Tag Archives: travel

2013: The Value of Time

I could write for days about 2013. In fact I intend to at some point write a book of my adventures…and this blog covers those in detail pretty well. I’m writing the reverse of a new year resolution (depending how you look at it), I’m writing a ‘resolved last year’. I am testing the theory that celebrating what I achieved/how I grew is more motivating than only saying what I have to change to be successful or happy.

I will always see my travels as an invaluable experience…not because I saw the Taj Mahal and Victoria Falls (though they were wicked awesome)…but because of what I couldn’t have learned as clearly anywhere else, at least not in such a short period of time. If I ‘took away’ three things from this year they would be: the value of time, the fortune of good health, and choosing to see the beauty in everything. This is the first of three posts deconstructing my experience and theories about those three ‘learnings’ or ‘take aways’ if you will.

The Value of Time
Time is money. We’ve all heard it, and most likely said it. The expression typically implies that we mustn’t waste our time at work because the more we waste the less cash we make. Have we ever actually thought of it like that in terms of the value of time instead of the value of money? Perhaps we should think of it in terms of our donations to our community or our overall wealth. I would even argue that many of us are more afraid of not having enough money over not having enough time (in days, not in a day).

With volunteer management being part of my role and having upwards of 1000 recorded volunteer hours under my belt, you could say I think volunteers are an integral part of society. My approach to my job is that volunteers are donors and should be treated as such. If Jane gets paid $25/hour at her day job and volunteers with us 3 hours each week we could argue that she makes an annual contribution of nearly $4000 to our foundation. As a young person I have taken this approach to volunteering: I don’t have the money, but I do have the time [to donate]. Without the volunteers to canvas a charity doesn’t reach the people with the money to donate…both play equal parts in the growth and sustainability of the not-for-profit sector.

Second, in regards to wealth…would you rather be the richest person in the world with a week to live or earn an average income and have 50 years…even 20…even 1? Maybe the answer to that is less obvious to some than it is to me, but I see just as much value in the time I have as my bank account. No, I won’t say time is more important, because I do think that you need to earn a living to support a healthy lifestyle…but (especially as a 20-something) I think our concept of wealth is extremely distorted. First, we don’t actually ever know how much we have left. Have you ever stopped and thought of how amazing it is that you are as old as you are…thought of all the things that could have gone wrong, things you’ve overcome, or people you know that haven’t been as fortunate? Do it.

We tend to panic about investing money to RRSP’s and buying houses completely forgetting how much time we have that we won’t get back. (Note: I am investing in that stuff too…but the key is balance) I have seven years before I hit ‘thirty’…in quotes because society has turned it in to a successful life checklist instead of an age. That seems like a terrifyingly close time to be married with kids with a white-picket fenced home in suburbia (not that those are my specific goals)…but then I remember that 7 years ago I hadn’t even applied for university, I was working at Starbucks part time, and wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. In that seven years I have visited over 20 countries, completed my degree, had three other jobs, met 3 times the people I knew then and moved out (among other things). Had I chosen to just work to make money scrapping travel and my 4-year degree my bank account would probably (definitely) be quite a bit prettier, but I would never doubt how much wealthier I am today because I invested my time.

Third and last: relationships. Intimate or friendships, I am standing up for myself and my time. For some reason it is really easy for me to identify one sided relationships my friends are having with their significant others while I am the same person in some of my personal friendships without even realizing it. Many of our friendships will last longer than most of the relationships in our lives so all the more reason to demand respect and chose individuals that will support your success as you do theirs.

Yoga teacher training helped me in removing myself and my bias from situations. That act alone has helped me see how ridiculous some of my friendships were and the toxic effect they had on my life. The good news (which is better than this Debbie downer mumbling) is that it has also helped me see the people in my life that are great. The people that have seen me at my worst…which has been pretty questionable at times… and still balls to the wall support me in anything I do. The cliché ‘people I can count on’…but most of all, the people that make me better (and that I think I’m making better in a non-manipulative way).

How do you make people better? How can you tell if people are making you better? I am convinced (for now) that I have deduced this to 3 points. (I like lists…and odd numbers).
1) Challenging each other. Not to a pokemon duel or a kegstand contest… but do you ask the hard questions? Maybe you answer them. Having the trust to be honest without repercussion. Maybe it’s a little bit of healthy keeping up with the Jones’ to keep you on the bandwagon in the latest diet fad. May I add the disclaimer that good intention is the magic ingredient…competition or comparison are different ball games.
2) Who you are for each other. Not buying flannel and skinny jeans because somebody is totally into hipsters… but does being ‘there’ for this person mean more to you than staying in your comfort zone? By ‘there’, maybe you have to be a better listener, have more compassion, meet new people…not changing who you are fundamentally but strengthening friend/life-skills to be ‘there’.
3) Believing in each other. Both ways. Do you respect that person enough to be their voice of ambition and confidence when they feel like there is no winning? And is that person there to tell you who they know you can be when your head is stuck in a fog? Once again I stress: BOTH WAYS.

