Things that are Precarious: A Vertigo-Driven Photo Essay

It seems that when traveling outside the USA, I find many things that just don’t look stable or safe. Case in point: houses on mountains, motorcycle rides over landslides, or me on anything. Here’s a collection of precarious things that would freak any mother out–especially mine. And yes, I use the term “precarious” quite lightly. So what here is precarious?

The girl who leaned out to take this photo of me rock climbing, for starters.

Or these homes in the Cinque Terre, Italy.

Or these schoolboys in Thailand mugging for my camera over the previous night’s landslide.

Or really, everything about this photo. No wonder we didn’t have power for a week.

How about any of these mountain roads in Nepal?

Or this giant fly, trying to function on this planet on its measly legs?

Or me on other cliffs:

Or me…not on any cliffs?

Or this village dessert’s contents, in my stomach, given to me during an event at which I was the honored guest?

Or me in this hammock in Malaysia (because the first one I was in broke, and I still have the scar to prove it)?

How about these bridges in India, Cambodia, and Thailand? If only you could see the true angles…

What is the likelihood that this Maltese road does NOT suddenly end and drop into the sea?

Or that my hiking buddy is NOT going to be caught in a gravelanche?

Or that several teenage girls CAN actually live in this tiny house on stilts in Asia?

And finally, will you trust that this egg-carrying bicyclist will never have to suddenly swerve or stop short?

Precarious or not, I’m still alive. Barely, but I still am. Remember: If you’re a mom, do not look at this post. Sorry for the late warning.

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Hidden Signs in Photos

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An In-Depth Look at What’s Lurking in the Background of Your Photos

Do you ever get home, look at your photos for the first time on a large computer screen, and then notice details you never before saw? What’s that in the background? What is he motioning? How could she be…OH my GO–! I know I see odd things upon closer inspection, and I wanted to clue you in on exactly what I found. Throughout my thousands of photos taken throughout 9 different countries in 2012, you can imagine that photobombs were so tame in the scheme of things, they didn’t even make the cut. 

Let’s start off with a fairly normal photo (and you can read through and then click to enlarge the photos, running through a slideshow all at once) so you can be as shocked and awed as I was. 

Take a look here (below). Can’t see much except a sand hill, right? Wrong, naturally. 

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Let’s look closer (below):

Yeah, weird…I didn’t know Mr. Revere was even still alive! Or that he visited India! So honored though.

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Let’s take a glance at a new photo (below) from Nepal:

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Big whoop, you say. A guy is asking for directions. But look closer now (below).

Holy eep, man

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And this was one of the small riots, too. Naturally someone was killed here later that afternoon, but I was safe and long gone by that time.

Okay okay, let’s get a bit more light-hearted. Here’s a photo I took of the incredible mountains of Thailand (below):

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And now, with the details you missed or perhaps weren’t even aware of!

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Oh, that’s…hmm. Maybe not so light-hearted.

You get the idea now. Since I know you’ve caught on, I’ll only include just the labeled photos for your viewing convenience. And because you’re probably still wondering about this post’s photo header (you weren’t), here’s the “background” on that one (below) too:

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Thanks for warmly welcoming me to India, ma’am.

Here’s a guy who went out of his way to welcome me to India (below):

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Thank you. I know I’m laughing in the photo but I was so, so frightened. Trauma? You bet your bottom dollar!
Moving on to a treasure hunt in Singapore (below):
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And now back to a sign in the mountains of Nepal (below):
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Oops.
Oh, you’ll like this one. Rad motorcycle tricks by a student of mine and his bro in India, bro (below)!
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And another typical scene from my second Indian apartment’s front yard (below):
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Just commenting, people, not judging. Calm down.
Nothing odd about this one, actually (below):
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And while we’re on the animal theme…here I am in northern Nepal (below):
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I, too, am saddened by this photo. And I thought being called a pig was an upgrade over heifer.
Last but not least, here I am during a huge conference of ours in India. I didn’t know what I was getting into when asked to pose for a photo (below).
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Needless to say, I had to weed guys out and only ended up with 4 of ’em.
So I urge you, citizens of the world…go back through your photos. Look closely, examine, and see what’s under the surface. I’m sure you’ll be dismayed at your findings; I certainly was. Enjoy!
Coop

2012: A Rather Serious Look Back

Fact: My posts here on Anti-Tourist Traveler are sometimes rather lengthy.

