometimes 11 hour days, with the equivalent of thin Pajamas (not onesies) during cold Poland snowy winters. Since more people were arriving every day, the moment you couldn’t keep up, you were killed. Public killings, hangings, were all common. If you escaped, they would hang 10 of your cell mates and leave them outside for everyone to see. An unbelievable, and really, unthinkable world. They had a shooting wall at Auschwitz. You would be taken to this wall and shot in the head. It’s strange to see this wall. It’s just a wall. Without the story behind it then it’s just concrete. With the details, it’s human, deeply troubling, and a new understanding.

They also had an infirmary where they did medical experiments. How long could a baby go without mother’s milk before it died, what happens if you inject gasoline to the heart. Giving doctors an operating table, endless amount of test subject (aka moms, kids, etc.), money to experiment, tools to use, and permission to go as dark as you wanted. This place really was the bad side of imagination. 

Before going to Auschwitz, I imagined it as a psychology museum. An outward manifestation of the inward feeling of hatred, immense pain, un-regulation, dark indulgences. How much pain inside would it take to do this to people. I imagine in Nazi’s that it was a resentment and anger that was getting unaddressed, building more and more until places like concentration camps began to be their only ways to express that hate. There were no solutions in time for nonviolent ways. The mentality was so vicious.

They say we are a social species and that by nature we don’t kill other humans. How we justify killing humans is by convincing ourselves that they aren’t humans, and dehumanizing another. Once someone isn’t considered human, we don’t have to act with morals of equality. Calling someone a pest, scum, a virus, filth, transforms an equal being to something like a dangerous bug or parasite. How we bend and transform reality with these images and words in our minds. What we see, how we feel about something, is completely dependent on the words we view it with. The propaganda during these times was outrageous. “A loyal worker is a happy worker”. “Tell on your neighbour for reading certain writing, get rewarded”. “Work is freedom”- that was the message as you enter the gates of Aushwitz. Yet people worked to death. How trapped people were. Yet, protesting landed even Germans in Aushwitz. The penalty was so severe; families of political prisoners would be murdered if you escaped. For most, silence was a form of saving themselves and others. How they could march town to town and bring people to these camps shows how high the penalty for resistance was. Maybe they really had that much wealth and power. Guns and a willingness to use them. Companies benefited off of the war. Germany gave tax incentives if you moved to Aushwitz and started business. You could have Aushwitz slaves as your workers. All the gold, the art, and money of these prisoners were sent to the Nazis. They literally kept getting stronger the more they invaded.

 

…….

 

Everyday problems become so small in a world of Aushwitz

In a place of so much death and destruction

Of everyday people loaded up like cattle to die         

What a strange imagination history had

I feel I do so little justice to the true reality and information this place has

How to help…

 

…..

Return to today time:

Aushwitz was a different form of travel. Everything else up to this point was glossy and relaxing. Reflecting back, this was heavy, and a stark counter balance to all I had done before. I was curious, and that was the common theme throughout the whole trip. Aushwitz taught me a lot about the real potential of wrongs that can be done, and have been done. I learned how complex the world is, how strange and unfathomable some events in history are. And worst of all, most unsettling of all, it happened around 80 years ago. There are still survivors alive today. Are we a whole new world? 800 years ago maybe, but 80, I don’t know. The capacity to change from that extreme that quickly, that’s not long ago, we can’t forget that. That to me says a lot. It’s a very intense place. The lessons are still fresh. There are still humans alive today with scars from the times. My grandma passed away a few years ago, and I can only imagine what it was like to start your childhood in such a world, where your family is destroyed before your even a little girl or boy. The topic is relevant even if it’s historical. Hidden from our day to day psyche even if it’s true and important. Thank you Aushwitz for the reality check and the lasting lessons. May we value our lives today. People back then would give anything to be in a café, having tea, enjoying the life and freedom and safety we have today. That’s part two of this post. The confronting that we are so lucky in many ways. That our worst are so small compared to such extreme events and times. It’s a re-evaluation of our daily life. Remembering these hardships of the past is rethinking our hardships of the presents. For me at least it’s an exercise of my imagination, how lucky and blessed someone at the camps in those days would have felt to just wake up one day in my life. I feel more responsible to see that, to value it, to honour it. It’s unfair at times that to value my life more is to compare myself to someone who had it worse. Seeing the light of the world today by exposing myself to the darks of yesterdays.

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Adams local farms journey last year.

Experiences and contemplation’s on farms a year ago.

 

Alot of my posts have been about a big trip I did a few years ago to Europe/India/Nepal. This post is about my experience on farms and with animals whilst maneuvering through BC. I did this a year ago, and this post shares the reflections and lessons I had during that time.

Brief background story.
I was determined to do volunteering and exploring around where I live in Western Canada. Within hours I can explore islands along the coast, or deserts along the interior. It was an exciting plan to mix these destinations with farming and food.

 

I didn’t work at my jobs and did alot of moving around, volunteering in numerous places, trying many different things. Home landscapes, music festivals, food festival, home steads, real farms. It sounded idyllic, but was surprising less tranquil then I imagined it to be. Even the ease of 5 hours a day volunteering can still subjectively feel like alot.

I had high hopes and expectations of where I would be farming. Yet alot of those places I messaged never got back to me in time. So I was on a journey different than the one I initially intended, off to farms I wasn’t seeking, but they needed help, and I needed to work. I was astonished of the delays in responses from some places. That really highlighted I have an intention, and the universe has one, and we got to compromise, and meet in the middle.

 

I was looking for some grass roots, self-sufficiency communal or mom and dad veggie farms, but ended up more at homes just with animals. Some for profit as a business, and others just for themselves to feed their family and friends. I traveled to two places in southern Vancouver Island, then made my way to a place in Galiano Island, afterwords helping a few days in Salt Spring Island. I also volunteered at 4 festivals with a few months, and traveled the interior of B.C., to alot of the towns between here and Nelson. My last agriculture volunteering was at a pig farm in Meritt, then had a final volunteering gig at a local music festival to end the summer. 5 festivals and 5 ‘workaway’ locations, so lots of volunteering projects.

 

To clarify, “Workaway” is a website where you can volunteer with someone in any form they need. Gardening, building, weeding, feeding animals, collecting eggs, etc. It is not necessary to be on a vegetable farm for this to happen.

 

I wrote this post because I was really confronted in many places the reality of raising animals, even in the ‘ethical, small town’ glossy version we imagine. The truth that fatigue and financial strain of the owner directly affects the animals in many ways is sad to really witness. The amount of corners cut which burdened the animal in favour of the owner felt like constant. Everyone had a reason and a pressure going on.

