It started because I wanted to live abroad, but getting my Irish citizenship in order to live in the E.U. proved too complicated. My mom was the first one in her family born in the U.S., so I’d have to go through my grandparents. And finding their marriage certificate, and getting the other necessary paperwork is tedious and bureaucratic. So I applied for Birthright, since my dad’s Jewish. I was waitlisted last year, but this year they took me. I highly recommend anyone of Jewish descent apply, again and again, until you get it. It’s a free 10-day trip to Israel, all expenses paid, and a potential 90-day extension of your return ticket. I cancelled mine, because I’ve been abroad 90 days and I’m just getting ready to head east. From Israel I went to see the Pyramids, even though tensions were high and everyone told me not to go. Getting there was stressful, but well worth it (although I only spent a day there, it might have been enough– it’s post-revolutionary, for crying out loud). Greece is a lazy country; all they do is eat, dance and play the bouzouki (I generalize to offend). Sure Socrates and Plato lived there, and they built the Parthenon 2500 years ago, but come on, it was before Christ was born– does that really entitle them to the Euro?
Istanbul‘s great– I hope they get the 2020 Olympics, and they probably will, but when you go to Izmir, be prepared for some third-world experiences. In Romania all the bodegas sell is kefir and booze. In Italy the food, espresso, weather and scenery is some of the world’s best, but this trip I only visited southern Italy, which is much more dangerous than the north. And the fact that you have to be careful, that in Napoli you aren’t supposed to walk down the side streets because you can get mugged or stabbed, is slightly a turnoff. The Netherlands is a funny country– the most expensive I visited, with their bureaucratic service industry and very liberal, yet very Dutch paradigm. Belgium is small, beautiful, and oddly important; somehow they can justify selling french fries for four dollars. My favorite was Germany. This is largely because of Berlin‘s liberal atmosphere, the freedom, the language, the food, the tension, the post-war complications, the history; it’s a nation of extremes, much like the U.S. West Germany is true Germany. In Berlin it’s easy to get lost partying, and that is what makes it in a way both better and worse than Brooklyn, its artistic counterpart. The art market in New York keeps people motivated, keeps them driven and “successful” and the freedom in Berlin makes it easy to spend years of your life not really producing much, the while having a lot of fun. The Germans are a cunning people but they overthink everything, from their cars to their melancholy, and while I was there I succumbed to that zeitgeist. In any case, they’ve come a long way from being the Nazi bastards we fought seventy years ago. Poland has the potential to become a great European power– if more people learn English. Their language, with all the suffixes ending in -sky, sounds kind of silly. They’re still emerging from their past and defining themselves. The weather sucks too, which doesn’t help. But one day, when Poland gains the confidence to be great, it will be.
I have a big backpack with two pairs of pants (now frayed with holes in the crotch), five tees and five pairs of undies, seven pairs of socks (four sport, three dress) two button-ups, two pairs of sports shorts, a hoodie, and a waterproof raincoat. I brought one pair of shoes, which are also showing signs of wear (the heels are unevenly angled, I guess because I don’t walk properly) and one pair of heavy-duty Crocs flip-flops. I’m done with cold weather, though (snow on Easter, Krakow, really?); it’s about 90 degrees (35? C) in India. Although I may be in Darjeeling where it gets cold, I think I’m going to jettison one pair of pants, saving the jeans, as well as my holey dress socks. Some good advice I received: pack light, and if you need a new piece of clothing due to the weather, buy it when you get there. I can usually get by without doing laundry for about ten days, waiting to do it for free in hostels or by staying in someone’s home, and washing undies and socks in the sink when necessary.
I also have a six-week beard, which serves to intimidate. No one messes with a bearded man. I probably fight dogs in my spare time; they don’t know. It’s also a lot more menacing than my cleanshaven cherubic face. It may be too hot for it in India, so depending on how aggressive the street urchins are, I may have to shave.
Tomorrow I’m leaving Europe and going to India. I’m prepared for the worst. Yesterday I sat in my hostel after getting ten hours of sleep and wrote, went out for dinner, drank mulled wine in the Easter market and ate pierogies and sauerkraut stew, like a king, in order to help me mentally prepare for my tough week. Because it’s going to be very hectic. And when you’re traveling for a long time, sometimes you need a day to relax and pamper yourself, because later you’re going to be running on little sleep, high stress, and disorienting experiences. If you aren’t prepared, you could lose your bag, get your computer stolen, your wallet pickpocketed, or just plain suffer from exhaustion and sickness. So in the morning I sorted out my schedule, and booked a hostel. After that, still buzzing from adrenaline and caffeine I wrote out my plan for the week to help me relax:
Plan for India Travel Week (sleep hours in parentheses)
Monday: (10) 5 hour bus ride to Warsaw, Couchsurf at Katarzyna’s house, buy lunch at supermarket so I don’t have to at Israeli airport
Tuesday: (7) Wake at 645, bus to airport arrives at 745, flight to Tel Aviv, relax in airport, flight to India six hours later
Wednesday: (6+3:30 time change–what’s with the half hour time change?) adrenaline burst to checkin at hostel at noon. Bus no 2 ltd stops near Nehru road and passes through fort. coming from the city, it stops on the highway near the airport.-> churchgate train station, hostel on corner of adi murzban path and shahid bhagat singh rd. Nap, drink mango juice, check out Mumbai.
Thursday: (10-11) Explore city, Take train 12903 GoldenTemple from Mumbai Central at 21:25 to Delhi
Friday: (10-11) Arrive H Nizamuddin 18:30 get dinner? go to The Manor New Delhi, 77 Friends Colony West, South Delhi
This is all subject to change and circumstance. In Mumbai it takes an hour to get from the airport to my hostel during rush hour in a rickshaw, but only minutes during other parts of the day. Unfortunately I arrive at 8 in the morning, so I’ll have to pick up the bus on the highway.
My dad is meeting me in Delhi, which is nice, because while it’ll be great to see him and all that, I won’t have to dive into the depths of poverty and filth by myself; I’ll get some padding for twelve days. When he leaves I’ll spend the next six weeks seeing the rest of the country, figuring out where to go next.
This leg of the trip is coming to a close. It was a blast. I met great people, saw places I’ve always wanted to see, had some bad experiences I learned a lot from, and watched my eyes become harder and wiser. I hope my adventures keep you interested, and again, feel free to comment, ask questions, or offer tips. I’ll see ya in India.