Fact: The above statement is an understatement.

Fact: I sometimes like to write serious bits, and I’m about to do that. You came to be amused, you say? Hey, then don’t read it! Skip to my post above or click HERE if you’d rather see the not-so-serious year-end summary. Ready to cry? I warned you. Oh come on, I’m not THAT bad. Am I?

People seem to be under the impression that I did not work hard this year. Just because I post photos and stories of adventures—from my weekends—does not mean I am living care-free and flouncing about mountaintops and clouds seven days a week. I strictly limit that to four days a week, obviously. But in India I usually worked extremely stressful 10-, 12-, or even 14-hour workdays six days a week. In Malta, I was often up quite early researching and late writing, and had to sit down for hours every day interviewing, gathering information, forcing myself to write articles on the spot, and editing photos. Many times I was extremely ill while at work. Am I complaining? No, because I chose said jobs. Was it an experience? A lot of the time, yes! And sure—not many folks get to scuba dive on the job or conduct college workshops on innovation as “work,” but for that I sacrificed anything even moderately resembling a real paycheck, comfort, stability, or any sense of normalcy. I made these choices, and I’m pleased with them, but please don’t think I haven’t been working or have been living off of someone else’s dime.

People ask me when I’m going to actually get a real job and settle down, and to that, here’s what I have to say. 2012 has been a terrible year for so many people. There have been multiple mass shootings. Innocent children have been gunned down. I just learned that a childhood friend exactly my age was thrown from her horse and killed. Another friend of mine was found dead in his home this year. And I saw violent death more than once while abroad. Of course it changes you a little. Tragedy has been seemingly rampant in 2012, and these sad events really make you sit down and wonder. Life’s just too short to not be enjoying ourselves every day we can. At this point in my life, my years still aren’t about working all year with 10 days of freedom and perhaps a few sick days. I’ve made choices: Choices not to have kids, not to have a high-paying job, not to know what I’m doing a month or a year from now. Those are choices I’ve made that I’m pleased with, for what makes me happy–still–is exploring. 2012 has been the most incredible year of my life, but I ran through nearly every emotion possible. Who said my year’s been easy? I didn’t know if I’d walk normally again with my leg injury in India, and was alone and scared. I didn’t know what was wrong with me when I came back from Thailand and had to see four doctors with no real health insurance (and I’m still battling an extreme case of Lyme Disease). I earned virtually no money and sometimes didn’t know where I’d sleep at night. But again, this is the life I made for myself in 2012. Sustainable? No, but I’ve paid for it with my savings. I work hard in between my adventures to make the life I want for myself, so please don’t assume it’s been a.) easy, b.) free, or c.) lucky. We needn’t compare, because while jobs, marriage, and a family may be your thing, I used my time, money, and energy to make myself excited and happy. We’re going to have a different set of photos and stories to share from our years, and hopefully we’re both happy with that. We don’t have enough time in this lifetime to whine, to think what could have been, or to wish. We need to do what makes us excited to live, because we only have one chance at that. 

Also, it’s gotten to the point where the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend, have not given birth, and do not have a stable job or income makes people actually think I’m not in control, but I see it as just the opposite. I’m not hurting anyone else and am making choices for myself. And please, don’t think that whether it’s amazing Facebook status updates or hundreds of baby photos, any of us are having fun 100% of the time. We as people don’t post the average; we only advertise the amazingly good or terribly bad. You won’t hear the stories of loneliness, money problems, fighting, or dilemmas we all go through on a daily basis, but in reality we all battle these things. In short, don’t assume. Just make sure you’re happy with your own life, and if you’re not, work on making changes.