I have cut out SO many people from my life. If you are still not convinced on my time vs. money comparison let me put this into more quantifiable terms than ‘being there’. What my life had become after university and working in a youth dominated retail environment was a portfolio with 100 unpredictable stocks. I had to try to tend to all of them because I didn’t know which ones would become valuable or stay in my portfolio, and many of them fooled me because I couldn’t do my research. Now I have 10 well-researched, reliable stocks that I will continue to invest in because I know I will get a good return. Shit does happen, but ultimately I know I can count on them in the long run. And because I feel secure and stable, I have time to do, learn, and live much more.

In one easy summary: My time is valuable and limited, I will not waste it to please others, I will invest it to making myself and those who invest in me better.

Sorry, I’ll be busy with Africa.

When in your life do you get to say, “sorry, I cant, I’ll be in Africa”!? I do…for the next month!!

I’m going to be on the South West Safari for 25 days with Acacia Africa! We go from Johannesburg, through Kruger, Chobe, and Estosha National Parks, To victoria Falls, the Oldest Desert and highest dues in the world in Namibia, and end in Cape Town.

I feel like my trip is like some trippy version of time travel, starting in the first world and working my way back. As I listen to the complaints of the cost in Australia made by my friends doing similar trips in reverse, I cant help but be thankful that I am doing mine in the order I am. If I’d stepped off a plane and into India I would have been home for Christmas.

That being said, Africa is the beast of this trip to me. It’s like the ultimate cool, crazy thing…Lots of people work for a year in Australia, tons do the south east asia loop, and its a yogis unofficial mission to make it to India…but Africa…not a lot of people do Africa. I’m still a little undecided on how I feel that I’ll be leaving without volunteering officially this time around, but I think I’ve subconsciously planned that in such a way that will force me to go back.

I will be touring the southern tip of the massive continent which checks many things off ye good old bucket list but Kilimanjaro and Kenya for the great migration are still hanging out.

I have a few more days in India…I’ve decided to fly to Mumbai because trains from Jaipur are waitlisted for the next week except first class which was more than flying plus airport transfers, then I fly Ethiopian Airlines (which supposedly has a safe flight record) to Johannesburg on Tuesday morning. 10 hours of flying for 400 bucks–Why is air travel in Canada so damn expensive!

Anyway, I’m sure I will post again before I leave, but I had to post to share my excitement as I scrambled to get finances sorted today and the lady on the phone suggested I come in later in the week, I got to say, “sorry, I’ll be in Africa”

PS getting 1000USD for a kitty and visas while abroad is challenging and expensive and should be done further in advance than 3 working days.

Falling for India

I didn’t think it would happen. As I left the comforts of family friends holding my hand and showing me Kolkata and Delhi, I was actually genuinely scared for my life. If I didn’t get the luck of the draw for tourists assaulted on trains or hostels, surely my short temper would be the end of me with the pinching and whistling men on the street. Never mind the constantly changing balance between animal feces, urine, deep frying, and burning garbage in the street, the instant flooding upon rainfal, and the general overcrowding causing an unmanageable quantity of waste in the streets and tumbling houses.

So, I rocked up in Jaipur a few days ago. Honestly, on the drive in I wanted to leave. The bus was weaving through slums and running over piles of manure faster than they could be avoided. I’ve never wanted a bus not to stop so badly in my life. In even a moment passing you could see small disputes over cents and children savouring small pieces of bread you knew was their only food. “If this is the real India,” I thought to myself “I’m done. I’m going to pay however much it is to stay at the Fairmont we just drove by until my flight leaves next week and I’m not leaving until then”.

I got out of the bus to find my rucksack unloaded into a pile of freshly liquified mud and got stalked for 2 blocks by the thirsty rickshaw drivers that practically licked their lips as they saw my non-indian face in the window as the bus pulled in.

Before I sound like a total B, I’d like to say…the situation for women in India is grim. Nevermind foreign women…alone. To be on high alert isn’t only natural but necessary, and out of self-preservation, everyone must be seen with caution. For example, the group of 4 men who circled me at a food stall that night I arrived, started pinching my ass and calling me a sexy mama-cita until I verbally tore a strip off of them yelling so the police close by would come get them away from me and take me to my hotel safely.

Anyway, a guy offered me a ritzy hotel room for 200 rs a night (like 3.50 USD), so out of dumb curiosity I got in a rikshaw sponsored by him to check it out. Obviously it was bull shit, but the driver who has turned into my Prabu (for those who have read Shantaram, for those who haven’t-do it), showed me Hotel Vaishnavi where I have been happily hanging out since.

