Perhaps it was peace

05:24, 9 May 2015, Sikkim, India

Eyes touched by the day’s first light, lying between a hard mattress and a rough blanket, I decided that I wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep. So I left my shack, a crumbling wooden box taped with newspaper, walked past the outhouse, and climbed a shaky ladder to the top of an unfinished building. I breathed in the crisp morning air and saw a rising sun illuminating the magnificent Himalayas.

IMG_1811

Up on that roof, there was no fear, no worries, no doubts, no anxieties. Just a willingness to accept whatever the world would bring me that day. Just this harmony with my surroundings, modest and humble compared to other extravagances of the world.

Perhaps it was peace. Just peace, then and there, at that moment …

Advertisements

Great reasons to travel

Great conversations are spoken in hostel kitchens and guesthouse terraces.

Great friendships can come into being with the most unlikely people in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Great fun happens when sharing a taxi on the way to the next party in the Balkans or while wandering through town when the schoolkids are going home and staring unabashedly at this temporary celebrity.

Great ideas emerge while persevering through a challenging, strenuous trek during a rainstorm or navigating through overcrowded aisles of flea markets.

Great thoughts materialize while admiring the sunset from atop an ancient, abandoned temple or feeling the crisp, morning air at the summit of an extinct volcano for sunrise.

Great reflections arise while looking out the window of a long-distance train or an overcrowded chicken bus.

Great humility is felt when staring into another person’s eyes and realizing there’s a common humanity there that unites us, despite all the perceived differences that exist.

Great lessons are learned in the most compromising, unfamiliar situations.

Great inspiration is found from the most unimaginable of sources.

Great fear is left in the past when you appreciate how many times you crossed imaginary lines and self-imposed barriers.

Great doubts and insecurities evaporate knowing and realizing that you did all of it.

Are these good enough reasons to travel?!

It all starts with the decision to go…

DSCF0230
Cross the bridge!

DSCF0205
And follow your path!

End of year reflection

(22 September 2015) … Outside an abandoned Soviet-era prison In Tallinn, Estonia, I stared into the waters of the Baltic Sea and arrived at a strange and untimely realization. Life – this thing called life – is so great, so powerful, so vast, so infinite – understanding it all is beyond comprehension because I feel that its limits are endless.

I’ve tried so hard at times to describe and show the best of life through my interactions around the world, but the truth is that life is beautiful beyond what mere words can only attempt to describe or what a camera can only try to capture. And I will never arrive to a full, complete understanding of the magnitude of life, the greatness of all this world contains.

But I never want to stop trying so long as my heart continues to beat. Staring at the sea, I felt that each heartbeat was an invitation to discover the infinite beauty of this world. I hope I always do.

The year draws to a close and I’m a bit surprised to count fourteen countries visited in 2015. Thank you to my friends and my family around the world for supporting my passion for travel. From the cold of Canada, I send my warmest wishes for a blessed 2016.

Happy New Year!

Baltic Sunsets

Sunset … it’s that time of day when the sun descends from the sky and disappears beyond the horizon, signalling the transition of the afternoon into the early evening, and it has become my favourite time of day when I’m off travelling. I don’t often pay attention to sunsets when I’m back home, but when I’m away, I make an effort to find a good vantage point, usually from a spot a bit high up, and admire the occurrence of this daily phenomenon. I am prone to taking a plethora of photos when I’m travelling, many of which are taken during sunset. After my latest trip to the Baltics, I have a few more to add to the “sunset collection”…

Taken from the shore of the town of Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa, which is the biggest island of Estonia, I took this picture after exploring the town’s castle and learning a bit of the island’s history. I was half a week into my travels and as the last of the sun’s light was reflecting on the Baltic Sea, so too was I reflecting upon my experiences during the last few days in Helsinki and Tallinn…

Kuressaare is the largest town on the island of Saaremaa, which is Estonia's largest island

Kuressaare is the largest town on the island of Saaremaa, which is Estonia’s largest island

South of Riga’s historic, UNESCO-listed Old Town is the Latvian Academy of Sciences, and from atop the 17th floor of this skyscraper is an observation deck where you get simply magnificent panorama views of the capital city of Latvia. I had just arrived into the city a few hours ago, and fortunate to see a clear sky (the weather is very changeable in the Baltics in September), I decided that it would be a good idea to pay the €4 fee to get a good bird’s eye view of the city during sunset. In the coming days, I’d explore the city’s Old Town and Central Market, green spaces and Art Nouveau district, and become acquainted with the main railway station where I took day trips to other parts of the country…

