Sea to Summit: Reflecting on my 5-month Journey

I spent 5 months and 5 days vagabonding. It’s been truly an unexpected and blessed journey. Time to come home and reflect on the sea-to-summit adventures that the road took me on.

Leaving from JFK airport. Let the adventures begin!

Leaving from JFK airport. Let the adventures begin!

As I had this trip in mind, I was thinking to go to India and stay in an ashram and do some yoga:) Almost funny in hindsight! I had a 6-month Indian visa too. But then one night I was browsing Internet and got uncomfortable going to India alone right away (you need to get into ‘Asia’ mood first), looked on the map and saw a little country of Nepal right there with a mysterious capital…Kathmandu. I liked the sound of it☺

In the last 1.5 months in New York I moved so many times, every time trashing and giving away more and more stuff, until I really had to fit everything I wasn’t taking in my backpack in one

Fitting it all in a suitcase

Fitting it all in a suitcase

small suitcase. I hate ‘things’ now, so tired of them. We tend to accumulate way too much so fast, without realizing it. Even on this trip, having so little, I was trashing and giving away something all the time. So happy it’s been scientifically proven that its better to invest in experiences, not things:)

I booked the ticket around midnight. The next morning at 8am my friend Zhenya picked me up to go to the airport. Btw, Zhenya was the only freaking person who encouraged me to go travel <3. I still don’t get it!! I encourage every person alive to do that! I really don’t think when you’re traveling, you’re running away or something. If you’re on a mindful travel, you’re actually running towards yourself! Anyway, imho: if you’re happy – travel, if you’re sad – travel. Simple as that:)

Namaste, Kathmandu! With my couchsurfer and friend Bimal

Namaste, Kathmandu!
With my couchsurfer and friend Bimal

I spent around 1.5 months in Nepal, few weeks in India, a month in New Zealand and two months in Indonesia. I walked on glaciers and I walked the jungle, I climbed volcanoes and I bargained fiercely on the streets of Delhi. I prayed the Sun on the Ganga river and I danced to reggae on the beaches of Indonesia.

Cho la pass, Himalayas

Cho la pass, Himalayas

Soaking in Fiordland, New Zealand

Soaking in Fiordland, New Zealand

I’ve been soaked brutally in Fiordland’s rainforests, froze in Himalayan wilderness, got a heatstroke under the equator blazing sun. I went up to 5545m above the sea and dived 20 meters below.

Took innumerable cold/ bucket showers. My last place actually has a warm shower, and it comes as a surprise every freaking time!

I ate so much rice in these months, sometimes having it literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s amazing, how much humanity REALLY depends on rice in every day survival.

Learning to be very undemanding

Learning to be very undemanding

I slept in ‘palaces’ and on cold floors. I slept thru packs of dogs barking and establishing their territory, thru pigeons nesting outside my window, mice running around, roaches charging across my pillow and roosters at 4 in the morning. I warmed around stoves operating on yak shit and sweated, swarmed by kilograms of mosquitoes.

But the main memory that remains is of course the people I met. Just like the main heroine in the “Wild” and the guy in “Into the Wild” (it’s a theme I guess☺), I also 100% think that the best experiences are the ones that are shared. Well, I didn’t invent a bicycle here☺ I like my own company and I grew to appreciate the “me time” and get comfortable to be by myself and on my own…

Yet, people never seize to amaze me! So many crazy, inspired and enchanted people! I spent hours listening to ‘alien’ to me conversations about aero-dynamics and air flows; about waves and currents; about ‘rare and curious’ insect species. Geeky people browsing thru the sea bed in search of tiny nudi branches. Mad people risking it to see and film volcano eruptions. Sherpas walking ice and rocks in nearly flip-flops. Amazing local people and crazy rugged dirty curious unsettling and hungry for authentic backpackers!

Big Fat Nepali wedding. Blessing the bride

Big Fat Nepali wedding. Blessing the bride

In love:)

In love:)

I’ve been touched by the lives of so many people, there’re so many small seemingly insignificant moments that I will never forget. I made a few but I believe meaningful friendships. Some people will stay in my heart, and hope and I am sure actually, we will see each other, one way or another.

Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine what my Sherpa friend Aya is doing now in the 3444m Himalayan village Namche Bazaar. What is going on in ‘my’ ashram in India now. What class are my Kathmandu kids are having in the school where I volunteered. It’s 5pm, the beautiful sun salutation ceremony is starting on the Ganga river. It’s 6pm, the evening prayer puja is starting in the Buddhist monastery where I taught English, my little brats are probably misbehaving. It’s 2pm, orangutan feeding time in Kalimantan jungle…

At Khadamba monastery with my hooligans

At Khadamba monastery with my hooligans

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Christmas in Kathmandu school

Looking terrified:)

Bungee jumping. Looking terrified:)

A lot of people ask me if its scary to travel like this alone. Sometimes it is, I guess, I do have ‘sissy’ moments as my friend Donna puts it. But I prefer that to being comfortable and blissfully bored. I remember, before leaving I thought that I have three major fears: heights, snakes and driving. So I jumped with a bungee and went paragliding. I saw snakes in the jungle at night and I drank cobra blood in Jakarta (who knows, that might cure the phobia?:) I drove a motorbike in Indonesia. And guess what, I still have all these fears. Moreover, I ‘discovered’ many others too:) I just realize, that a lot of people are actually afraid of these, I’m not any special or anything. I just try to not be afraid of my fears anymore. And relax:)

Video of me trying cobra blood☺:

The more I traveled the more I understood myself, my likes and preferences, and the more I figured out my style of traveling. I like to call it adventure style:) I don’t define adventure as necessarily doing something involving adrenaline, like paragliding or skydiving. Although no doubt fun, these things are arranged. To me adventure is not pushing things, minimum arranging and planning, and just sort of saying yes to weird opportunities. Just like in surfing you need to catch the wave, you need to catch the flow of unique circumstances and go with it.

Night fish market in Jakarta, walking ankle-deep in fishy water? Yes, please!

Night fish market in Jakarta, walking ankle-deep in fishy water? Yes, please!

Be patient, be undemanding and expect nothing! This type of traveling requires time though, and there are never guarantees that anything will happen at all. A lot of time – most of the time actually – I’d miss a bunch of must-see and must-do sights and things and do something obscure instead. But I enjoy it:) One of the very few touristy things I did on this trip was going to Taj Mahal in India. And yet the most memorable thing of that day was taking the cheapest and insane train ride there.

And for me it’s very important to bond and hang out with local people. I like staying with families, cooking together, going to local markets with mommies, even better if they don’t speak much English:)

I also would like to say a word on girls traveling solo. From the beginning I’ve been asked quite a lot ‘Are you on an Eat Pray Love trip or something?’ Are you kidding me people? She devoured pasta in Italy and stayed in cushy Bali! It’s been so much more to it… Anyway, everybody has their own unique experiences, no need to compare. Just wanted to say that there’s nothing scary or outrageous in girls traveling alone. And there’s no need to confine yourself to the known, predictable and conventionally ‘safe’. Go explore! Explore the world and explore your own freaking limits. You’ll be surprised☺ Just be aware of the surroundings and keep your head cool and ready for plan B (or C, or D…) I also had a whistle and sometimes was deciding which direction to run, but it never came to that☺

New Zealand - hitch-hikers' paradise

New Zealand – hitch-hikers’ paradise

I’m asking myself: what did I learn on this trip? Did I get any wiser, more mature or something? I remember one crazy spontaneous rainy night in Queenstown with my Estonian goddess Kreete. That night my new mantra was born, the trip’s wisdom can be put in two powerful words… FUCK YEAH! ‘If you live your life and can’t say ‘fuck yeah’ about it, then it’s not worth it’ – the blondie said. She has it tattooed on her lower back. Wisdom spoken my friend!

Now that it’s time to go back, everyone is asking me if I’m ready to go back. One can just go crazy thinking about it, because there’s just no answer to it. I don’t think we are ever really ready for anything is our lives. Never quite ready to quit a job and go travel, never ready to start a new hobby, have kids, lose weight and what not. So, I gave up thinking about that. In fact, it’s gonna be another adventure and I have not a slightest idea what will happen and where I’ll end up. Just need to figure out how to file taxes, find a job, find a place to live, but these are just details. The bigger picture is exciting!

What’s next? More adventures! As always, being lost and staying found☺

SEA...

SEA…

...TO SUMMIT

…TO SUMMIT

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