Cuba and Venezuela have been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 59!
I don’t believe I have gone an entire week yet in India without falling ill. It’s getting really frustrating, because it’s been putting a damper on my (otherwise) fantastic trip.
Within three days of arriving to India, I got food poisoning. This was the first time I had ever gotten food poisoning, and I hope it was my last. The pain was so bad, that I had to check myself into a hospital, and be given a painkiller injection. Even after building up a strong stomach from my previous four months of travel, it only took three days of Indian food to take me down. That’s a bloody shame, because I love Indian food.
Besides the aforementioned food poisoning, I have also been suffering from a series of random colds/fevers. I’ll have one for a day or two. It will mysteriously disappear, and then come back several days later. I’m pretty sure mass transit is to blame; I cannot even begin to imagine how many germs there are on a crowded Indian train. Seriously, every time I enter a general seating train (standing room only), my nose and eyes immediately begin watering. It only takes a few seconds. I blame overcrowding and poor hygiene for this. In fact, I have decided to “wuss out” whenever possible, and begin taking the higher class train cars. While they are more expensive, these tickets guarantee you a seat, and are much cleaner than the general compartments. Perhaps Indian immune systems are used to the high level of germs and contamination; I, however, am certainly not.
I recently took a 36 hour train ride from Madurai (in the south) to Pune (in central India). Luckily, I had been upgraded for free, to a decent compartment. The ride went rather smoothly, and I arrived to my destination in good health. Then I took a local (crowded) train ride that lasted less than two hours. You know what? I’m writing this blog post with a terrible sore throat. It’s no fun. I rarely ever get sick back home in the USA: heck, I’ve barely gotten sick in any countries other than India.
I really hope that India doesn’t permanently screw up my immune system. The optimistic side of me thinks that it is helping me build immunity to illness and disease. The pessimistic side thinks just feels me getting weaker and weaker. Oh well, whatever doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger, right? Or maybe not. Only time will tell.
Anyone who wants to travel to India but has a poor immune system, please consult first with your doctor. Unless you get chauffeured around by a private taxi and stay at five-star hotels the whole time, you are bound to get sick at least once (even then, I’d still count on it).
For those of you who have spent extensive time in India, I’d be interested to hear about your experience. Did you get ill? If so, how badly, and did it significantly affect your trip?
Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the northern regions of Sri Lanka, because of government imposed bans. Seeing as I only had two and a half weeks to spend in the country, I forwent trying to apply for a region permit. The time I did spend traveling around Sri Lanka was more than enough, considering my situation and personal tolerance.
I took the 40 minute plane ride to Madurai excited to begin the second leg of my Indian trip. My arrival brought about mixed feelings. Yes, it was exciting to get back to the colorful chaos that I had grown (somewhat) accustomed to. However, Madurai sucked out all of my energy; within a few hours I had already jumped onto a moving bus, and was trying very hard to not get my pockets picked in such a tightly packed space. At the railway station I purchased a long-distance train to another city (Pune), but that didn't leave for another four days. I made a split-second decision to leave Madurai that same afternoon, and spend a few days elsewhere.
The place I chose was Kodaikanal, a hill station located roughly four hours away. Filled with trepidation, I took the bus and happily zoomed out of Madurai. The bus ride was windy yet somehow comforting; I think the loud Indian blasting from the bus speakers had something to do with that. As we reached altitudes of nearly a mile and a half above sea level, I felt a chill in the air. Soon, we met the destination.
I can honestly say that Kodaikanal is one of the best places I have been in India. I was immediately met with a magnificent view of India’s Western Ghats mountain range, and an inviting atmosphere. Cold, foggy, and friendly, Kodaikanal was as much of a departure from hectic Madurai as I could have hoped. Although the temperature was brisk, the people were warm. I quickly checked into the nearby youth hostel ($6.50 for a private room with some blankets).
