I travel to forget where I am and to lose track of the days. To wake up to the sounds of dogs and doves, the conch shell at dawn, the chanting of monks coming from the monastery down the block. I travel for bells and incense, to watch the sun rise above an ancient city that sits atop a mandala, to cross paths with an old woman sweeping up piles of dust and fallen blossoms. I travel for her smile, the way she’ll turn to me as I get close, her butter brown face open in namaste.
I travel to see the dogs running around Kathmandu wearing necklaces made of marigolds, to let a family of five scoot past me on a motorcycle, daily meals of lentils and rice, a baby with kohl black eye liner around her eyes to ward off evil spirits.
I travel to fall off the wagon, to fall off the diet, to be presented with a plate of crispy crickets and a malty rice wine tasting of sour milk. To take a wrong turn in a small Mexican village and get swept up in a parade of 20-foot tall puppets. To become one of them for a moment. I travel for mezcal, how it’s offered when we get to the potter’s home high in the hills of Oaxaca, and offered again when we leave. I travel for the wet clay that will stay under our our fingernails for days. I travel for the bluest indigo dyes I’ve eve seen, and how the dye master rubbed dried insects into a red powdered dust in the palm of her hand. Magic.
I travel for the monkeys, those hoodlums who scamper across the roof, how the hotel will forget to tell you to close your windows when you leave your room. For the solemn look on my daughter’s face as we take the van from the airport to the hotel in Kathmandu – the poverty, the people on top of people – the broken down buildings and smoke coming from the Pashupatinath Temple along the Basmati River where Hindus hope to be burned when they die.
I travel for the older Nepali man who runs the hotel restaurant and how he greets me, smiling for the first time in the three years I’ve known him, and how we keep doing that funny thing where we mean to move toward a hug, then back away, how I finally take his shoulders and pulled him into me.
I travel to see things that scare me, like the man at the Boudhanath Stupa with teeth coming out of his cheek, and a body so twisted I turned away from his gaze. And for what I learn about him later, that he was a school teacher who lived up in the hills, a father, who was doused with acid when the Maoists came, when then took away his children to become soldiers.
I travel to shake up my story, to forget what I know. To meet a young German wearing bandages on his feet because someone suggested he pour acid on them to kill the leaches living between his toes. I travel for his shrug and his smile, and how my friend, a Buddhist, will say “that’s what he gets for killing leaches.”
I travel to write, to change, to enlarge the story, to expand my palette and to know myself in 100 new ways.
I’m delighted to be featured this week at The Creativity Habit, a podcast about creativity and making things in the world, hosted by Daphne Cohn.