Sleepless night, shooting stars, and unspoken wishes

13 August 2016, (circa 3 am)

My ears were no longer able to block out the unceasing sound of the roaring river below me, and my body was no longer able to sustain the uncomfortable position I had taken for the past hours of sleep, wrapped in someone else’s sleeping bag over a thin mattress on a tapchan (evelated platform used mostly for relaxing and as a site to drink tea).

I looked at my friend still fast asleep on the other side of the tapchan with a tinge of envy. I was weary but unable to stop thinking about the previous day’s hike, encountering shepherds and goats, lakes of delicate aquamarine hues, mountains so rugged yet so refined in their, well, ruggedness. My mind has a tendency to wander as much as my feet, and here in this isolated corner in the Seven Lakes of western Tajikistan, in this much too early hour, my mind was spinning with thoughts and emotions and I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep again.

In an attempt to calm myself down, I looked up at the night sky, a black canvas on which golden celestial bodies illuminated the backdrop. How could it be that objects light years away shone so bright that their light could arrive at my eyes? I thought I had travelled far on this earth but looking up at the universe put into perspective just how little and insignificant I was. It was then that I saw movement, something I had never seen before – a shooting star – darting across the night sky. This drowsy, fatigued traveller couldn’t help but notice it. And the next one. And yet another …

This little moment in time … Was it too much to conclude that the heavenly bodies of the universe were conversing with me? One after the other, not too frequent to call it a shower of light but definitely more than a handful of these shooting stars, decorating the night, lighting the atmosphere on fire, tempting me to make a wish. And despite being a child’s tradition, I thought it foolish not to make at least one wish.

But what should I wish for? For love? For freedom? For safe passage back to town tomorrow? For courage to continue pursuing these adventures? For this serenity and peace, wanting nothing more at the time but to see the dance of these stars across the heavens, gently fading into oblivion, slowly evaporating into the darkness of the night? Though no words were spoken, I felt that the world listened to my heart’s supplications.

I also made a wish to remember this moment and all the circumstances that accounted for the peculiar time and place at which I found myself. A year has passed since that night, and I still remember.

the tapchan in which we stayed, right by the rushing river, taken at dusk

Advertisements

Seeing clearly

img_3927

When I put on my first pair of glasses for the first time as a teenager, it was like I had a revelation. Things that were previously a blur now appeared clearly, and I could see the details of the physical world with ease – the math formula on the blackboard, the strands of fur on a cat, the intricate petals of a flower, even the wrinkles on someone’s face …

For me, travelling is like wearing that pair of glasses. But it’s not necessarily those physical details I notice more; it’s the heart and soul that feels through a different lens that is blown away by an initially unfamiliar environment. An increased awareness notices a set of profound thoughts and delicate emotions within, intangible objects one cannot see or touch, which rise to the surface and make me appreciate the simple fact that my heart is beating, that I am feeling, that I am among incredible beauty in this world. I feel like it’s LIFE that I see more clearly.

Leaving Myanmar

During my travels in Asia this year, everyone I met that had gone to Myanmar only had rave reviews, and it quickly became a “must-visit” country for me on this trip, ahead of other countries in Southeast Asia. Although I had hyped up coming here so much, I actually made no concrete plans and I had no guidebook (take that Lonely Planet!), instead relying on the recommendations and advice from other travellers I’d meet and whatever I could find online through very spotty internet connections.

In my 25 days in Myanmar, I’ve scraped my knee falling off a motorbike, fell into a moat, explored mystifying, historic ruins, went on some beautiful treks and slept on thin mattresses on floors of modest homes in hill tribe villages whose names I’d never heard of and already don’t remember, and as always, interacted with so many beautiful people.

kids in hilltribe village on trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake

kids in hilltribe village on trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake

It’s been a great time to experience Myanmar during low season and at its current course in history. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to visit this country of amazingly friendly people, and can only hope that if I get the opportunity to return here one distant day, the generosity and sincerity of Myanmar won’t be forsaken in the name of tourism and development.

Monks at U Bein Bridge, Amarapura

Monks at U Bein Bridge, Amarapura

And now I’m back in Bangkok for a few days, enjoying a few days of rest and relaxation before exploring another country in Southeast Asia…

Short reflections on the Camino de Santiago

El camino que camino es el mío – The path that I walk is my own

I filmed a few short videos while walking on the Camino de Santiago in May and June of 2013. In general, they show the amazing landscape that my eyes bore witness to, and the emotions and sentiments that I felt on the trails. I hope to go into more detail at some point, but I thought that I’d share these videos now (some are over 2 months old already!), lest they remain mere digital footprints on my iPhone that are left unshared. This, frankly, would be a shame – the Camino for me was an incredible, restorative 800-km journey buscando un poco más de la verdad: searching for a little more of the truth – my truth – what compelled me to walk such a large distance in a month’s time, to leave everything familiar and comforting to me behind, to put my faith in the unknown, to question how and why and humbly attempt to find answers, to trust and seek companionship in people who were just strangers before embarking on this pilgrimage…

I don’t pretend to have all the answers or speak of my experience as authoritative, but being an experience all the same, maybe there will be those who will want to seek out answers and search for their truth, and will be compelled to learn more about the ancient pilgrimage route that grows ever more popular in a world of increasing disillusion…

Camino de Santiago, Day 2

Camino de Santiago, Day 2, part 2

Camino de Santiago, Day 3

Camino de Santiago, Day 4

Camino de Santiago, Day 6