Review of the Journey So Far - Part Two
When I was sitting in my apartment in Chicago dreaming about this trip, I was most excited about visiting India and Egypt. More than any other countries, these two represented the height of exotic and dramatic travel.
India and Egypt did not disappoint, nor did their respective neighbors, Nepal and Jordan. Here's a quick review of the months I spent in these countries, and also some notes on my health, finances, and the Vagabonding.com project.
In most countries, you just observe what's going on. In India, you participate. You have no choice. If there's a marriage parade marching down the street you don't simply watch it. You get absorbed into it. Before you know it you're gyrating your hips and waving your hands around like you're on Star Search.
In this way, and in many others, India is the ultimate independent travel destination.
India is also a confusing destination. Since my visit I've spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about its history, what it needs, what it doesn't need, and the emotions it evoked in me. Here's what I'm thinking:
I think that everybody glamorizes India in their memory, and I knew I'd be no exception. Lest I forget the filth, pollution, rip-offs, hassles, and car horns, I drafted a list of all the things that drove me nuts – a six-pager.
As for the things that I loved, well, I didn't need to draft a list – they're etched in my mind; they grow more exaggerated every day.
I got off to a good start in Nepal. On my first day in Kathmandu I checked into a travel clinic, was diagnosed with Giardia, and began treatment that same day. Three days later I was close to 100%. Nepal was looking like paradise.
Kathmandu is legendary on the Asian travel circuit for its Western restaurants and amenities. The hype is true. There are so many traveler-centric niceties that it's easy to miss how fascinating and historically rich the city is.
The Annapurna trek was a major highlight of my travels. Diverse culture, natural splendor, extended time with friends, and great physical challenge – that trek really had it all.
The Nepalese people are what make the country so special. I don't know where you'll find a kinder, gentler, or more humble bunch.
I'd been excited about visiting Egypt for 20 years. Egypt has always represented the pinnacle of ancient man's achievements to me. In terms of exoticism and romance, nothing conjured up as strong an impression as River Nile. I'd heard there was good diving in Egypt too.
Incredibly, Egypt surpassed even my most storybook expectations.
Cairo, my entry point, is a teeming, vibrant city. I spent eleven days there before it even occurred to me to move on. I could live in that city.
The Pyramids of Giza did not disappoint, but it was Abu Simbel that really dazzled me.
The diving in Dahab was the best I've ever done. I earned my advanced certification there and did 12 fun dives, including the Thistlegorm, a WWII wreck.
On Traveling Alone
Although I'm traveling alone, I'm seldom on my own. There are always people to meet up with at guest houses or on journeys.
As I said in my first review of the journey, I've had my share of solitary dining experiences. But that's part of the deal.
Just kidding. I haven't had a single security or safety issue yet on this trip. I've never felt in personal danger or in danger of having my stuff stolen.
I really feel safer here than I do at home. And I seldom felt unsafe at home.
That said, a girl at my guest house in Kampala just had her pack stolen off the back of a matatu (public minibus); I'll have to take care.
Still, I'm convinced that the most dangerous aspect of traveling is crossing
I had a scare with the laptop today. The fully-charged battery had died after a long, bouncy matatu journey, and, even with AC power, the computer refused to start. Finally, after a long process of trial and error with battery removal and disc checking, I managed to recover the system from a serious error.
Yikes! If this computer died in East Africa it'd probably shut the site down until I got home (which would be tragic because I've got some great new video I want to cut up).
When the computer finally started I realized how rugged and reliable all my equipment has been. I've put this stuff through conditions no gadget should have to endure, and everything has held up beautifully.
(I've elaborated on the kit I'm carrying on the About > Equipment page.)
The Vagabonding.com Project
Vagabonding.com got some crazy traffic after being chosen as a Yahoo! Pick (3428 unique visitors in one day!). Traffic has since mellowed to an average of 750 visitors per day. Which is still extremely exciting to me.
In June over 13 gigabytes of data was downloaded from the site. There are currently 909 newsletter subscribers.
Posted on July
07, 2003 04:41 AM