Indian wedding ceremony

The Tradition and Grandeur of an Indian Wedding Reception

It was hard to believe that what was once a vacant lot was now decorated in beautiful orange and white colors from floor to ceiling. I swear, the Indian people can make anything beautiful. They take great pride in their weddings, and this one was no exception. Arun was one of my employees at my last corporate job, and I wasn’t going to miss his wedding to his beautiful bride, Aashna, for anything. It was in Delhi, 7 hours away from Rishikesh, but I made the journey anyway so that I could show my support, and experience the tradition and grandeur of a real Indian wedding reception.

The Invitation

 

The Indian people give out a “wedding card” instead of an invitation. It looks like a fancy booklet, with details of the wedding and the reception inside. This one was written in English and even had an QR code inside. The outside was a lavish yellow satin.

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Love

Why Love Does Not Conquer All

Love does not overcome all. Oh, we like to think it does. Disney convinced us as young kids that it does. Cinderella gets her shoe back and weds the Prince. Sandy and Danny drive off into the clouds in their new tricked out muscle car, and…well, you get the idea. The fact is, reality is much different. It’s often more like the Titanic and Rose having to let Jack go into the depths of the sea. Life is hard, and so is love. Love can’t make an alcoholic sober, and it can’t cure cancer.

Be Careful Who You Love

I’m kind of an expert on this subject. You see, I fell for the wrong man, again. I didn’t mean to fall in love with someone twenty years younger than me and from another country. But we can’t help who we fall in love with, or can we? Is there a moment, in the early stages of passion, where you can choose to move forward, or to stop before someone gets hurt? We had the opportunity. Kirti tried to explain to me that it would never work, but I’m stubborn and tenacious and was determined to make us the exception. Unfortunately, we weren’t.

My garage sale

What it’s Like to Sell Nearly Everything You Own in Pursuit of Your Dreams

This morning I couldn’t find a bowl for my cereal. I finally found a bowl only to realize I didn’t have a spoon. I decided to just make coffee instead and then realized I no longer owned a coffee maker. These are the things we take for granted every day, the things we spend a lifetime accumulating. Well, I’m letting my things go, in every way possible.

Preparing for the moving sale

During Memorial Day weekend, while most Americans were out camping, celebrating, and having fun, I was in yard sale hell. I’ve spent an entire week sorting, stacking and packing up all my earthly possessions, preparing to sell everything at my gigantic moving sale. By the time I opened my garage door on Saturday morning at 9:00, I was already exhausted, but people were parked on the street waiting, and waves of people came and went all day long.

Negotiations

“Will you take fifty cents for these?” a woman said to me while holding out a pair of genuine Coach shoes that I paid $110 for a couple of years back. What do you say to such questions? It’s just stuff, and I really don’t need any of it. We settled on $2.00.

Me hiking in Malana

The Price I’m Paying for My Freedom

I think many people read my travel blog and assume I’m living a glamorous life traveling the world. It’s true, I’m traveling the world, but it’s far from glamorous. Other people think I’m having a mid-life crisis or am being selfish. The fact is, I’ve made a very calculated decision to make some serious life changes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always wanted to travel, and I’m blessed to be doing what I love. But I’ve had to give up many things I like so that I can do things that I love. I’m paying a heavy price for my freedom and here are just a few of the sacrifices I’m making.

Relationships

It’s hard to have a romantic relationship of any sort when you’re traveling constantly. I left someone I love behind in India and I’m avoiding dating now until I have a more stable lifestyle. I’m missing out on seeing friends and spending time with my family. I had to say goodbye to my most loyal companion, my dog Ozzie, who is now being cared for by some dear friends.

Hiking in India

Damn, I’m 50. What an Extraordinary Trip It’s Been

Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lived this long. For those of you that don’t know me personally, I have lived a pretty extraordinary life. I’m a preacher’s kid, and as a result of having conservative beliefs forced upon me, was a very rebellious teenager. At one point in my life I shot up drugs, ran away from home, and lived on the streets of Portland. I came dangerously close to ending my life. Yet here I am turning 50 years old. I am healthier and happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I am blessed to be living the life of my dreams, but the journey, from there to here, has been rough.

