Jumping Off Of Cliffs

I have a minor case of acrophobia (fear of heights). I realized this at the age of 10 when I was at a friend’s house on the 12th floor in Mumbai and was looking straight down. The world seemed to tilt and all of a sudden I had the feeling that the building was sagging, that we were all falling uncontrollably, to meet the earth. I took a step back and have always maintained this distance.

The reason my acrophobia is minor is because I truly enjoy climbing. I love vistas and the journey often endeavored to get to that point. I oft find myself inching towards the edge – taking a quick look down – and then running back to the safety of a hilly plateau.

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos where I hugged a rope swing to jump in

I also love jumping – off of cliffs, waterfalls, bridges. Granted the stark height is less of an issue here and I am breaking no new ground, my internal conflict before jumping off of each edge grasps me. That moment, when on tiptoes I stand looking down at the turquoise of a deep water pool, I struggle. Each and Every Time. Getting up to that cliff, to that rope, to that ledge is never the issue. All that involves is walking and following another person who has just gone before me. And then my turn arrives – the world closes. My mind wrestles between “Just Do It” and “Are You Serious?” I stand there as if the time has stopped, the world has stopped moving and it’s just me, my mind, and the water below. I do not know what that water holds – to me, my experience – that depth is entirely unknown, completely unfamiliar. Yes, I saw the person before me jump into the same and emerge just fine. But this is my fear, my perception.  Eventually each and every time, I feel will power slowly come in to render a decision. Determined – I go.

I don’t close my eyes, I forget the consequences, I leave my fear behind. And I drop, engulfed within microseconds by the cool arms of the once seemingly treacherous water. Waves of exhilaration and accomplishment soon follow and I glance a look back up at the stable ground that I just left and all I have left with me is a smile.

Oft, living life requires a similar debate and a similar determination. It is always tempting to choose an easy path – often at the sacrifice of doing something that one might have loved but one that required time, effort. In these cases, life soon becomes monotonous – the flavor evaporates, the color fades. Therefore, it is always important to wake yourself up – to dive, jump, run – and start beating once again.

Cenote in Cancun, MX that I jumped off of

Cenote in Cancun, MX whose dark waters I jumped into

Finding lost Treasures: The Summer of Rediscovery

I knew I could not cope with the future unless I was able to rediscover the past.
– Gene Tierney

It has been a while, hasn’t it? My words never did go silent – they just went from being digital to dusty cursive choosing to live in physical notebooks for some time. I wrote, I was prolific. Perhaps the reason why it was more literally pen to paper is because so many of these thoughts were deeply personal. That’s how this summer of travel affected me – the sights that I saw, the people I met – almost gave rise to emotions and aspects that I thought I had lost in the buzzing world of Business school.

These post-MBA travels before restarting my career after a two-year hiatus serve as a perfect bookend to my pre-MBA exploits around Southeast Asia. Back then, in 2011, I had set out to discover new worlds and push myself in directions that I didn’t know. These past 2013 travels were almost like shaking hands with a familiar friend – a best friend – who one doesn’t get to see that often. A friend who I had forgotten in my pursuit of a higher education. Ah – well – I am glad that I have found her again. She’s alive and thriving!

The Arno

The Arno, Florence

In Croatia, I confirmed the strength of beautiful friendships that I had cultivated over the last 2 years.

In Vienna and Budapest, I felt my inner history-loving fire come to life, waltzing around the Schönbrunn, pumping my fists up in Jewish Ruin pubs, singing “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” with an eclectic, musical trio.

In Italy – ah Italy – I met Bernini. I came face-to-face with his majesty – finally. I rediscovered my Art. Dancing on the streets of Venice, Prancing through cobbled stones of Florence, Hiding in the caves of Cinque Terre’s Ligurian Sea, Playing with fountains in Rome. Running across a friend from primary school days after 10 years of separation.

In Paris, I unearthed my love for Absolute Immersion. Living in the heart of Montmarte, traversing the City of Lights with friends who had defined me in my days in Boston, relishing on pan au chocolat and a café from a corner bakery every morning.

In Freiburg, I again understood the joy of Living Simply and the Art of Conversation. Picnics, munching on berries, swimming in green lakes, debates of society and politics under stars. And yet again, this time too, with friends who had shaped an amazing few months for me back in Boston.

