I always wanted to go to India, and when I finally arrived, I hated it. Truly hated it. For a few days. Too many people, other-worldly traffic jams, dirty, Delhi belly. This feeling went on for a while after I procured a driver to take me from Delhi to Johdpur and places in between, in an effort to see the best of Rajasthan, before I flew off to Goa and then trained it to Mumbai.
In the end, after some reflection, it was a perfect trip to India. I got to see it from the ground, where all the action is. The daily sensory assault can be overwhelming, but once you get used to it, you sort of act like a local and embrace the fact that your driver stopped two inches short of a mother with a newborn strapped to her back, who glared at him but kept going, as if to say, "...nice try, mister big, you can run me over another day..." Or when the stranger admonishes you for not wielding to the cow crossing the road, etc.
India is challenging, but the longer I stayed, the more I liked it. In Rathambore National Park I saw a Bengal Tiger in the wild. At that precise moment, overcome with the visceral sensation of true joy, my life was rendered complete. I did not just overstate the tiger sighting. I have seen a hundred thousand amazing things in my life. but the tiger was pure joy.
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A little more than 20 years ago, after working all night on a friend’s short film, I went to a bar in Hollywood with my friend Chris. We sat there in the early morning like alcoholics, discussing our plans to take over Hollywood and become the badasses we knew we could be. At one point, I turned around and noticed a mural of the United States on the wall. I got up and counted the number of states I had visited. The number was 41. It occurred to me that I had visited most of the USA, but had never left the country, save for a brief visit to Tijuana after college. It was at that moment that me and Chris decided to go to Europe.
Three months later, Chris gave me a backpack he had purchased in a second-hand store, and then wished me well. Circumstances got the better of him, and he was unable to go. I boarded an Air France jet and never looked back. I remember landing in Paris and trying my best to by a map. “Plan du Paris, si vous plait,’ I asked the merchant, trying to shield myself from the rain, for which I was unprepared. “Huit francs,” he barked back at me. I handed the man eight centimes and he glared at me. The only thing that comes to mind is the phrase “Stupid American” in a French accent. I finally accessed my high school French class, and then handed him the right amount of money. I would go on to meet some amazing people on that trip, right from the start in my Paris hostel. Several weeks later, I would have a near-death experience in a hotel in Brussels, and fly home early because I was terrified.
I never lost the love of travel, however. The next year I found myself in South East Asia for six weeks, followed by so many trips over the years, including safaris, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and a year vagabonding around South America. Now, 20 years and 100 countries later, I look forward to my next adventure.
I have learned a few things from traveling so much. First, I have learned immense gratitude. Not everyone in the world is able to travel. Some are locked by culture, others by money, others by the inability to get a visa. The lessons and experiences I have had are priceless, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to see the world. I have also learned that people are the same wherever I go. Sure, we have difference due to culture, religion, nationality, etc. But at the core, we are all the same. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to laugh and surround ourselves with family and friends. We all want success. We want others to respect us. We want peace. And we want to live a fulfilled life, however we define it. I have also learned that there is nothing to fear, anywhere in the world. Travelers are welcomed everywhere with open arms. Finally, I truly believe that traveling has grown my heart. What I mean by this is that I have greater compassion and empathy than I would otherwise have. My travels have not only taught me geography and bits of culture – they have actually expanded my human capacity to love.
Click on photo for pix and slideshows from summer 2018 trip.