At the time I was mostly vegan, so working around animals was a hope to reassess my values I felt by addressing something more “head on” – my inner conflict about eating meat. My veganism was not based on direct experience of working with small farm animals, so I thought I’d see if that impacted it. There are many arguments that can be made about any diet or lifestyle, for or against it. Some things reinforced my avoidance of meat, and some gave me new questions to ask. On the last days of the farming volunteering project, I took some time to reflect on questions of vegetarianism, local food, and animal welfare. These are questions that came to mind, and thoughts that I learned during my time. Hope something stick out.

  • I hear alot if you had to kill it would you eat it? Well if you had to dig to find the gas for your car would you still drive? Would you only speak a language if you invented it? Fly if you knew how to fly the plane? Wear clothes if you had to pick the cotton and seam every item? Live in an apartment only if you built it? Use the internet only if you coded the website? Have coffee if you had to go to the source yourself and pick it?

 

  • And the wording we use can paint such different pictures. Processing is a lighter way of bluntly saying killing, but that’s too graphic. But then again when I cook my veggies should I just say I am burning them alive? When I chew my carrot am I just stabbing it to death? Is digestion just an acid bath? How extreme can we get with this aspect of labeling and definitions?

 

  • Meat production was no perfect system, even locally, yet I see even veganism has its challenges, especially on a global scale. Huge amounts of land, perhaps endangered land, pulled for mass production of vegetables. With pesticides, mono cropping, the shipping, all the packaging, the heating and cooling, it felt challenging to imagine a very low footprint lifestyle that way. Also, the big near impossibility for full transparency. It’s so hard to know about the soy grown in timbuktu. The workers who picked it, the ones who packaged it, the boat it was shipped on. I thought of another aspect, I’ll call it second degree meat eating. Where I am not eating meat, but the industries I rely on to fulfill that goal is perhaps done by meat eaters. Meat eaters picking food for vegans. It’s like when you see a vegans working at a restaurant that mostly serves meat, probably because it’s just a better paycheque. So I buy soy from half way across the world, and the person who gathered it can now celebrate with a steak, his soy crop selling incredible amounts. The gas it takes to ship everything. That gas and oil industry could be majority meat eaters, getting paid to buy meat off the purchase you made of vegetables. Maybe it seems over thinking, but it was just a thought. I wondered how many people who were a part of me getting my package of tofu were also vegetarian? Did it take 100 non vegans to support one vegan? All the side industries who are kept afloat buy supporting this global food system of veganism. Its complex, and when I see that side effect then nothing is perfect. Maybe veganism is the less of two evils. I believe it surpasses factory farming, but how about local small scale meat production? Is low quality veganism, mass produced veganism, do they outshine proper local meat? Questions to ask. A lot of the negative stats of meat eating are about industrial farming. How about on local farming, where the cow is eating the grass on the land, where the chickens are eating bugs. Will animals exist just in zoo’s or petting farms if the world turns vegan? Again, all different things to wonder.

 

  • During my time I noticed how inequality exists in the small farm of animals no different than in human form. Patterns of fear or scarcity psychology mimic in small groups of animals on the farms I visited. Hoarding food when there is enough to go around thus alienating other animals from getting food, would be an easy example. Literally it’s just a power statement, to create a hierarchy. They would bite and nip at each other just to create a sense of dominance, deciding who got to eat first, even though again there was enough food for everyone to have an equal generous amount. Every animal would crowd around a small pile of food when there was a giant one right next to them. They were in such a tunnel vision and stress mode they would not even notice the other pile of food next to them. There was no human mistreatment leading to this, just nature confused in an unfamiliar habitat. Perhaps no matter how well fed they were daily, there was a looming anxiety to them. They have no influence over if they get fed or not, perhaps that is the stress. They have no independence, and that is their fear. To them it is unpredictable and unempowering. Only my guess.

 

  • The sounds on the farm can be really disturbing. Pig squeals are so high pitched. Cows that are ready to mate can be extremely loud and aggressive. How strange it is for them to feel trapped. I suppose in nature they always felt the possibilities to move, to roam, but they have no ability to explore now, it’s so limited for them (I want to empathize that this was this specific location. I have read about other farms were cows, pigs, chickens, have tons of land, more land than they could utilize, so this is not one of those). When a family owns one cow, it really isolates it from a sense of community. I imagine it’s strange for the animal. Even for myself, feeling like a witness to a lot of these aspects of animal life is very conflicting at times.

 

  • Transporting with local animals is a huge issue. Even if they can spend 99% of their lives on the field in harmony, the last moments of their lives are these shipping trucks, unfamiliar moving environments, and constrained weird places. Rather unfortunate. And that’s not done by the maliciousness of the owner, but the over regulating of the industry. It’s become an unavoidable aspect of those little farms nowadays. Perhaps it’s a tactic used by corporate industry to make it more challenging for the small competitors. That is a detail that owners have no control over, (atleast for the time being), it’s just the laws as they are right now force them to that. Seems unjust people who are trying to do better than factory farms are heavily over regulated, forced to comply to laws that force more discomfort for the animals.

 

  • Another weird industry word I came across when animals were killed and were packaged was called going to ‘freezer camp’.

 

  • I’m feeding and watering the animals, and that’s the easy job. I’m like earth, sharing its bounty. I do not have to be the lion or the hunter, ending a peaceful life. Maybe indirectly I am, doing by association. To a pig who was someone’s mom, someone’s dad, someone’s son, someone’s daughter. Even with it being local and right outside my door, it still felt really uneasy, maybe wrong, that I was doing all of this. Trying to be open minded even with eating local meat that’s right outside my door. I was always mixed with guilt and appreciation. I only felt better when I would force myself to stop thinking. Or devalued it. I was really conflicted because I adored the taste of the meat. It was some of the best tasting experience, and that made it so hard to understand. Thinking made it awful, yet it tastes delicious. If it tasted wretched the choice would be easy, but the taste gets me to rethink if I’m just over critical about a purely natural experience.

 

  • Local use to be a buzz word for me. But I learned local can mean mismanaged, poor animal habitats, neglect for animals, under feeding, isolation of animals, etc. The word used to be a symbol of all the good pure intentions, an award for not having any of the negatives of factory farms. But I was really conflicted to see how challenged some of these farms were.

 

  • It’s rough to think most places are uglier than the public suspects. The messes, animals dying early, the smells, the sounds. The packaging looks so idyllic, yet so few people ever scope into how accurate the packaging really is. The packaging doesn’t tell the story of the piglet who died in the pen and the rest of them started eating it. Doesn’t tell the story of the bigger boy pig raping the other smaller boy pig. All you see is the clean pasture and smiling animals on the label. These small farms had no red barn, no clean area for hay. No nice tractor and horizon view and picket fence family. They can be an over stressed, under payed, under staffed, out of time mentality for some of the places. But beautiful packaging. This is not a blanket statement to put on any local meat producer. This is a testament that one must inspect for oneself what is true and what is romanticism.