In Peru, I found all of the things above in a wonderful package juxtaposed with some of the most astounding scenery that I have ever seen. And, saw my Macchu Picchu – a site that I have been chasing for about 10 years to get to. What was the most wondrous? While Europe rekindled with my old self in beautiful backdrops, Peru unveiled an entirely new dimension of me.

My travelogues eventually will follow. I wanted to write this piece to join together jumbled thoughts.

Heart of the Andes, Peru

Heart of the Andes, Peru

Kenyan Interjection: Backpacker insight – Hell’s Gate, Naivasha

Before I forget, I’d like to capture some core, rugged back-packer routes that a friend and I used to experience Lake Naivasha region and Hell’s Gate National Park and Green Crater Lake. They were fairly easy and showed us a slice of traveling local Kenyan style.

Hastily written entry but here goes!

What: Hell’s Gate National Park is located about 2 hours north of Nairobi in the Lake Naivasha region. It’s picturesque beauty is only magnified by the fact that a visitor can take a bike within the park and literally bike alongside wild zebras, giraffes, and buffaloes. The few KM bike ride culminates with a trek of the gorgeous gorge that is the signature of the park. Recommended to take a ranger/guide on your gorge walk – they weave in and out of spots one would have a harder time to find otherwise.

Green Crater Lake is a boat/mutatu ride away in the direction away from Hell’s Gate. One of the only few parks where one can actually walk alongside the wildlife mentioned above. A beautiful slice of nature in all its majesty only a few skips away from the hustle of Nairobi.

Watering Hole, Green Crater Lake, Kenya

Backpacker Transport:

Use 2 mutatus. Every 10-15mins or so, a traveler can find a mutatu going up to the Lake Naivsha region from the Nairobi taxi depot. Ask locals to point you to the right mutatu stop for this area. Get off at Naivasha and then take another mutatu towards the lake (going towards Fisherman’s Camp). Get off, spend the night at either Fisherman’s or the better quality Camp Carnelley’s (~$20 for a tent).

Eh, what’s a mutatu? The most frequent form of transport in East Africa – it is formally a 14-seater van that can informally take upto 20 people. Usually the longer duration rides abide by the 14-person rule but you may be lucky (or rather unlucky) and find yourself seated on a local or having been sat on by a local 🙂 I exaggerate – you are merely just squeezed.

However, if you are claustrophobic then I do suggest that you take caution.

Mutatu

Cost:

Mutatus are the quite inexpensive – especially when compared with personal hire taxis.

Nairobi-Naivasha: KSH 200 one way/ $2.5. This is a fixed rate and there shouldn’t be any bargaining involved. You should be able to get a fixed price ticket from a ticket window. Should touts come up to you and start shooting off different rates – they are probably taking you for a ride. A long-winded one.

Naivasha-Fisherman’s Camp: KSH 80 one way/ $1. Again, fixed rate. No more, no less.

Some parting words:

Is it daunting traveling like a local? Yes, in the beginning – it is. However, it is extremely do-able and one can easily find a few locals who will help you sort things out. If you are surrounded by touts, just move away (most of the touts and the peers that surround them are generally in on the scam) and ask some other passersby for help.

Is it worth it? Yes. Since English is a common language, one can find regular locals to converse with on the mutatu. Definitely should be sensible and not eat/drink anything offered to you but pure conversation is absolutely fine and quite enjoyable. We ended up meeting grandmas and local University students!

Happy traveling – carpe diem.

Cheers!

A Star Diffussed

I’ve never cried for a celebrity who passes away. Sure – celebrity deaths (Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse) have taken me by shock or surprise – but I’ve never cried.

Today I did. And I cannot stop.

There was just something about Steve Jobs passing away that hit home. He lived his life – every moment of it – but he went beyond. He lived it in a way that left an impact on those who didn’t even know him. He inspired people to achieve, he inspired people to dream, he taught a company how to fly. Today – especially realized through the Facebook Feeds spanning generations –  I know that a true visionary has left the planet.  And the World is short one excellent human being. Our lives are a little less brighter

Why did it hit home so strongly? Perhaps it is because I strive living my life the way he did – I aspire to grow not just personally, living every minute, but to also leave an impact on the people and lives I touch.

Perhaps it struck a chord because he was only 56 – 3 years older than my father. Currently, starting my summer internship search at Kellogg, life has become all about career achievements. Mr. Jobs achieved this and a whole lot more. He also balanced an interesting, but ultimately strong, personal life. And yet, the clock ran out. Think about all that he could have done – think how richer our World would be had he been in it for 20-30 years more. So, you wonder about this futile Rat Race that we are all running; these goals that we are all setting and you cannot help but sometimes pause and ask, “To What End?”

