My eyes are off. They’re not symmetrical; one seems larger than the other. Or maybe one eyelid is lazy, or heavier and hangs lower. It’s not a huge difference. Maybe you wouldn’t even notice, certainly nothing to give a child nightmares. I don’t see it when I look in the mirror. I only notice in photographs of myself, and only in recent photos. Maybe it’s like the Buddhists say: life is change. But that’s not the point.
Faux Zen Koan #1: There is no “i” in “me.”
Wait, that makes no sense. But maybe that’s the point. Some people believe there are three “I’s” in a person: the one you want others to believe you are, the I you believe you are, and the one you are. That’s a trinity of I’s running amok inside you, and maybe colliding like atoms into each other, even merging now and then.
Who knows what is real, when “whatever we believe” is what is real for each of us. And we know how different beliefs can be. I confess, I do not know what is real for me. I know one or two things. I used to know more, had more answers. At one time, I knew the answer to just about everything. These days, I scratch my head a lot.
Sometimes I quip about being the poster child, but when examining the symptoms, doctors cannot accurately diagnose it, so we can’t call it ADHD, but I know this: I do not keep my eye on the prize. When young and playing sports, I never kept my eye on the ball. I never take naps. I tire easily of things: people, places, tasks. My memory is a sieve with a hole in it. I rarely move forward in one direction. If I see a tangent…I am running all over that sucker in the blink of one imperfect eye.
And if I’m already off on one tangent, and I see another tangent loom up on a horizon—right, I feel obligated by the gods and demons residing here in my earthly temple to jump ship, move onto that other track, walk barefoot through even-greener grass. I used to love this about myself, the variety, the fire. I used to think it was normal. Maybe I thought everyone was like this, or if they weren’t, they had a problem. It felt natural, the obvious choice, the passion. Until people I cared about stayed put, started crying and saying things like: “You’re going where?”
Old news—this is something we all now know: I am no planner. I am the kind of traveler who simply heads out into the world, trusting a path will appear. Along with angels bestowing miracles. Along with maybe a few “voices” to guide the way. One day back in the days when I was like Crown Prince and heir to the World, I was working the cash register in my natural food store in Aspen, Colorado, circa early 1970’s (a long story for another time, but yes, ginseng, wheatgrass and John Denver appear as minor characters). Two customers walked past, and one word in their conversation rang like a chime inside my head: “Costa Rica.” Two months later, I had acquired a bank loan on a VW camper van and was driving it down the Pan American Highway (one more long story for another time, circa pre-Lonely Planet guidebooks).
However, I have recently been reading other travel writers who seriously plan their trips, and I have lately begun feeling as though that may be a more intelligent, a more sane, a more mature way to operate. Jeff buys a pile of guidebooks, makes a “playoff chart” the way newscasters do for the World Series or Super Bowl playoffs; he plays countries against each other until he chooses a winner, and then he goes there.
Sue and Dave plan out their trips apparently down to the minute they take showers. They have to, because half the time they’re riding bikes up mountains, and half the time they’re climbing sheer cliffs on those mountains. You need to know when you’ll be showering when you travel the way they do—with one dang carry-on bag and wearing your helmet on airplanes. And Alison and Don have plans made in advance for six months to a year, maybe longer. You have to admire travelers with that kind of skill and dedication to planning.
So, fine. Maybe I should get my planning act together. Maybe I should apply the Buddhist theory of change, and change. But what about a man who doesn’t know how to plan, a man who would rather throw up a little in his mouth rather than commit to a plan, a man who has no patience, let alone desire and skill, necessary to plan—how does a man like that learn to make plans is all I’m saying here.
Short Answer: He doesn’t. He seeks help.
I spent years on too many beaches during my travels and ruined my skin in the sun, so I don’t need to visit one more beach. I’m up to here with beaches in my life. Quite honestly (and very sadly), beaches bore me now. For a beach not to bore me, it’s going to need some very serious WOW factor going down: 25-foot waves, or white-sugar sand, or a bevy in thongs. Once in Mexico, they even named a beach after me: Son’ova Beach.
However, you know those exotic resorts that rent those luxurious, romantic bungalows built out over coral reefs in the middle of the ocean, Jacuzzi on the veranda, triggerfish, sailfish and stingrays galore. I have always wanted to hang out and do nothing in one of those bungalows, experience that kind of WOW factor under an umbrella on a comfy chaise lounge. Kelly did that, and she took a photo of a bottle of imported beer sitting on the railing and overlooking the crystal-clear, green water below her bungalow. I figure…I’ll follow Kelly’s footprints, I’ll go there, and I’ll take that same photograph. Decision making at its finest (*brushes palms together as though finishing an arduous task, excess particles of accomplishment falling like fine powder to the floor*)
But by now, you probably realize just how much energy, concentration, effort it takes to force me from this end of the scale of merely making a decision and move all the way over to the other end of the scale to commit and actually do something. Sometimes, it has taken years. But you just might be surprised this time. I have already bought a plane ticket to the Maldives. I rented a bungalow over the water; it has a Jacuzzi on the veranda. I did some not-quite-extensive research of several resorts, but ended up reserving the same one where Kelly stayed: hey, if you’re going to follow footprints, follow the dang footprints, or else make your own decisions, eh.