 

  • The few farms I have been were hoarder’s paradise, this included one I visited in Belgium. Mess and junk scattered everywhere with no plan to clean it. Always half done many projects. It’s so important and a high priority to start the project, but never to finish it.

 

  • When a family used to farm they had plenty of kids to help. Now new age world we have couples farming of just 2 people trying to accomplish the same yield. Volunteers are the new helpers. The couple may not have kids, but they have someone else’s kid there for a week or month helping out. Funny how that works. It’s like the parents who are too busy to watch their kids so they hire child care workers, and those child care workers have to get someone else to look after their kids while they are with your kids, and how that cycle just repeats itself.

 

  • In the wild, man would catch the weakest animal. The animal was maybe a bit sick, a bit neglected from the group, small – who knows. Also the animal would be considerably stressed, knowing it may be about to die. It can be easy to think that animals don’t die until humans come and intervene. They live forever happily in the hills until humans invade, pillaging their village for bacon. Sure, the animal in the slaughterhouse is stressed and maybe thinks it’s about to die, yet the bison chased by the natives may have felt identical. The deer running from the lion – identical. It doesn’t make it right, but I think it’s important to realize that experience isn’t much different in some ways from the animal in the wild. I think one measure again though is independence. The ability for the animals to feel like it had a chance. The running pumped it with adrenaline and neuro chemicals, yet factory animals are docile at the moment of death. They are given no warning, and maybe that’s a gift, or a curse. That’s an issue we may never know, but it opens the door to questioning.

 

  • Its ironic cause humans are probably the most stressed thing existing on the planet. It can be compassionate to feel for the animals on the farm, when they get anxious or uncomfortable, confused. Yet we can’t even get humans on a mass balanced wave length, so it’ll take a lot to get animals there. Why should I expect the little farms to be perfect, if the farmers are under so many pressures themselves?

 

 

 

Veganism can feel like ride or die (funny idea) at times. All or nothing. Can you be vegan and go to places like this? Veganism is a personal path and choice for each. For me, I was beginning to eat meat when my vegan friends aren’t around. Closet meat eater. Shaping stories with them so meat doesn’t come up. Avoid conversations about how long you have been vegan. I wasn’t “true vegan”, but just experimenting, testing the waters. I ate very plant based, but I was contemplating should I have an open mindedness for local cheese, eggs, meat, etc. Was my veganism a rejection of factory farming practises? In many ways yes it was. Does local meat get my vote? Maybe sometimes, but it takes much more inspection of places, and introspection of my desires.

 

This trip for me was a search for new ideas based from personal experience. To see if being in those environments would allow me to feel more grounded in my perspective, and to see what it’s like out there around me. This post talks a lot about vegan or animals, but I went also to see how it is for local food around me – the challenges and reality of it. I respect the battles these farm owners are up against. Facing the tough situation of being small businesses among big corporate industry.

 

Even with local food, we never know how pure and high quality the product really is. Atleast at the farmers market you can look people in the eyes. The closer you are to the source, the better in my opinion. We act with good intentions and we have no “guarantee” that veggies raised half way across the world, or meat raised across the street is done too our idealized standards. Ignorance is bliss in the food world. It feels like the more homework you do, the less options you have. The common thread here is the value these local farms are doing is putting more options into the world then just factory farms or corporate industries. It’s a place that neighbours can go visit, and is in so many ways, a better step up the ladder. I atleast got to visit these places, good luck trying to see any of the big industry facilities. I think small farm tours will be a much bigger thing in the future, and that may bring more transparency and exposure to where their food comes from. I hope this post offers some new questions and ideas to whatever lifestyle you choose to follow, and where I was at a year ago.

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What you love or who you love

I was just starting to date someone after I was returning from a big trip, and had the travel bug still alive in me. I felt so passionate after my trip that traveling again was like a strong force, a great feeling I wanted to relive again.

I was conflicted between settling in to this city, my life here with someone and my family close by, and that enthusiasm and curiosity I had for going and experiencing the world again. Somewhere new was really nothing new to me, but I was really imagining the idea of being a traveler again.

I felt really conflicted. It took time to decide which path to choose, what choice to make, and waiting made a lot of FOMO, extending and keeping the question inside me unanswered, what choice am I going to make.

On the outside I was settling more roots, but in my heart, I was half in and half out. I didn’t know how to own that. I felt brave imagining another year trip over settling in, yet I was not acknowledging how much I was delaying the “stability” stage of my life, the responsibility part.

It felt like all or nothing in subtle ways. Travel and see so much, or settle in and see so little. Those couple week trips were foreign to me at the time, and I over valued longer duration experiences.

There was a bit of denying that feeling inside, the restlessness. Every now and then I’d need a few days to reconsider it all. Am I procrastinating the trip, my dreams? Or procrastinating independence. Who knows, but it felt hard to settle when I felt unsettled.

I’d try to make space a lot for walks and alone time. It felt so symptomatic of someone not knowing what they want. Caught inside, what to do, searching for the perfect answer.

My debates on traveling, and those half ins half outs really put stress on my relationship at the time. The what if’s, and is the grass greener on the other side, can be a spiral of questions, of reasons to second guess things.

I wasn’t my best self in that relationship. Things faded, I wasn’t giving enough priority or value to the life right in front of me. It still took me a year after to finally go. Clearly it wasn’t only the question of travel or partnership. I had a bit of denial, that going was truly the right thing to do.

Eventually, I committed and booked a ticket to Europe. It was a 5 weeks return trip, but I was very open that there’s a chance I may not return until much later. The 5 weeks was a buffer, maybe that’s all I needed. It allowed that option if I wished to take it. Yet inside it felt superficial. I really was leaning more to a longer trip regardless.

After the wobble of those years, it felt like choices were being made. I went to travel again. Another travel adventure (before this I did a year in Australia), here I come. I called this trip the deal breaker. The one that stopped me from really giving in and committing to someone, settling, doing anything longer term. That thought always in the back of my mind. Yet I was confronted in many ways. I was going to Europe, but subtly running from things. Should history, buildings, new places, be so important in my life? Worthy for the half ins and half outs I felt before?

It was enchanting, authentic to go, but I was surprised in ways. How sustainable are these trips if it stops me from settling in back home, from keeping relationships strong, from other areas of growth I also wish to experience like career or homelife. Why were these travel experiences so valuable? I had a bit of inner-conflict on this trip since these questions and feelings felt really important.

I had a bit of shame. To feel so motivated to go, yet when Im there missing my old life as well. The same way I wasn’t appreciating the life I was having at home, I even became numb to the life I was doing while traveling. All the places and history, at times I’d lose touch with how lucky and special it all was. Devaluing what you have, over imagining what you don’t. This blindsided me abit, and just showed how much I did have at home.