Steve Jobs provides the answer through his living: To the end that when your star diffuses, you leave an imprint on Earth that can be remembered through the years. And through that itself – you live on. Your Legacy continues. And you achieve Greatness.

I will miss you Mr.Jobs. I didn’t know it until this moment just how deeply you had enriched and touched my life.

~ Stay hungry, Stay Foolish ~

Summer’s Twilight in Vermont

Blast from the past:

Same time last year – late August 2010 – I had taken a solo roadtrip to sightsee New Hampshire and Vermont on a weekend. The reason I did it was because somehow, in my heart, I knew that my time in New England was coming to an end within a year. It was a wonderful, enriching trip. Beautiful Vistas. Cool Waters. Warm Sun. 

I had written this piece during that time. It’s fun reading it this year – looking back and remembering the uncertainty that existed in my life at that moment. 

—-

I know that I am going to look back on this afternoon and wonder, life was full of possibilities then – did they ever become realities? Perhaps at that juncture in life, they might have remained possibilities and I got lost in finding my way to realize them. Perhaps though, that when I look back to this moment, I might try to taint my then reality to measure at least some form of success.

The Greens of Vermont

I am sipping a perfectly blended iced-coffee, with a taste of Vermont, of Maple Syrup, in its flavor. And I am composing this entry, sitting on a shaded porch, in a dusty armchair, looking onto vast farmlands and beautiful, picturesque rolling hills. Life cannot be more peaceful than it is at this very moment. I cannot be more at ease than I am right now – with no immediate deadline and just wallowing in a vacation phase and darkening under the glory of Summer’s last sun.

I had thought that this trip would be one that was reflective, a trip that would open up my mind and ideas to get started on those pending essays that will decide the future of my career. Instead, it has turned out to be one where I seem to be withholding my foray into an ambitious future and instead, immersing myself into the last of my carefree days.

I am no longer young. 24 is the emerging of adulthood and I have to leave behind my early twenty, exploratory, hippie spirit. This trip, then perhaps, was a last hurrah. I know that I cannot afford many more of these. At least not until I have a good, future path set in stone. This is for the benefit of my life after all – I don’t want to wake up and suddenly realize that I am 30 and still musing over what to put in my personal statement for M.B.A. school.

Yet –once the planned, (if realized) future gets into place and I find myself successful, will I be happy? Or will I miss these days of the carefree, when my spirit had finally woken up to all the beauty that Living has to offer.

I am single. I travel alone. And still, I continue to be blissfully, pleasantly happy. It is only then that I glance up, smiling and lost in my sense of self, that I am jarred back into this reality as I realize Time’s ever-ticking presence. It truly stops for no man.

So, I say, make the most out of these days but they are my last foray into running wild and unhindered as I need to now, heavy-heartedly but with a finality, plan for the future and jump into it without regrets and without looking behind.

To Youth. To Freedom. To Life.

Written outside of Jeffersonville, VT at Brown & Jenkins Coffee. Pure Bliss. And what a view!

View from Brown & Jenkins Coffee Shop

My Anthem

Baawara mann dekhne chala ek sapna
Crazy heart set out to see a dream

~

Reflect upon life and ensure that you capitalize on living every moment. It is only when you do this that you know that you have lived. Never have regrets and be free of fears. Pursue the dreams that your heart wishes. Pursue growth. Pursue happiness. Pursue freedom.

Have an optimism, have an equal sparkle for both the simple and complex things. An enthusiasm about life – your life – will inspire visions and thoughts even in the dullest of places.

Be an Individual. Be courageous enough to break from the Circle and explore outside your comfort zones. It is only then that you will experience a life that is so preciously colorful and amazingly vibrant. You will meet people from all walks – persons you would have never met. You would envision things from all layers of society, from multiple angles. Experiences would be drastic, dramatic even. Living will suddenly have a new meaning. You will have lived. You would have given rise to dormant aspects of yourself.

To achieve this – it is not so much  about Travel as it is about Interacting with the tactile, wonderful elements about you. One can see the world and still not have grown, lived if all one did was just see the world.

Do it early – do it practically. But Live.

Ever since I was introduced to the Latin phrase that added a meaning to my thoughts, it has become a heartbeat to my very being:

Carpe Diem

~*~