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

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Countdown to Zero: Day 31

A month from now, I will be flying from Bucharest to Istanbul to Boston to Toronto. It’s a simultaneously frightening and comforting thought that almost a year and a half of travel around the world is coming to an end.

To commemorate, I would like to share with you each day something from these tales of travels, these trials and tribulations that went on somewhere in the world in that time span (really, just my misadventures). This will be in addition to my daily travel posts and updates. Each day, I would like to reflect on a memorable experience I had during the last year and a half of travel – something I did for the first time, something I learned from, something humbling, something that made me feel accomplished, something that made me feel a way I’ll never forget, something that impacted me and left me with an impassioned inspiration – anything, really, that manages to make me smile when I look back upon it with the filter of time which only manages to facilitate the nostalgia I feel.

Today’s throwback: let’s not begin with anything too profound. Instead, here’s something from my time in Georgia from August/September 2013 – the food and drink! Khinkali, khachapuri, ostri, roasted eggplant topped with a walnut/garlic paste, Khevsuruli beer, homemade wine in used plastic bottles – these were my staples, and though sometimes repetitive, were always filling 🙂 By the way, I absolutely loved my time in Georgia and it’s easily one of my favourite countries I’ve ever visited. This won’t be my only post about Georgia in the next month…

Khinkali

Khinkali

khachapuri

khachapuri

Ostri

Ostri

eggplant with walnut garlic paste

eggplant with walnut garlic paste

Khevsuruli beer

Khevsuruli beer

Homemade wine

Homemade wine

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…