I learned a lot from that journey and those times years ago. How I was so hesitant to fully, really, say yes, to be 100% in. I walked the fringes in ways, keeping my mind always on what other opportunities were out there.

I felt abit illusioned by my passions. They didn’t live up to the high expectations I set for them. I had glorious moments on my trip, without a doubt. I just also felt abit less certain, confident, and focused then I’d like. Unclear of what the big picture was, why I was here.

The common story of those times was I going to write about those cities I went to. I’d never really acknowledge that was my goal. I’d get caught in the travel highs, the new places every few days, and forget my mission a lot. It’s now years later that I’m trying to take these writings and actually make something of them, simply by sharing them. And own how I didn’t feel capable, worthy enough for that mission. That I thought my writing wasn’t good enough or I was always waiting for the perfect inspiration that never came, so I just kept traveling, wandering.

In some ways I went on this trip for answers. Why did I feel so passionate to go, why was I let down at times by my high expectations. Why was what I had back at home not good enough. It was a tough stage of my life, just the lessons I needed to learn at the time about enjoying the life right infront of me.

Always chasing the new thing, the different thing. I bet a lot on those ideas. A lot of time, resources, energy. I look back on all my travels now. It feels like one long experience. That 18 year old Adam in university took this 10 year experience of working, writing, traveling, openness to new things and just woke up in the life I’m in today. With a lot of energy and life, and a sort of what just happened feeling.

I question the value of that. I try to remember the value was in the experience, was in the doing of the thing and not anything else. Those beaches in Australia, random trips in Thailand, mint tea in Morocco, hummus in Israel, coffees in Europe and Chai’s in India, all of those were for that past Adam, those desires in those moments. I can’t pull any of those moments to this day. I can’t sell them for happiness now, mortgage them. I can accept that; we don’t settle on our past highs, and aren’t held back by our old choices.

Was travel just beautifully procrastinating, epically delaying? The “who am I” feels less known then ever. Don’t people travel to discover, I feel like all I did was travel to question, to second guess, reconsider who I am. Time to walk forward, now blinder the more we’ve seen. Forgotten who we are the more memories we have made.

I lived by ‘do what you love and the rest will follow’. And I’m waiting, looking behind me, and waiting for the rest to follow. I look forward, and the path ends. It goes up until now. Have I only gone this far for free, the rest of the way I have to make. The path till now was where autopilot took me. The rest of the way I carve out rather then follow a pre made path.

Life used to be just A to B. Lately I feel I have a lot of choice, I’m at A and the entire alphabet of choices before me. We all slip into identity questioning at times. Who am I. What’s this all going to become. Deeper questions.

This story began as the challenges between travel and settling. Into a partnership, a city, a career. The indecision of not knowing which one is most important, and how to make healthy compromises, and win-win situations.

Travel was fun, and maybe I tended to over-do it abit. It maybe burdened connections I had rather than genuinely enriching them. There is some clarity spawning from all this.

If the question is between what you love or who you love, can I turn this around on me? Less about others, and more just solid trusting what I am, who I am.

I’ve learned that going backwards along a path doesn’t bring you back to an old feeling. Going back to an old place won’t necessarily allow you to relive the same memory. It’s an illusion of sorts, because that place brings you right back to now.

The birds fly north, the bison migrate the plains, all without maps, or guarantees of arrival, just instincts. A feeling of moving forward, empowerment, independence. Maybe I’m not different. Maybe the end goal is less of a place, and more of a feeling of confidence, focus, authenticity, and direction. Those values hopefully lead you to a worthy end goal, atleast an honest one. Don’t stay locked in those ideas of perfect destinations, especially at the cost of those emotions of strength and stability. Lessons for all of us, but really I see how it was the lesson for me.

 

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Travel Burnout

Travel Burn Out

I didn’t really know why at the time, but I did recognize I was pretty burnout from overdoing the movement and routines of travel. It was a struggle at moments to keep up with the pace of a new city, another bus ride, another day the bag on my back. It’s so cheap to go from city to city these days; it can be so easy to do it all the time.

Arriving at new places, many things to do there, sleeping at hostels maybe far from where you landed, having friends in random neighbourhoods, it was a very ‘always burning energy’ time of my life. And when I arrived in a city, I was never there to rest or take it easy. Sometimes I would consider easy days, but when I settle in, view the sights on the tour pamphlets, talk to people about places, I’d get reignited to go again. That’s also a challenge to only being in a city for a couple days. To do the things you wish to do, you have to be moving and a rest day takes away from half your trip in that city.

To do: the hike, church, café, old bar, cute park walk, small town, big city walking tour, etc.

My entire life at the time revolved around seeing things outside of me and talking with people. It was a pretty addictive and enjoyable experience. I suppose I was on longer trips then others. I was rarely around people who could relate to the fatigue and duration of the trip. Surrounded by people who are only away from home for a few weeks, in a city for only a few days, no wonder they are bursting with energy.

I enjoyed meeting people while traveling, and seeing the cities with them for the feeling of community, experiences, and memories made. I think as well hostels weren’t the most conducive place to really relax and take it easy. Of course I could have not gone out and just enjoyed myself in the hostel, cook a dinner, watch a movie and let it be. It just felt so uninspiring, aimless. I traveled half way around the world for that? Fair point. But I didn’t travel half way around the world to feel drained and trying to keep up with an infinite amount of options and places. The concept of a good balance at that time was clearly something I was not excelling incredibly at. I felt estranged to doing nothing and waiting during the time. The momentum and resilience I had on day one was different then what it felt like after countless days, but I still tapped into it almost every day on the trip

I felt guilty being there and not doing the sights, and it was exciting, so I kept going. I could have said “Ok, you’ve seen a lot, it’s not a failure to rest and give it a day, let it go a bit, take a chill’.

Less is more may of helped, but really less is less and more is more in some cases. And I was betting this was one of them.

So there I am, traveling too much and resting too little, that’s this blog post in a nutshell

Traveling wasn’t building community, it was witnessing others communities. The health they buy in the markets they visited, their nest of a home, security of a job, partners they build lives with. Travel was a sacrifice of many of these things to see it in others.

Being far from friends and family, it was easy to be completely immersed wherever I went.  At times we think I’m not enjoying this and it makes no sense why. Too much pride fueled me in those days. The trip of a lifetime, those headlines and labels id create would make changing course from it that much harder.  It all felt like too worthy of a mission to slow down on. The very idea of taking a break felt too far at the time, I was too inspired and elated in all the new places I went.

Was I running away? Maybe, I was pretty stoked about going but maybe that’s something to consider. It was a wonderful time that I didn’t want to end. But I craved going immensely. The part that sticks out to me was there was this sort of have to go mentality. I wouldn’t allow myself not to go. I would think about it constantly. Maybe abit obsessive about how cool the trip would be, the potential of it, how much I would see.