The next morning, I took a scenic two-hour walk around the local lake, where many Indian holidaymakers were riding pedal boats. The calm I felt during that walk tremendous; it really made me appreciate the picturesque location. Also, the air was some of the freshest I had breathed during my trip. Cold weather did unfortunately give me a cold once more, though not as bad as the one I had in Nuwara Eliya. It really bothers me that certain beautiful locations make me ill; I just cannot adapt to cold weather. Heaven help me when I try to travel through Russia…
It feels great to be back in India. I hope during the next six weeks I see many nice places like Kodaikanal, an absolute standout city.
Wow. Six months. I didn't think I would make it this far. When I began my journey this past May, I never would have guessed I'd be where I am now. Originally, I had counted on my budget lasting just through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Well here I am, eight countries in, with plenty of steam left. Not only have I been to some places I hadn't originally counted on, one of those countries is an expensive one!
The past 30 days were spent in India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, though mostly in the latter two. I've already talked about India at length (and will do so more in the upcoming month), so I'll focus on the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Maldives was awesome! People usually just think of it as a bunch of tourist resorts. Honestly, those do exist, but the country is much more than that. It has a very laid back vibe, delicious food (it's Heaven if you love tuna), and a really cool shipping port. On my last day there, I walked through the port and enjoyed a joyous atmosphere, where everyone was buying and selling overseas imports!
Sri Lanka has a rather large tourism industry, and is therefore very easy to travel in. While the food was a bit of a step down from Indian cuisine, it is still pretty good. The country has many beautiful beaches and tourist resorts. Honestly, though, the place where Sri Lanka excelled for me was its hill country. The area outside Nuwara Eliya is simply gorgeous: green rolling hills and tea plantations abound. The area feels different from pretty much everywhere else I visited in Sri Lanka.
Next month will be spent in India. I have slightly more than one month left in that gargantuan land, and intend on making the best of that time. While the first leg of my Indian trip was spent in the country's south, the second leg will take place in the center and north. India has so much to see, that I'm sure I will require revisits to the country. For now, though, let's see where the road takes me.
The three currencies I used during my sixth month: Indian and Sri Lankan Rupee, and Maldivian Rufiyaa. My week in the Maldives took a sizable chunk out of my savings. But you know what? It was worth every penny.
Accommodation - $385.95. Average of $12.87 per day. Accommodation was by far the biggest expense from this month, mostly as the result of my Maldives adventure. Although I managed to find accommodation for roughly $30 per night, it came with plenty of tacked on taxes and island fees. I averaged about $7-8 per night in Sri Lanka.
Food and Drink - $215. Average of $7.17 per day, or $2.39 per meal. Food in Sri Lank and the Maldives was more expensive than in India. However, it was still very cheap. I'd say the food costs about as much as in Southeast Asia.
Alcohol - $16.14. The Maldives is an Islamic country, so alcohol is not readily available (at least on the local islands. I didn't drink much this month, even in India and Sri Lanka. However, a beer usually costs between $1-3 in both countries.
Transport - $121.99. More than half of this expense came from an $85 speedboat I took in the Maldives. Local ferries usually cost about $5. Unfortunately, they do not always run every day, so you might have to take an expensive alternative. My advice is to arrive at a time where you can take local transport. Sri Lanka, however, has ridiculously cheap transport.
Miscellaneous - $88.87. Includes things such as toiletries, laundry, ATM fees, souvenirs, etc.
Total amount spent - $827.95. Average of $27.60 per day. This was by far my most expensive month. However, I think I did pretty well, seeing as I managed to comfortably include a trip to the Maldives!
Once more, thank you to Simon and Erin, the creators of Trail Wallet. Their app continues to be my #1 budgeting tool. If you feel so inclined, check out their journey at neverendingvoyage.com.
At this point, I’d consider a three hour bus ride a short bus ride. Seriously. I've taken so many 10+ hour rides by now, that I don’t think I’ll feel annoyed by transit times, ever again. Also, after repeatedly trying to get directions out of people who don’t speak English, I don’t think I will ever be nervous about getting lost again.