As seen from the Latvian Academy of Sciences observation deck

As seen from the Latvian Academy of Sciences observation deck

The Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania felt the most vibrant and full of local life of the 3 Baltic capitals. Locals and tourists alike flock to Gediminas Hill during the late afternoon to watch the sun say goodbye for the day. The day I took this picture began very cloudy, and I took a day trip to nearby Trakai. As I mentioned earlier, weather is very changeable in the Baltics and by early afternoon, the clouds had cleared, allowing the sun to make an appearance. The sky was still clear by the time I got back to Vilnius so I wanted to make the most of this opportunity and was not disappointed when I got to the hill. I found a spot on a low stone wall, took a seat, and watched this…

From Gediminas Hill

From Gediminas Hill

I’ve been blessed to see the sun set from so many awesome locations in our world and can only hope that I’ll continue to do so in the future…

Savouring a cocktail of emotions

At the beginning of every single one of my trips, there’s always a cocktail of emotions stirring around within me. Even after years of travelling (mostly on my own), I admit that I still get nervous and anxious, and doubts and worries still creep through my mind. But they always end up giving way to a growing excitement and increasing anticipation, to a pulsating, positive energy that gives me the will and ambition, courage and resolution to GO, to explore and discover a bit more of this beautiful world of ours, to interact with a few more of the world’s 7+ billion people.

I’m so excited to be taking off again. Sometimes, people ask me if I’ll ever stop travelling. As long as I continue to have this feeling of excitement that fuels a limitless imagination and a world of possibilities, I hope to never stop.

I’m at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and I’ll be shortly in the air on a flight to HEL (Helsinki, that is ;)).

As always, join me for the and catch me if you can!

Chalaadi Glacier, outside Mestia, in Svaneti, Georgia

People often ask me what’s my favourite country I’ve visited, and it’s hard to choose one out of the 55 I’ve been to 😉 But Georgia is definitely near the top of the list, with the sincerity of its people and its unending natural beauty, like this melting glacier flowing into the valley outside of the town of Mestia in the Caucasus Mountains. This little Asian guy felt so foreign and out of place in a land I knew little about, and yet I yearn to go back and experience more of it …

Haphazard hike to Gergeti Glacier in Kazbegi, Georgia

The town of Kazbegi in the Caucasus Mountains is a 3-hour marshrutka ride north of Tbilisi. Though perhaps a bit uncomfortable in a cramped marshrutka, the drive up to this mountain town was simply spectacular and the passionate traveller in me was only concerned about watching the magnificent views of Georgia while staring out the window. After spending 8 days in Tbilisi (with day trips to Mtskheta and Gori), I really felt like I was going to a special place and that I would finally get to embark on some amazing hiking in the country after hearing about such opportunities at the hostel in Tbilisi the previous week, and from fellow travellers during previous journeys. (I should also mention that this experience was a memorable chapter from my Eurotrip from two years ago in August 2013. I’ve wanted to write about this hike for awhile – better late than never, I guess!)

The picturesque Tsminda Sameba Church (Gergeti Trinity Church) overlooks the town from atop a hill, and I hiked to this point a couple hours after getting into town, taking an “off the beaten path” sort of route. I spent the late afternoon simply admiring the vibrant green fields and the majestic mountains before descending back to town to relax for the evening, knowing that the next day would be a long one.

“Off the beaten path”
DSC04527

A shepherd tending to his herd
DSC04535

Confession: When I’m travelling, I can be someone who does things without much thought. I’ll get an idea and simplistically think that it will somehow just happen. My trek to Gergeti Glacier was one of those instances – I read some stories online about the logistics of the hike, went into town and bought some water and freshly made, steaming hot bread made in a tandoori-like oven, and walked and walked and walked, one foot in front of the other, in my hiking boots that took me across Spain and up one of the Alps.

A sense of where I’d be going: from Gergeti Trinity Church to about 2 km southeast of where Gergeti Glacier is pinpointed. Also note the proximity to the Russian border. (credit to Google Maps)
New Bitmap Image4

Continue reading