Something, somewhere, gets on your mind, and one becomes impassioned about it. Even if it was off your mind forever up until then.

Perhaps those are the blind spots in the psyche of these times. The attitude of go, go, go, and never having a slowdown button. Maybe it’s just young people energy, our ability to see more than ever, further than ever, quicker than ever. The burnout that is a side effect of any rushing, overdoing, mentality. Of having too much and never enough simultaneously. The universes fatigue from speeding up, expanding, making new connections. The battle between what’s new and what it’s replacing.

And there was the inner realization. The excitement about going versus the reality of being there and feeling exhausted, savings drained, missing friends, missing home. Clearly the long term travel was something I wanted to do, more then come home, more than a day of rest, at the time. I had moments I wanted to come back, but turns out not enough. There was still a lot to see and experience.

Just buy the flight and happiness will follow, but by the year mark I was done. Even the 3 month mark, 6 month mark – it’s a lot of work living from a bag, in a new city with a new language, with traveler rights rather than citizen rights. I’d say as long as I’m in the place, everything will sort itself out. Clearly by this post not everything sorted itself out, but I’m here learning, and reflecting that some challenging days doesn’t take away from the good exciting ones.

Burned out in Paris? Watch a French movie. Read a good book about the city. Or cook a French meal. Pull some Tarot cards. Who knows. Something other than sightsee, then crowds, standing in lines and waiting at bus stops. Maybe that’s the new way.

I feel lighthearted now as my life is a lot easier then it was traveling like that. Traveling is simple, for sure. There’s an ease nowadays. I’m making money, got my home, things are cute and easy in that way. There’s a slight fear that it’s cyclical and before I know it a new burnout will happen again in its own way. Things are good now, and maybe extremism slips into all our lives at certain times. Could I do another big trip and lose my balance. Sure. I’ll write another post about it when I do. Maybe this post will be the little reminder if I feel I am. To take it easy…

It can feel hard to default to rest in times full of amazing things. But isn’t an amazing thing a wholesome thing. Isnt the amazing part that its nurturing, brilliant, fun, exciting, wild intertwined? Is that an illusion, like a city that has everything? Beach, mountains, tropics, never rains. There is no perfect city, but there are cities perfect for certain peoples tastes. No city can make everyone happy, but we all can find pieces we like and admire from each, and settle in the one that perhaps fulfills most of those desires for us.

The paradox of feeling drained in the place you came to come alive. So I felt it, good lesson. Who knows? Maybe there is a tinge of that, a lack of patience to really feel it. I’m not expressing how that Adam truly felt, I’m expressing how this Adam feels about it. Whole different experience. Right now it feels light, because I feel light. But when I felt emotional about it, it was a much more challenging experience. I’m not sure if I’m giving it credit it deserves. Maybe I need to touch on it. Maybe I don’t. Who knows. But talking about it is the beginning.

Has anyone else ever felt this? Travel burnout? There’s a decent amount written about it on the internet. It’s a new age subject I imagine, with all these digital nomads and long term travel ambitions of the world. Hit me up if you ever are going through it, love to help and talk about it.

Cheers and love!

Adam

 

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Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii

Historically, Haida Gwaii was called Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai by the natives which translates into “Islands at the Boundary of the World”.

 

 

 

When my flight arrived in Haida Gwaii, it was a bit of a distance to the town I was going to, so I hitched a ride. The driver who drove me used to work on Deadman’s Island in Stanley Park for many years. For those who don’t know it’s a small island close to downtown Vancouver where those with smallpox were quarantined over a hundred years ago. He was telling me eerie stories and histories even before the smallpox time about the place during our drive.

Our chat transitioned from that grim topic. He said an interesting statement as our ride commenced. “You didn’t choose Haida Gwaii, Haida Gwaii chose you. This is a very spiritual place and you didn’t arrive by accident.”

Once I arrived at the town of Queen Charlotte I did alittle hike on a nearby island to pass the time. I was waiting for someone to get off work because we were going to have a dinner afterwords. The first thing I noticed when I arrived here in Haida Gwaii was the eagles. They were everywhere.

I had dinner that night with a local resident who was a librarian. She shared stories about the challenges and generation gap people can get as they get to their older years, especially if they are retired. Her name is Michelle and she is a couchsurfing host who gets to meet a lot of young travelers from all over and share stories and memories.

 

I spent 4 days in this town, went to the local coffee shop, did day hikes, visited the local museum, and helped a friend make cinnamon buns! I did a day trip to the south of Haida Gwaii were a group of us went to an island called Skedans (Haida Gwaii is an archipelago, a collection of hundreds of small islands). This historic Haida village had over 40 totem poles during its day. The Haida primarily had villages close to the water as they were typically traveling by canoes. The relied heavily on the ocean for their food source, and were trading with local tribes regularly. Below is a historic photo of the village.

It now is nearly deserted of totem poles. Museums and collectors raided them when they had the chance, aswell some have naturally decayed. There’s a big wave of repatriation happening on Haida Gwaii today. Artifacts, old burial boxes, totem poles, clothing, are among some of the many things the Haida people are working to get what was created on their land returned to their land. The creations were made for ceremony and family, rather than museums and private collectors.

You can see in this photo above that there are no trees growing in the settlement. The Haida would remove all of them to make the totem poles very visible. When you go today you see trees now cover the land.

 

This is that location up close today.

 

This is the view facing the water from the beach of Skedans.

Haida Gwaii had (and still has) a huge lumber industry, probably one of the main centre focuses of all its resources. During European contact, Sea Otter pellets were really prized. Gold mines on the island were also sought after creating a gold rush, and canneries for fish were booming later as the island was settled. There is a lot of abandoned equipment on the island. Old machinery they used to move trees to the mill. They even used to have a railroad. All abandoned and falling apart.

 

The tour guide taught us that during WW2 some planes began to be made out of the Spruce Tree from Haida Gwaii. The tour guide highlighted one word – regression. From wood to metal in aviation felt like advancement. To make planes from wood felt like a step back in time, and many doubted the idea before it ever began. Yet it was lighter and faster than many expected, and was a big success. This idea of regression really struck me. Herbal medicine compared to modern medicine feels like a regression. Leaving a progressive city to move to a small town feels like a regression. Going from a well payed job to less paying job that fulfills you in other ways can also be argued like a regression. It’s these perceptions that keep us stuck in our ways. Afraid to experiment and let the results speak for themselves. Many people argued how moving to the island was a step forward, rather than a step back. No commuting, cheaper rents, more nature time, and they were now big fishes in small ponds of their niches. From the outside it looks like a step back, but some people have really moved forward in their lives by moving there.