People have talked about my Malta and Italy photos a whole lot more than anything else, which surprises me. I think it’s beach scenes, hiking views…accessible vistas that are different but not too far away from the unknown. My trip photos from India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, however, draw far fewer comments. Why? I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because it’s not very attainable. People aren’t about to go to those random, far-out places that require sketchy night buses, dangerous motorcycle rides up and down mountains in torrential rains, and uncomfortable nights alongside no one who speaks English. There are awesome places, people who look like they’re from another century, crazy bugs, and scenes that are just plain odd, but I’m guessing people can’t identify with them very well. It makes me feel bad, because I want to transport people with my photos and stories. I don’t know what I can do differently, but here’s an example of what I mean:

The most popular photos of the year, based on Anti-Tourist Traveler comments, Facebook comments, and friends who wouldn’t stop talking about me in the purple red-carpet event dress: 

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Some of my personal favorite photos of the year:

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Notice the difference? Sunsets, me doing activities, me dressed up, food, and camels vs. portraits, moments, bugs, and scenes. Well, to each his own I suppose.

I’m still, STILL so shocked at how many people travel or live abroad, know “facts” about where they are, and still have not lived, really lived there. I understand to some degree; if I were living abroad for a substantial length of time, I’d want to be comfortable if possible. Still, hang out with locals and eat their food, even if it’s difficult. No one said living in a foreign place was easy. But travelers? If you’re going on a 2-week vacation to relax in the sun, fine, be that way. But if you’re going to a truly foreign place…why are you complaining? Isn’t the point to experience things, and to learn? I complain about rice and traditional clothing as much as the next gal, but when all is said and done I accept it and follow suit, whether it’s covering any exposed skin in 110 degree heat or not making out with my multiple husbands in public. But most people: Why are you partying like you would at home? Why are you all comfortable when, if you were really experiencing a place, you’d be with the locals and feel…well, awkward? You can feel at ease, but you should not feel as if you’re in your normal Western home. Doesn’t that beg the point of travel?

Now that my rant is over (Though there’s plenty more, so if I haven’t yet bored you, please–when you see me in person—ask anything! I love opposing viewpoints and am curious to hear your opinions), I leave you with a very long thank-you list. If not for everyone I met this year or re-visited—or kept in touch with while away—I don’t know what this all would have been like. To all of you: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

In no order whatsoever: Mady, Tobie, Larvin, Varun, Signe, Jared, Vic, Ola, Daniel, Jay, Anwar, Kristine, Claire, Paul, Ruth, Deepak, Rajesh, Sanit, Anshul, Gregor, Katia, Jay, Martin, Mithin, Rapunky, Rohit, Rohan, Roshan, Vadiraj, Vanessa, Krishnaveni, Polly, Whitney, Frida, Jimbo, Kate, Niel, James, Harpreet, Vinoth, Amir, Timothy, Reilly, the Bih, the Blem, Greg, Piero, Ron, Tim, Jennie, Katie, Gina, Omar, Brenna, Ana, Ken, Martijn, Kemal, Nina, Tanya, Marta, Niels, Roy, Brett, Colleen, Azeem, Jessi, Noel, Sally, Krishna, Amrut, Geeta, Shashi, Savio, Jibin, Jimmy, Chris, Jared, Sarah, David, Satvik, Shridhar, Lhakpa, Tsering, Tashi, Pasang, Billy, Sergio, Juan, and my wonderful, wonderful students of DFP7, DFP8, DSF3, DSF4, and DSK. You guys made my 2012.

My Trip Comes to a Close: Thoughts on Sarees, the Caste System, and Things Crawling Up Your Leg.

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I know none of you want to hear a long-winded summary of how amazing, trying, tribulatifyingtasticnessish, and rewarding my trip was. So I’ll make this a fairly short-winded rundown about my adventure-seeking superiority. Duh.

Yes, really, I did have quite the trip. I had some nasty illnesses and have learned to never again smooch so much with water buffalo. Of the 6 countries I was in–India, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and Thailand–I also can’t stop thinking about 3 countries in particular: Thailand, Nepal, and India. 

