Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The places in between..... Rory Stewart. I love traveling and I have been on same beautiful adventures in amazing countries. It enriches me but while traveling I often wonder what Im doing, and why. An scruffy room in an hotel in a filthy Indonesian city. I checked all the walls for peepholes. Did not find any but felt very uncomfortable anyway. Or the time when I accepted a ride in a Costa Rican pickup. Driving into a tiny town where nothing happened and I ended up in the hotel of permanently drunk Vietnam Veteran. The next day I met an american woman who offered me her couch as soon as she heard I was staying with the Ol'Drunk. I was reluctant to accept; she was covered from head to toe in a tiger print tattoo. And she scared me just as much as the drunk.
Or the old lady in a tiny village in Bangladesh. We were invited in for tea and she told us about her life; and showed us old pictures. While going through the pages of the book she got all emotional and tears welled up in her eyes. "It is all the memories" she said. Her husband had passed and so did one of her sons. The room was painted pink and I just sat on that couch. Staring at the tacky interior and feeling both uncomfortable and terribly happy.
I just finished reading 'The places in between' by Rory Stewart, a scottsman who walked across Afghanistan in the midst of winter. He is the opposite of me; although he walks he travels fast. A cup of tea here and there but he is determined to keep on walking and is not distracted by kindness or a warm home. That is the more admirable if you know the circumstances: snow, cold, rain, rivers to cross on foot, hardly any food. And he is totally dependent on locals for food, tea and shelter. He literally knocks on peoples houses for a bed and a bit of rice. Sometimes it is just tea and sugar, sometimes his host prepare elaborate meals for their guests. Oh man! I don't know whether to admire his travel or to dislike it. People with next to nothing light the fire for him and feed him. And he's happy for it but also expects this kind of kindness because he is a guest. He's rude to people when necessary, even has to fight for his safety. But after finishing the book i had a bit of an aftertaste. The kind people are so eager to tell him about their lives, their history, their war stories. For me that is what traveling is about: to talk to people. Learn and experience from the lives of others. It is not about the distance I travel or mark off highlights of my list. It is probably to keep some speed in the book; but I cringed sometimes and wished he had stayed put on that floor, and listen some more. But that is just the way I like to travel I suppose.
(The drawing is the afghan polo)

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