The Haida people have many superstitions. It fascinates me these stories as they are very personal to the group where it is true. And I find our modern day to be superstitious as well. If there is one ticket left to an event we are thinking of going to then ‘it’s a sign’. At 11:11 we feel lucky. Shooting stars and make a wish, on your birthday too when you blow out the cake. We say the universe is helping us, supporting us, ‘guiding’ us. In Haida culture, when you are carving a canoe, if someone dies during the carving it is considered an omen to abandon the carving and not use that tree. There would be half carved out trees remaining scattered through the land back in the day. These canoes would be transporting 50 of your strongest and most capable men long distances, any reason to doubt its capabilities had to be addressed. I learned as well that when Haida people use the Cedar tree to weave hats for example, they would only strip a very thin amount, and never on the side of the tree where people would see. Apparently it would be shameful to do so.

The Haida host many Potlach’s. It was a sign of wealth to host them, and was a huge festival of food and giving, sometimes lasting multiple days. Raising a pole, a death, a birth, celebrating a chief or an important moment were all reasons to throw a Potlach. You were judged in these events by how much one could give away. The chiefs of the villages would host these Potlach’s and when a chief died, a pole would be erected for him that would display how many potlaches he hosted. Each ring on a totem pole like the one below show how many Potlaches that chief had.

 

 

Following my time in the southern part of the island I migrated to the middle of the island, a whopping maybe 45 minutes away. I hitch hiked to a music festival which was playing there. It was great to see some phenomenal music in contrast to such a deserted, under developed island in Mid-Northern Canada. The festival had tons of amazing bands and rappers. It was an incredible experience.

The festival closed with a Haida drum circle. They sang a song for the woman, then one for the men, then one for the babies, and then one for the children. They had a song about discovering the gift you had inside you. I really loved that message. My current focus these days are questions like that. How is my time here helping the ‘whole’? Should I be working, going to school, seeing my sister, grandma, mom, etc? Asking myself if I am really doing what is of true value for the world. The host ended the ceremony by saying everyone is here at the festival for a reason. That was a calming (slightly dramatic) statement to me after feeling what I was feeling. I suppose I’m exploring, maybe that’s the reason. It can feel hard to gauge the value of these trips in the long term. Sure I felt happy, maybe that’s the only metric that should count.  It was a nice indulgence that ended on Sunday as I made my way to a hostel for two nights. The next morning I journeyed to the northern part of the island.

The Haida wish to have trees to carve 1000 years from now. They are planning today for the old growths for their lineage next millennia. One issue they are having is that deer keep eating the shrubs of the new trees that grow. Deer is an invasive species (aka an introduced species that now lives without any predator) and it is eating all their medicinal plants. The seeds for these trees are underground, waiting to grow, but the beginning of the plant gets immediately eaten.  Fenced off areas are trying to protect the plants and trees from deer’s. The seeds are literally dormant, waiting under the ground, for their day to become a tree.

I hitched up to the North next.

Standing on the Northern beaches that morning, seeing Alaska in the distance, and the nothingness but giant amounts of ocean and sky, was profound. It felt so sacred in the moment, and it was so impulsive. It was a spontaneous “I’ll go to Haida Gwaii” which brought me here. It was a “Sure, let’s visit the Northern part” attitude. All this easy going direction led to a really glorious conclusion. I sat down abit and reflected on it all.

 

When middle of nowhere
stats to feel familiar
its glorious
its scary
Foreign and love
Medicinal and inedible
Heaven like, it has an area code
clouds and rainbows
Whys this rare?
There no gate keeper
The doors are wide open
Yet there’s no one in line for it
the best things in life
are out there
unconsidered
under our radar
In
this life
this incarnation
this generation
this economy and circumstance
can do it.
Beauty is hope.
Hope is sacred.
It too is volatile.
Heaven is held by a thread.
It’s that delicate
the mountains and oceans are strong, they will last.
The observer is actually the one hanging by the thread. Me. Us.
Not this place.
Moments like this are the flowers boldest days, its richest time.
I am the garden, full of life, and am the seasons, full of come and go. Travel is seasons.
The burst of experience, the rest after the finish. Moving freely, wildly, lightly tip toeing here.
Like a dancer, floating as I walk. The clothes to keep me grounded. Immersed in space, alive again.
Nature is a tarot card. Today you are free, my today last forever. Even still, id gift it to tomorrow. Voluntarily change and accept to pull my flag and sell the cloth and wood to feed us. It feels just as human. Thanks glory, let’s go back to reality. To the city. I’ll bring you. Hold you. Cherish and honour you. I respect you belong here. That’s true. Ill bid my Namaste to you. I am the camera validating this is real. Yet no picture can capture this. But I’m your selfie; I’m
your creative expression. 

 

After sitting and writing, my next goal was a small mountain top on the far corner of the island. It was a bit less busy on this road, and the first truck that drives by me is carrying the group who I did my first tour with in the south. What an interconnected moment! They picked me up and we explored the north together with a guide. Life has so many hidden doors, but doors don’t come to you, you have to be moving to find them. I never imagined waking up that morning, reconnecting to the group from days ago, now driving on the beach with a guide on this distant island. It all felt so meant to be. The invisible force weaving everything together. It felt like a reward for trying, for risking, for putting myself out there. There’s a quote I love that encompasses this. It goes something like “Start moving so I may start blessing”.

I felt really lucky the way it all worked. I separated from the group after our hike up the small mountain/hill and began making my way to the older village in Northern Haida Gwaii called Masset. They say during pre-contact with Europeans the Haida had around 50,000 people. Post contact when disease like smallpox spread, the numbers dropped to as low as 600. These few hundred people conjugated into two places on the island, one in the north and the other in the south. One of these was Masset.

 

Haida being an oral tradition of storytelling and history suddenly lost a lot of its wisdom and records. There were no elders to turn to especially as they were dying that fast. As well, Potlaches became banned, and public schools became introduced. Haida is a very visual culture. The word art does not exist in their language. Everything was art, it was inseparable. Nothing existed without it. When these laws and rules were forced upon them, a lot of the visual references they relied on were gone. Aswell the upheaval of their culture from those taking their cultural artifacts, as mentioned before, made their roots appear less and less noticeable. I see how the Haida animals and drawings on water bottles, mugs, and hats for example puts the symbols back into the world, and out of hiding.

Masset had some totem poles which were great to see, and a very nice ocean town with tons of smiling faces.

I hitch hiked almost entirely on this trip. There were gaps during some rides, and one point of the hitch hiking took a long time to get picked up. Only once, but it did happen, funny enough at a location which had a thumb for hitchhiking.

 

 

There were a lot of commonalities shared by the locals. Everyone has a reason for visiting the island. A friend invited them, a story they heard about it from someone, or short work stint. Usually they were already settled somewhere else when they visited, but the island summoned a feeling in them they couldn’t resist, and they moved there shortly after. Come for one reason, and stay for another.

Ofcourse I was not picked up by those who visited this island once and never again, so there stories are silent.