The day after the incident I stayed in all day loving my wifi and cable TV. They have a reasonably priced restaurant with room service and I’m almost caught up on One Tree Hill, Grey’s, and Christmas movies from the 1990s. Then yesterday I decided to venture out and do the sightseeing shindig as per Prabu’s directions. I told him I wanted to walk and offered him a 100 Rs as thanks for showing me a good route, which he declined as he pointed me in the right direction.

Two weeks in this country and I still felt off of my game. More than I have anywhere else. I couldn’t quite figure out where I should be walking, if I should be walking…I couldn’t actually read the map at all. I stopped to get some deep fried daal and curry for breakfast and had my first taste of ‘India’. The man gave me a price, obviously the local price, I went to pay him and he said ‘no, pay after you eat’…fair, the locals do it too. I ordered a chai, which he called somebody on his mobile to bring (I didn’t realize he didn’t make it), and ate whatever he served up to me. It was so cheap I would have paid for every piece, but he refused my payment in the end. After an hour or two….I kind of lost track…of him teaching me Hindi and me teaching him English, he said “you are a guest, now you are my friend, a friend and guest to India shall be showered with welcome, that doesn’t mean paying”. Ordinarily I would be under the impression of ‘how am I going to pay for this later’ but my gut told me he was genuine. I accepted his gift and continued as per his directions to the old city.
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As I got into the old city I asked to photograph some spices at the street bazar, the man happily allowed it and asked to buy me a drink. I was taken back until he clarified either a cola or a chai so we could talk. “it is broad daylight, I will not do anything”…red flag! His two sisters came and insisted it was safe, that they would even join. Hesitant, I accepted. We talked for a while as they asked questions about the weather, the food, the music…I concluded by asking why it was they found foreigners to be so fascinating. He replied “in India we are too poor to go away, to talk to foreigners is the closest we will come to seeing anywhere else in the world.” And that simple statement brought me to a new level of empathy with the harassment I had been receiving. Realizing that perhaps some of the ‘hayyy ladeeee where you from’ was genuine curiosity, and in sad way a plea to learn.

I continued down the street to find groups of children staring as I took photos of decrepit buildings and street vendors. I offered to take a photo of them and got a posse for blocks as they wanted to show me all sorts of colourful things and, of course take more photographs. As we walked down one alleyway a calm and proud woman pointed at the camera then at her and her son, I calmed the children and took a photo. The look in her eyes was incredible. A sense of attachment that I don’t think a Westerner could fully comprehend, just to the image of her and her son. The connection I sensed to hers led me to get a copy printed for her. She attempted to repay me the small fee. I declined, and gave her son a hug while she cherished the photo. With his impressive English he told me how happy his mother was that he would have something to remember her by. Something so simple but such a big impact; a reminder of how we can leave somewhere even just a little better than we met it.
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I continued wandering the old city meeting many charming locals including a stunning elderly woman sewing bangles. Her scowl was impressive as her eyes pierced through the tourist taking photos from afar…as I asked her if I could take one, honestly assuming she would reject my request, she smiled and said “you ask, I smile”.

As I headed back to the hotel I started to feel absolutely vial. Perhaps it was wearing a tshirt, crops, and a scarf in 41 degree heat for 5 hours of walking, perhaps it was the ice cream lassi…maybe I had bad water. Either way I felt like I was going to drop to the floor at any moment and my stomach was expanding like a balloon. A pair of older men waived me in to their tire shop just outside of the city gate. They cleared off a seat, cleaning it off and placing it beneath a fan, instantly fresh bottled water and chai were at my disposal and they were calling my hotel to send a driver. Not only did the men reach out to help me no questions asked, but I felt, finally, at ease to accept it. I didn’t think they were telling me to come in to rape me, I didn’t think they drugged the chai. It was almost like Kua and his train station crew…It probably sounds super dodgy, but in the moment the humanity overshadowed the logic.
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My Prabu picked me up, dropped me back at the hotel free of charge and everybody checked on me for hours. I laid in my bed watching A Cinderella Story sipping oversweet chai and as I stared at my recently finished novel, Shantaram I remembered what Vikram said, “That’s how we keep this crazy place together — with the heart. Two hundred fuckin’ languages, and a billion people. India is the heart. It’s the heart that keeps us together. There’s no place with people like my people, Lin. There’s no heart like the Indian heart”.

For the first time, I believed it was in fact true. The friends I had stayed with had never met me before, but they welcomed me to their homes and lives without hesitation. Yes, some are creepy, but so are men back home. I looked at every unique moment of that day and saw events that only happened out of love. Yes, a country with a billion people living, in some cases, virtually on top of each other there needs to be love, but their heart is beyond themselves, and I had the gift of receiving it.

If India isn’t proof not to judge a book by its cover [or its first 10 chapters] I don’t know what is. I’m still on high alert, but I believe for the first time that I’m going to be fine. That there is more heart than there is bad. And I’d like to believe that is true of everywhere even if we don’t all show it the same.