India isn’t a terrible country at all; had I been traveling through it and not lived in it, I probably would have liked it a lot more. They just have so many problems there, and as one friend pointed out, they DO have the technology and resources; they’re just unable to spread those resources correctly and have even more corruption than we do here. They’re a country out of control: They believe that their massive population equals massive power. They’re beginning to understand and accept more in terms of marrying outside one’s religion, living with those outside one’s caste, even picking who one can “court.” To me–and this is only my opinion–I almost feel that those in love with India are actually in love with what’s on the surface: Unique and cheap food, beautiful colors, history, kindness, and tradition. I loved that part too. But unlike loving those same things in Thailand—a third-world country that’s happy with that status and has just millions, not billions, of people— India believes it is pushing into the modern world successfully. It’s not. Nothing real can change when the large majority of this billion-plus-member country refuses to even let someone of a lower caste co ok for them. Or how they separate their buses into the female and male sections because men can’t keep their hands to themselves. Or how women aren’t allowed to show skin because of how men may act. And it’s not just me complaining; these issues have real and measurable consequences when that rule means you can’t really exercise, farm, or do things “normal” men do (not that they exercise either). Come now, do you even remember seeing anyone from India in the Olympics? When the population is more than one-sixth of the world? The people were, as I mentioned, some of the most delightful and helpful people ever, and I would quickly rush to try to repay them with the kindness they showed me. But I also know that with a suffering economy, pollution running rampant, and a society that’s never been taught how to deal with strangers, there’s no way they can move forward. It breaks my heart to see such intelligence, corruption, and poverty (not that I even saw near the worst of it) juxtaposed in such a way, and simultaneously makes me feel so afraid and disdainful of what this country is doing to their own people—and to the world. When will it stop?

In other news, I still think about Thailand, Nepal, and India every day. Thailand still has horrible food but incredible scenery and situations as always. Nepal had great food AND incredible scenery. And India was great when I was visiting its people and enjoying the surface instead of working and understanding its many pitfalls. How very hypocritical of me, right?

It shocks me at how easy it is to travel in seemingly foreign and faraway places. To those who have never ventured beyond (your local big city), Paris and Cancun, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur probably sound scary and full of the unexpected. Well, they are, but too many never get that far. There are always hoards of young adults—many wearing “PUB CRAWL 2012 PHUKET – AN EXPERIENCE I ALREADY FORGOT” wife beaters—who hop from city to city, often in groups, visiting monuments, drinking on the cheap, hooking up with other foreigners, and looking exhausted and hungover at border crossings. Is this travel? Sure it is, though it’s not travel I’m a fan of. It shocks me how I can actually be working with someone in a foreign country who is so ignorant to what’s going on right outside our windows, or how you can live for years in an unfamiliar city and still elect to go to the local Starbucks every day. Is travel about comfort? I guess for most it is. For me, I seem to brag most about the uncomfortable situations.  I will never forget how crazy it was to be yelled at for having the wrong bit of stomach flab show in my saree, feel scared and lost while sick and seemingly alone in the mountains, get assistance while literally stuck in the mud during rice planting, and be judged by Indian neighbors for wearing shorts in my own home. How could YOU not want to experience THAT?! Those experiences are what I’m most curious about, at least, and I think it’s a lot closer to real adventure than tour guides. Why travel halfway around the world to do the same old when you can have be standing on a rubber tree farm, weilding a dangerous tool of sorts, unsure of what’s about to come next because something is biting your leg and no one around you speaks English?                          

I guess that’s enough from me this time around, but I’m always, always happy to share stories. Best of all? I have an amazing adventure coming up…well, in 2 days. You’ll hear about it soon! Until then, over and out. It’s been real, crazy, and absolutely unforgettable.

Coop

 

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[Here are some of my favorite new photos from throughout my trip. Enjoy!] 

1. (Top) My friend’s sister, a nomade living in Nepal’s Himalayas

2. (Above) The wind catches a woman’s saree

3. Crazy, awesome, magnificent bugs in Thailand

4. A student’s family in India, or the guessing game of Who Is Out Of Place In This Photo?

5. Teaching in Thailand, or the most set-up looking photo ever (it wasn’t)

6. Looking out in southern India

7. Showing neighbors my photos in Thailand (my friend translated for them)

8. And then there was that time one of the greasy locals grabbed me, put his arm around me (I was laughing uncomfortably), and proceeded to…BITE ME?! Stay away from this guy.

9. I can dress up. Sort of. Me and my first roommate, Claire, on conference day

 10. Being blessed by the locals

11. Learning to play the sitar

12. My usual posse of men. Kidding, kidding, they’re my students. Oh come on, stop being nasty!

13. Women of the woods

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