 

Trips can be very individualistic and one of a kind. I couldn’t repeat that journey in any way. The destinations yes. But the people along the way are always new. Each ride contained stories. I met a judge, tour guides, people from Germany, Vancouver, tons of locals, and got to really hear so much about people’s lives. It felt so honest and connecting. It was those pieces that were harder to predict. I planned to see sights, but the side bonuses were these awesome connections.

 

So why did this place choose me, as the first person I met on the island said. Who knows? I was thinking that when I was about to fly back to Vancouver. I had a lot of awareness that some things don’t make sense in the short term, but in the long term. We judge things so quickly and impulsively that we don’t give them enough time to come full circle. On my last day I did a hike called Spirit Lake. Just the intention of calling a lake that says so much. The story had to do with a supernatural being that lived there.

In the Haida language Haawa means thank you.

Haawa Haida Gwaii for the stories and memories! ❤

 

 

 

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Where bodies burn, the Buddha was born, and the top of the world exists.

 

Where bodies burn, the Buddha was born, and the top of the world exists.

Varanasi, Lumbini, and The Himalayas

I took a 27 hour train ride (it was delayed so technically longer) to get from Mumbai to Varanasi. All I knew of this city is that it was a holy city to Hindu’s. It is a place in their religion where being cremated is of sacred importance and value. It had this Middle Eastern feel in some ways. It was beating hot, and the concrete felt faded by sun. There wasn’t much nature life around, and it was very busy with traffic and people. In its own unique way it reminded me of Jerusalem as historic, desert climate, and religious significance.

Life and death I suppose is my caption of this city. Where death is open and revealed. Perhaps too, the lessons? I wondered that while I was in Varanasi. I was so mystified by it all. What would I see? What would I feel? Filling myself with imagination while on the rooftop patio of my hostel. I was going that night to go to where the ceremonies take place. Before that I was reflecting while watching the everyday life on the street below of cricket being played by children. The innocence and moment felt so fragile. Death is an invisible picture, which we confront when dying is close. Here I’m a complete stranger, in a very new place 12 time zones from home. I wondered, is here where I will see the inescapability of black and white, and of how we use story to understand death and passing.

The smells of burning flesh are repulsive, naturally. Pungent odour. Snake charmers and mystic Indians asking for change surround the area. The walk to the ceremony space felt really theatrical, like Hollywood designed this entrance of the ceremony. It was concrete, and very dark. I imagine an Athens atmosphere, these gigantic steps right to the water, and stone architecture everywhere. I was really turned off when there was this dark ring of drug dealers surrounding the ceremony spaces, trying to sell to tourists. What a place to trip…The ceremony’s all took place close to the water.

There are some shamans in this area, extreme Shamans. I’ve heard they get high on weed and eat human flesh. I hope I discover that this was all a story, but I recall some Indians telling me they do exist.

I really didn’t enjoy watching the bodies’ burn. To the family it was a private mourning moment, and to tourists it was a public spectacle. It felt too, disingenuous. I appreciated knowing the families found meaning and reassurance in their act, but found myself disconnected from that. I felt like I was just watching something I had never seen before, like chasing a new experience. It humbled me to not want to go back. To realize less is more here. I have respect for the ceremonies and those that wish to watch, however I felt like an uninvited guest. A passenger intertwining my objectivity with someone elses real emotional heartbreak and struggle. I let the wind fall from my sails and within a few days was gone from the city. I began on my next journey, up to Nepal. Here my goal was to do a trek in the Himalayas. During India I didn’t even know this was possible. We ran into one person who told me about it and it inspired me to do the same. The train was scheduled for around midnight but shown up at almost 4am. Expect the unexpected.

 

It’s a sleeper train and we arrive in a town of the border of India to Nepal. Tourists are swarmed to try to take a cab or taxi. Many people fighting for a few. The border crossing feels very unofficial compared to North American or European standards. Almost like an entrance to an amusement park, accept with passport stamps and high admission prices. I arrived in Nepal, to traffic and chaos. I learned shortly after that the Buddha was born near the border town. I decided to check it out, hence begins my story in the town of Lumbini.

The town is packed with tourist things. Hotels, restaurants, knick knacks for sale. I find a one bedroom, I believe for maybe 10$. What a treat. The palace that once birthed Buddha is now rubble, with parts of it standing. It was a busy place; there were plenty of people, and temples surrounding his.

A journal I wrote while there:

Buddha to me doesn’t represent religion, but instead for me is a symbol of a man who leaves his palace, renounces his wealth, and dedicates his life to discovering the meaning of life and suffering. He, instead of spending his remaining existence living off the taxes of the people, changes his life to make everyone else’s better. His temple today looks very lifeless and ruined. Yet thousands of years later he is all over the world. It would be hard to imagine these fallen stones long ago were a palace. I’ve seen these same stones in Europe and Israel, the story is the only change. This disintegrating palace was a container of dreams, people, lovers, death, passions, arguments, parties, friendships. But all I see is stones. The museum (I think it’s appropriate to call it that) has tons of educational details about Buddha’s upbringing and life. Apparently he was destined for two paths before he was even born. To either be the biggest conqueror ever, or an enlightened individual. His father wanted him to have the biggest empire, so he sheltered him from the outside world. He gave him luxuries, lovers, anything he wanted, to try to get him to follow that path. There is plenty to be read about how Buddha became who he was, and it is a fascinating tale.  We know how history went, and now people pilgrimage to his birthplace as a thank you, as a symbol of unity. A ripple so big it touched every pond. A very old grandma came to the monument with her son. She struggled with much effort to go to the rock he was probably birthed on. Clearly a sacred and dedicated love and fire within her brought her here.

Lumbini fed my curiousity of the Buddha for a night, and then I was on my way to Pokhara, a lake town in Nepal where one assembles before heading to the Himalayas. It was a 10 hour brutal nightmarish bus ride of bumps and twisty turns.

 

Pokhara was very fun town to be a backpacker in. Western food at great prices, beautiful lake to walk, drinking and great weather. Highly recommend this city to anyone ever in the area. I spent a week here just relaxing and getting the necessary gear to do the trip with. It was very exciting to imagine climbing parts of the Himalayas. The treks are made up of small villages, each one where you can get a meal, have a tea, or sleep for the night. The daily costs are relatively low, so it was a great experience to trek without all the camping equipment. The town was packed with people also with a similar agenda. Trekking here is a hugely popular mecca. The trek I did was called the ABC – Annapurna Base Camp. The Base camp is the last settlement before you climb the mountain without services. The lodge is 4,130 Meters above sea level.