Lesson learned: following the footprints of other travelers drawn to adventure and WOW factors is not cheap sometimes.
Possible problem Number One: I only booked a one-way air ticket because I wanted to make sure I got there, but I didn’t know exactly where I’d fly from there—back to Abu Dhabi, Seychelles, Amsterdam, Zanzibar, Bali, Timbuktu. Buying one-way air tickets is not something one should generally do. Sometimes, it’s cheaper just to buy the round-trip and not show up for the return flight. Or…just plan better. Sooner.
Insight of the day: when you buy an air ticket to follow footprints of another traveler, make sure you know where she went next. And then commit.
But see…that is precisely why I do not relish planning, it’s too much like work. Too many decisions to be made. I’m a Libra. And I’ve never been good at making decisions, or committing to plans. Therefore, I have decided to officially adopt a new system of planning travel in the future.
Kelly went to the Maldives; fine, I go to the Maldives. Kelly went to Sri Lanka, I go to Sri Lanka. Kelly went to Katmandu, I go to Katmandu. Kelly went to Bhutan, I go to Bhutan. Following in Kelly’s footprints makes the decision-making process much easier. Maybe we’ll call it the Kellian Travel Planning Technique. Maybe I’ll change my blog title to: Badfish Following Kelly. Or simply: Following Kelly.
The good news for you: if you now read both Kelly’s blog and my blog, in the future, you can simply read one or the other, cut down on the reading and responding since we’ll be writing about the same places. Of course, the experiences may vary: she may spend more time climbing mountains and trekking, I may linger a little longer on descriptions of thongs, but otherwise…
New news: Kelly suggested taking the short flight from the Maldives to Sri Lanka. She also offered her itinerary for the Sri Lanka visit: some mountains, a tea plantation, beaches, villages with exotic names. I was set to go. Plans made, decisions made. Plans set in stone. But something kept me from making the air reservation to Sri Lanka from the Maldives. One of those voices whispering: “wait.” Was it intuition, or just the Libra in me? Or that voice you hear now and again coming from your gut, or the cosmos, or who knows where? I knew I’d go to Sri Lanka because I’d already purchased the guidebook, and we’d already made the decision. I say “we,” but Kelly doesn’t know she’s actually making my decisions for me; she just travels, writes her adventures, and offers cool travel suggestions to a commitment-challenged traveler.
Then, two interesting events occurred. Well, three. One, I received a full scholarship to the 5-day Indian Yoga Festival in Goa, India. They awarded me the scholarship either because of my age (a youngish geezer-something) or because of the short letter I wrote telling them my history of practicing and not practicing yoga for decades; I don’t know which. Two, the hotel hosting the festival was already full. That meant, right, first searching for another hotel, making a decision and committing (* grabs desktop and gags*), and then booking the room. Imagine a clownfish languishing in deep water if you desire. And three, I happened to run across a blogger living in the ashram of Amritanandamayi, a renowned guru and yoga teacher in India, revered as a saint by some. Why is everything always so many shades of gray, so many choices? Why can’t everything just be black and white, with one choice? I know what you’re thinking: it is black and white—you bought the guidebook, you made a decision, just follow Kelly’s footprints to Sri Lanka.
Long story short: I made the decision. I bought a one-way air ticket from Male, the capital city of the Maldives to Trivandrum, a city in the south of India in the state of Kerala. Trivandrum is not the real name, it’s the name the British changed it to, the way they changed Bombay and Calcutta. The Indians have now changed Trivandrum back to it’s original name, but the original name is quite unpronounceable and contains like 36 syllables. I now say Mumbai for Bombay and Kolkata for Calcutta, but even locals still call it Trivandrum.
Another long story short: because of the way airlines price tickets and the fact that a computer doesn’t understand why I don’t want to return to Male from Trivandrum instead of flying to Abu Dhabi, the city I flew to Male from, I purchased yet another one-way air ticket from Trivandrum to Abu Dhabi.
I reckon by now, you’ve surmised this is less about an “imperfect eye,” and more about some imperfect inner “I.” Yet I prefer you feel no pity for my plight and poor planning skills, and my emasculating dependence on some stranger (a girl), to nudge my butt into the world. It’s a burden I must bear, perhaps, but as the Buddhists believe: life is all about the suffering. If submission to a Kellian travel plan that forces me kicking and screaming to the Maldives during Christmas holidays in 2015 to drink imported beer in the Jacuzzi on my veranda overlooking the coral reef while watching a whale tailfin disappear into clear water is suffering, then fine, perhaps I’ll make a better Buddhist than we previously surmised.
Although I’m not offering the option to vote in a survey, I would consider your opinion on whether to post weekly updates of the upcoming sojourn/ pilgrimage/ travail (departure only a couple weeks away), or perhaps a daily photo, or simply wait until I return to share the journey in toto. Electricity and wi-fi always being a factor in third worlds. Or, you may offer any other options you might conjure (although I would appreciate your withholding comments on my visiting a shrink regarding any apparent issues you believe I may be harboring).
You can find other entries in DP Photo Challenge here: Eye Spy
You can find other entries in Lucille’s Photo Rehab here: Photo Rehab