Traveling Solo

From just after surfing late yesterday afternoon, the Holi celebration before that and then a random yoga poser I saw while walking along the beach afterwards.

Lying here now on a reasonably comfortable bed covered on all sides but one with mosquito net and “Listen Here” by the masterful tenor saxman Eddie Harris resonating from my phone – and low tide waves of the Indian Ocean sweeping gently to shore in the distant background. Things could be worse.
I’ve just had an English breakfast. While the full-grain bread wasn’t nearly as toasty as I prefer it, in combination with two fried eggs (sunny side up), a generous serving of baked beans and a full pot of French press coffee, certainly made for yet another sublime breakfast experience. A hotel breakfast without baked beans on the menu gets a star knocked off in my review.
All meals are served in this small resort’s beachfront restaurant under a corsage of slightly swaying palm trees. Having a beautiful beach as a backdrop excuses most shortcomings. Not that I’ve experienced any. So far, all my expectations have been either met or exceeded. I’m not totally blown away, I mean, it’s beautiful and everyone is really friendly, but I’ve been around the block a few times and seen some pretty awesome places. So I just dialed in level-headed conjecture as I clicked the “Confirm Booking” button.
A sweet Parisian family that I’d first met at the airport and who were also on their way here, sat at the table next to me this morning. They’re living as expatriates in a city of ten million that I can’t recall the name of. I think it was south of Mumbai somewhere. They enjoyed living in India, but had heard that the expat life in Thailand was far better. Somewhat surprisingly, they had never been to the “land of smiles”. Later at dinner, I met another family, this time from Virginia (US) that lived in Delhi. They too had heard the same about how good expat life was in Bangkok.
India and Thailand are of course different in many ways – yet have more in common than one might reckon at first glance. For one thing, both certainly love their curries and spicy dishes. And the climates and geography are somewhat similar – at least on parallel latitudes of both countries southern regions.
According to what I’ve read on the subject, much of the populace in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, all belong to a convergence of Indian and Chinese decedents. Which makes perfect sense once you consider all the trading that has been going on across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, further south (east) for millennia. Alas, ethnic lineage is one of today’s most sensitive subjects, but intriguing nonetheless. As academic and scientific studies continue to provide evidence that we are all decedents of a common African species, I think talking more openly about lineage is a key to unlocking some of today’s most heated topics, including nationalism, bigotry, and racism.
I’ve been to India a few times now and thoroughly enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Especially here in laid-back Goa – which of course is lightyears from being representative of the wildly diverse Indian subcontinent. But I’ve even enjoyed good vibes in super busy cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad. And once you venture into rural India, everything tends to play out in a fascinating slow-motion pace. There’s just no reason to stress when life is guided by seasons and not dictated by more or less virtual deadlines.
Though I do have deadlines, in general, travel writing and travel photography are usually stress-free assignments – unless of course the destination is uninspiring or the schedule is jam-packed with too much to absorb whilst on the go. Which happened a few years ago on tour of Croatia. The organizers had been so ambitious, they’d shoehorned at least a week of often hysterically unorganized events and spontaneous visits into three days. The result? Mutiny! As far as I know, very little was reported from that particular junket. Honestly, press trips are usually over-rated. Solo traveling is the best (and most honest) way to go. Though at times, I confess to missing the camaraderie of colleagues – especially during meals. Eating alone gets boring real fast.