I made a few friends at the permit office (anyone wanting to do the trek needs a permit), and we decided to do half the trek together. They were going to a different end destination, but part of the way we shared the same path. The first day was a lot of elevation gain, climbing stairs, and walking along villages. It was so beautiful in so many ways. Idyllic nature, the freedom of a week spent with one goal, get to the end point, and between that enjoy the walk, enjoy the conversations, and the people. Old buildings, cows walking the streets, it was all very scenic. I have had a history of back pain and carrying the bag with me daily was starting to trigger it, I believe even from day one. I was very committed to trying to continue the hike, and tried to go slow, with my trekking poles, to get it done. I took my leisurely time, doing it in maybe a week to get to the top. To give perspective I believe I met someone who said they were trying to get to the top within 48 hours. So you can do it quick if you wish. One day I was borderline about to give up because of my back pain. I thought I’d give it one more day, and that day I got to the 80% point. I knew once I made it that far that I was in. Reaching the top, the snowed lodge, was incredibly invigorating. The story of my back pain amplified the emotions, it made everything relatively more challenging, so to finish despite that was a big win for me. It was a feeling of glory, accomplishment, a clear goal and a clear finish. I enjoyed that moment tremendously.

The walk down was drawn out in a way. Felt long, but there was a hot spring along the way. A nice recovery which all the hikers bathed in to calm the muscles and soreness of the long trek. I think in total I did 10 days on this hike. Something in that range. It was incredible some little details of it all. I remember weed was growing everywhere there, locals trying to sell you fresh grown Himalaya weed. Death of animals was a big theme there. One of the villages I stayed in told me they had a “Puja”, which I believe translates to prayer or ceremony. The Village had a successful year so they sacrificed chickens for a feast. There was this white temple with blood on the walls and in puddles from all the chickens slaughtered. Felt weird, to intertwine celebration with that visual. To think ones celebration is another’s devastation. In the same town I saw goats which were recently slaughtered. They were cleaning the meat, and it felt extremely local, yet tough to watch. The reality of it all was very intense here. This was as local as things get, yet even that was hard to watch, hard to feel at peace with. If I can’t feel easy about that, then what can I feel easy about? Maybe the chickens were old, who knows. I just feel it’s an emotion that’s tough to sit with head on. It’s only confronted as a by-product. I ‘happened’ to see this, rather then chose. Yet it stirred me and left a memory. All I was seeing was what happens behind closed doors here. Hard to think, incomprehendable the scale.

Pokhara was a nice leisure experience when I got back from my ten day trek. I just relaxed a few days, made some friends and tried to enjoy the relaxing lifestyle there. Afterword I made my way to Katmandu by bus. My flight was from Katmandu to India, where I would then head back to Europe. The bus rides are terrible. Utterly an awful experience. The roads are bumpy as can be, there are no washrooms on board, so you have to adapt to the rhythm of the crowd. And the food is so spicy and foreign so you don’t want to eat too much incase you get sick. Stomach sickness mixed with road sickness is not unexpected. I managed by not eating much and just watching the road the entire time, but it is a challenge rather than a trip.

Katmandu has this industrial theme to it that is such a polarity to the nature of Nepal. The country people are so friendly and smiling, and I found the city to be a bit of a money first mentality. People begging to drive you, sell you, wanting you to eat at their restaurant. Tourists were chased there. It felt uncomfortable. I did a small hike here with a Nepali friend I made in Pokhara and that was lovely. Going with a local to an off the beaten track place felt great. I felt really relaxed and happy to have a companion who knew the culture and language. We got along great and had an awesome time. In Nepal I must have done 4 small overnight hikes, and they were all very lovely and scenic. It reminded me of that Vancouver lifestyle, the outdoors and the nature revolving around our experiences.

It was a headache to go back to India. You can’t just fly into India, that would be crazy. No, you have to buy a visa just to fly to India, even if you have a flight out in a few days. I’m exadurating abit, it just was unexpected to me, that’s all, and took a few days to get the visa. I eventually got back to India with one day left. I met up with a friend there who also was flying out the next day. We went for dinner and talked and enjoyed our last day in India. All the memories there with my dad, in Goa, Taj Mahal, in Delhi, and Dharmashala, which is where the Dali Lama resides. It was all an epic 3 months. It was the first real taste of culture shock. Europe was people living my life in different ways. We’d generally eat the same, like the same music, pursuing same jobs, and didn’t have much difference in some ways. India was a new level of exploration. And Nepal, just the gorgeous nature was so achievable to be witnessed. I loved that. I hope to come back one day, to trek again in Nepal, and enjoy the wild craziness that is India. All the colours, foods, scents. It was all so decorative and creative. A funny note, in an Indian restaurant there are endless choices, yet in Nepal there is usually a traditional dish that all the people eat. It’s called Dal Bhat – a vegetarian mix of rice, lentils, some salad, and maybe little curry. It was eaten perhaps twice a day by nearly every Nepali person I met, every single day. It was unbelievable the consistency of that habit for them. Truly local and truly self-sustaining. Good for them. Thank you India and Nepal, and my dad for beginning the entire experience. Many good memories and many dreams of returning.

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Paris

I visit Paris twice on my trip, for 2 days and then for 2 weeks. On my 2 days there I made a friend and we stayed together for the 2 days. We explored, walked the city, viewed statues and monuments, and spent lots of time together. I was en route to Spain after those 2 days, where I volunteered for my month and a half. As well, after Spain I visited Morocco for a week. I flew back to Paris to spend 2 weeks with the friend I made. We walked the Paris streets, going to cafes, having croissants and baguettes, buying wine and cheeses, visiting galleries, vintage shops, and admiring the buildings and old heroes of Paris. I reflect back on the time as romantic in that sense. Very typical European time. As well we visited The Catacombs, an under the city gravesite of 1000’s of skeletons, arranged architecturally for storage and design. It was a startling experience and hard to really comprehend all that truly was in that moment. Will I one day be a skeleton piece on a wall under the city 500 years from now?

Paris is known as a city of love, yet had a sort of surprising energy in the people. I feel like it was hard to understand at times, living in the land of history and accomplishment, yet feeling like the times today are troubled, somber, unpassionate, and challenging. The poverty, the well-off people, tourists, it was a melting pot, but still finding its balance. Visiting the amazing churches was an extraordinary experience. Getting to see the life of people hundreds of years ago, it felt so huge and massive for the times. I was staying in Montparnasse which was frequented during the early 1900’s by the famous writers of the times. The dynamics of WW1 finishing led to a surge of life energy in some people of that time. It was great to walk into the old cafes and old neighborhoods of these creatives. It felt really romantic to be writing journals while being in these same places. It was amazing the fact that so many of these places were busy purely because there was historical events there many years ago, so a great source of business today.

I was in Paris for two weeks and then moved on to India to travel abit with my dad. It was a surreal time to find out I was going to India. It was a total unexpected moment in my trip, and filled me with a lot of wonder. I recall thinking I will have much more of an appreciation for the culture, the food, and the people after spending time learning about them in India. I was really looking forward to that.

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