While I've always had a strong sense of independence, traveling pushed me to that next level. I've had to figure out how to save money, and make that money stretch. I've had to book hundreds of flights, trains, buses, and guesthouses: often through people who don’t speak any English. Although I have learned to depend on the kindness of strangers, I've also learned a tough lesson. Nobody is going to make my plans for me.
I've slept in some of the most disgusting rooms you can imagine. We're talking: stains on the walls and bed, bugs, freezing showers, etc. I've ridden some of the most crowded buses and trains in the world. We're talking about sitting on luggage racks, no fans or A/C, sardine-tight crowds, etc. No more will dirt and grime and bugs and cold showers faze me. Nevermore.
It’s hard to see thousands of people living in little shacks (or worse), then hear someone complain about their house being “too small.” With all due respect to the thousands of struggling American families, our notion of “poverty” in the United States (and most Western countries) comes nowhere near the realities of a country like India. I’m sure you've seen homeless people in (insert generic large city). Now imagine a situation 50 times worse. 180 million people in India live below the national poverty line (less than $1.25 per day), and nearly half of children under the age of five are malnourished. A similar situation is present in Cambodia.
My realization is this: almost everyone in the USA (even middle and lower class people) is living in luxury. It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s another to actually see it before your eyes.
I left this one as a bonus, because it is an exception to the article’s title.
Before traveling, I probably couldn't even point out China on a map. Seriously, I was never taught geography in school. Now that I've caught the travel bug, my options have widened. I can now probably point out most of the world’s countries on a map.
I decided to head to the city of Nuwara Eliya, located in the hill country of Sri Lanka. It is a fantastic place, surrounded by beautiful nature. Outside the city center are lots of rolling green hills, waterfalls, and tea plantations. Upon dodging the seemingly endless barrage of tuk-tuk touts, I managed to secure myself a guesthouse, at the cost of roughly $7.50 per night. Thankfully, it was located on the outskirts of town, with plenty of trees, plants, and fresh air. While most of the country has a tropical climate, the hill country is an exception. Nuwara Eliya can get rather chilly, especially in the evening.
And so it was, I caught a terrible cold overnight. Through my miserable sniffling and sneezing, I contemplated what to do that day. The delicious home-cooked banana and coconut pancakes I ate for breakfast didn’t help my cold. Neither did the large pot of tea that I drank. After visiting the pharmacy and taking some (negligibly helpful) medication, I figured it was time to learn a bit about my surroundings. So I decided to take a bus to one of the local tea factories.
The Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Centre was located on a large estate, though the factory itself stood on a fairly small area of land. Many tourists were crowded around guides, who gave a brief description of the various functions of the factory. Because of my annoying cold, I remember very little of what was said. However, it was very concise and educational. Surprisingly, there was no entrance fee. I’m pretty sure that they were counting on tourists spending time and money in the gift shop and restaurant. Indeed, there were crowds of people in both facilities. Without further ado, I peaced out and took a bus back to the Nuwara Eliya. Total cost of my excursion? 50 cents.
Because of restrictively high prices, I’ve been skipping most of the sites in Sri Lanka. My traveling style doesn’t really revolve around “site-seeing,” and it takes something as essential as Angkor Wat to necessitate me blowing 2-3 days worth of budget on an admission fee. To be honest, the factory experience itself wasn’t very exciting, and perhaps I should have actually spent more money to have a good time. But you know what? It helped me forget about my horrible cold for a few minutes, and gave me the chance to spend some time with nature. It’s all good.
When I returned to my guesthouse, the kindly owner brewed some medicinal leaves in boiling water, and had me inhale the steam while covered by a blanket. No, it did not cure my cold. But it ended my night on an up note.
