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.

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Life in Malta, Part 2: Malta vs. the World

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Whenever I work, live, or travel outside of America, I notice many differences from country to country. I mean, obviously, I notice whether I’m cooking on an electric stovetop or peeling an unidentifiable edible to cook over an outdoor fire in the middle of rice fields. But so it goes for underdeveloped countries…well, what about Malta, I asked myself? Part of the European Union since 2004, I figured it would be a mix of countryside and vibrant city life. It is, but it’s also a unique mix of somewhat recent technology mixed with centuries-old practices. A lot of folks don’t change. Fisherman still go out in their little boats. Older men walk around barefoot on rocky cliffs. Women dress up in their pearls and I-can’t-believe-people-still-wear-horrific-curtain-print-dresses-this-eepin’-bad‘dos. Guys go out with their guns and sit in tiny shacks all day to shoot tiny birds. It’s such an odd little country when you step outside of the city that you can get lost trying to figure out why things are done the way they’re done, but you’re better off just accepting it. So while I’ve had almost no free time to write on this site, I have been taking quite a few photos for work and studying the differences between Malta and other parts of the world. A few of those thoughts, along with non-related photos, are posted here.

 

In other parts of the world, there are unique foods people eat as part of their diet. Locusts, snake, unicorns, dog,  you name it.

In Malta, they go to the horse races and then eat ‘em. I mean, not necessarily in that order. Is that why there are fewer and fewer horses racing every year? Anywho, horse meat is very popular. Tastes like jumbo chicken.

 

 

In other parts of the word, the “illegals” are commonly referred to in a derogatory manner, and range from Mexicans and Colombians (USA) to Indonesians (Malaysia) and everywhere in between.

In Malta, the “illegals” are referred to in the same way, but are usually Ethiopians, Libyans, or Tunisians. In the two months I’ve been here, I think every single immigrant has stared at me, wondering how albino I am in such a sun-drenched country. They also, I suspect, want to make me their 3rd wife.

 

In other parts of the world, prescriptions are (somewhat) strictly monitored so that medicines and necessary drugs are doled out appropriately.

In Malta, where I had to extend the meds for my Lyme Disease/random Asian life infection, I can walk into a pharmacy with my old prescription bottle and sweet-talk my way into getting more of my cold, hard drugs. Or really, I just show the bottle, have them see I’m not an (obvious) drug abuser, and get my medication. It’s fine, too, because it’s for my own use. I did get tangled up in a gang here in the midst of all this, but they’re super nice people as long as I kill off anyone onto us. So far that’s only happened around 17 times, so no biggie.

 

In other parts of the world, there are bussed tour groups of (almost always) Japanese tourists with their incredibly expensive cameras whipped out every time a squirrel appears.

In Malta, instead of leading Japanese folks on tours, they lead dead people. I mean, they’re not actually dead yet, but they might as well have been. On the last tour group I saw yesterday, as far as the eyes could squint was a sea full of the eldest of the old, and some could barely stand with their full weight on their canes. I’m quite sure that by the end of the day, a few remained in their bus seats. Permanently.

 

In other parts of the world, men use cat-calls, whistles, stares, and catchy opening taglines such as, “Are you married?” to hit things off.

In Malta, old men who are 4’ tall are your constant source of amusement. The conversations go exactly like this:

(Scene: I’m walking along a street and an old man pulls up in his truck)

Old man: Where are you going?

Naïve me: Oh, just walking, thank you.

Old man: You’re going…?

Naïve me: Just walking to my home!

(I smile and pray he drives off. He does.)

 ———–

(Scene, 2 minutes later, same old man driving in the opposite direction. Pulls up and halts traffic.)

Old man: I’m sorry I didn’t offer you a ride.

Naïve me: Oh, no problem, I’m right near my house.

Old man: Well do you want a drive?

Naïve me: That’s very kind of you but I’m just five minutes away.

Old man: No, I mean, do you want to go for a drive somewhere? Around…?

Naïve me: Thank you but I must be getting home and packing.

(Runs like never before.)

Oh, and how did I know he was 4’ tall? Because just 2 hours prior to this incident, another old man (literally 4’ tall) had found me AGAIN (oh yes, he’d already taken me and a friend out for drinks, then cornered us just a few days before) while I was sitting alone in a park with a view. I mean, crikes, I’m on an island with 30,000+ people, and the same old man finds me? Anyhow, the truck driver looked like this guy’s brother, so by association, I’ll assume he was also 4’ tall. Age? Both were approaching 70. I know I’m old, but must I be hit on by senior citizens? I think they belong on bus tours at that age.


I’m wicked tired since I recently got back from working on the Maltese island of Gozo (photos to come sooner rather than later) and haven’t had a day to…well, catch up on sleep. In the past 30 hours, for example, I worked, felt ill, went out to dinner where snails, horse, rabbit, quail, and cheese pie were served, hung out with a former professional clown, woke up at 2:30 to measure and document dead sharks at the country’s fish market, drove out to the salt pans to catch the sunrise at 6 something a.m., filmed and photographed around the capital city and small villages, slept a wee bit, worked, went out for free food with friends, and crashed around 4a.m. this morning. No, life is not boring here. I need sleep. Enjoy the photos. 

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