The day made me think a bit about the notion of “experience.” I think experience goes way beyond individual moments and places; it’s more of the collective yearning, learning, and feeling that we face all the time. Nothing mind-blowing ended up happening in those 24 hours, but I think that’s the point. It was the collective blasé of the day that caused it to stick to my brain. I’ll take it.
Sri Lanka (duh) has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 57!
I've recently hit a mini-landmark in my traveling career. Now that I'm comfortably situated in Sri Lanka, I have officially been to ten countries.
There are roughly 200 countries in the world, so I know ten means very little in the long run. However, it still means a lot to me. Less than one year ago, I had never left the United States. Now, I am ten times as well-traveled as I was before!
It's very easy to pop into a country just to pick up a stamp, but I'm not interested in that. I think that it's entirely possible to visit every single country in the world, but still have learned nothing about any of them. Therefore, I've made it a priority to thoroughly explore each place I visit. It's not necessary to visit every single city within a country, but one should at least stay long enough to get a general feel for it. What is the food like? What are the mentalities like? What can you learn from this trip?
I can honestly answer those questions for each country I have been to. Well, almost every one. I did arrive recently to Sri Lanka, and still have a lot to see and learn. However, I've allocated a solid 2-3 weeks for that. I am confident that when I leave (returning to India), Sri Lanka will have left an impression on me, just as every country has thus far.
Sri Lanka is an island nation located directly to the south of India. They had a 25 year civil war which finally ended in 2009, causing a resurgence in its tourism industry. I arrived in Colombo, the country's de facto capital, and immediately headed to a city called Kandy. My first impression of the country is that it feels like a less hectic version of Southern India. The food is very similar, and some people even speak the same language. However, it is definitely a more tourist-friendly place. Despite its relatively small size, Sri Lanka feels densely packed, with a slew of places to see.
Here's to the next ten countries!
There I was, eating dinner at a restaurant in the Maldives. The past few days had been quite boring. Not only did the rainy weather preclude me from doing fun oceanic stuff (such as snorkeling), I also had no fellow tourists to talk to. Indeed, during my stay I was the only Westerner in the hotel. Tourism was down, probably because of the rainy weather. In search of something to do, and to avoid the ridiculously overpriced hotel fare, I found myself eating all of my meals at a local restaurant. I would walk in, order my meal, and eat in silence. Sometimes there were others in the establishment, but they always spoke to each other in a local language I didn’t understand. In many ways, I felt disconnected: alienated from the culture around me. The television caused that all to change.
One thing I didn’t mention was that the restaurant had a large flat screen TV in it. People would usually sit around and watch television shows and movies, none of which were in English. Ok, whatever. It provided some mild entertainment, and kept the restaurant lively. I barely paid attention to the screen, that is, until Tom and Jerry came on.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Tom and Jerry, but I will clarify for those of you who don’t. It is an animated American cartoon from the 1940s and 50s, about a cat and mouse who are enemies. Tom (the cat) usually tries to capture Jerry (the mouse), usually ending Tom being injured or killed in increasingly cartoonish ways. The short films are very funny, and are frequently aired on cartoon television channels.
You may ask, what makes this show so different from the dozens of others that the Maldivians were watching?
There’s no dialogue.
That’s right, folks. With the exception of sound effects and music, Tom and Jerry is completely silent. When the first episode came on, I found myself laughing uproariously; this time, it was with a roomful of people. We sat there for an hour, watching the hilarious exploits of the animated cat and mouse. For once, there was no language barrier to divide us.
Right then and there, I realized something very important. In general, we all laugh at the same things, cry at the same things, and seek the same things out of life. Sure, sometimes our culture or upbringing instills us with different values and life choices. Sometimes, language and misunderstanding creates obstacles and stops us from communicating properly. However, deep down we all want to laugh. We all want to feel good. We all want to do the things we love.
The simple act of watching a cartoon in a restaurant, made me feel a kinship to my fellow man. It reminded me that language is nothing more than a barrier for humanity, a roadblock that the greatest forms of expression can knock down.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.