 

It’s funny what a person thinks about at such big milestones, like turning 50. I think about childhood friends, my mother who passed away from cancer in 2004. I think about mistakes I’ve made and the people who have had such a profound impact on my life. People like my brother, Brent, my business mentor and dear friend, Susan, and my editor, Sonya. These people, and many others, have reached out to me in my darkest hours when times were so tough I couldn’t manage on my own. I am so grateful for the love and kindness that has been gifted to me throughout my lifetime so far. Yes, when I look in the mirror I see inevitable signs of aging that I struggle to accept, new grey hairs, more wrinkles, spots…what’s up with the damn spots?  But I am blessed to be celebrating this milestone. Many people don’t make it this this far. I have two nephews that died in early childhood. So, for them, and for everyone who loves me, these are the reasons I’m glad I’m 50 years old.

Airport security guard staring at me

Safety Considerations for Female Solo Travel in Asia

He called out to me in the dark of night. “Madame come,” he said, from about 20 minutes away. There was no way in hell I was going over there. I didn’t know the guy. I couldn’t even make out his face in the darkness. I picked up my pace and headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve spent the last year and half traveling around Asia and living in India. I never had any real problems, but I was also acutely aware of my surroundings and very cautious. If you are a woman traveling around on your own in Asia, here are my recommendations for safety. Of course these precautions probably would apply to anywhere, but in a country where you might not understand the culture or speak the language, you must be extra careful.

Lie

I hate having to suggest this. It goes against every principal of my being. Why should we have to lie for our own safety? The feminist in me hates it!  We shouldn’t have to lie, but in certain circumstances it’s justified. Let me give you an example. I was in a taxi in Thailand driving through a fairly remote area at night. My taxi driver asked me if I was traveling alone. “No,” I said, “my husband is waiting for me at the hotel. He has some work to do.”  About 15 minutes later the driver continued to ask me uncomfortable questions, like where did I live and how long were we there?  I realize it’s possible he was just being friendly, but my instincts told me to be very careful. I picked up my cell phone and acted like I was dialing and talking to my husband until we arrived at my destination.  Many times I have had strange men hurry up to catch up with me and then ask me if I have a boyfriend or husband. I learned the hard way to say yes. If you don’t they will continue to follow you and try to make conversation.

Muslims in Malaysia

I’m Ashamed of Something I Did Today: Confessions from an American Visiting Malaysia

I watched the large Muslim family walk slowly away from me today without an incident. For a moment I felt envious of their extended family gathering. Sometimes traveling alone can feel a bit lonely. They were most likely on holiday, enjoying the Chinese New Year in Malaysia. As they walked away I instantly felt relief, followed by utter shame. I had just lied to them.

It has been odd watching the political events surrounding the Presidential election in America from distant global destinations. For the last few months I have been a passive bi-stander of the unraveling of my beloved nation. I must admit, I’ve wept over it all on more than one occasion.

Asians fascination with westerners

People in Asia are fascinated by westerners and are always asking me where I’m from. “America,” I’ve always said with a sense of patriotism and pride. A year and a half ago when I first came to India it would have led to conversations about Walt Disney theme parks, hamburgers or pop stars. Now the conversation has changed. Every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, I tell someone I am from America now they ask me about Donald Trump. Frankly, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m on vacation. I don’t wish to spend my precious time discussing American politics with foreigners that can’t possibly relate to my strong feelings about it anyway.

Monkey Playing on Rishikesh Yog Peeth

Feeling Overwhelmed: My Initial Experience at Rishikesh Yog Peeth Ashram in India

I was in the middle of a downward dog pose today when I felt tears filling my eyes. Our instructor was slowly counting to ten, very slowly, and I couldn’t hold the position any longer. I collapsed on my yoga mat, frustrated and feeling like a failure. My whole body ached. We were on our third hour of yoga for the day and I had never done yoga before. A whole host of emotions were overwhelming me; anxiety, fear of failure, feeling homesick, along with emotional and physical exhaustion. I wasn’t sure I could push on and then a sweet young girl holding the pose next to me quietly asked me if I was okay. Those few kind words encouraged me. I somehow managed to dig deep within myself to find the strength to finish the class. It’s the little things like that here that make all the difference. Isn’t that the truth everywhere? There are 60 of us going through this program together, but individually we all have our own personal challenges to overcome.

 

Getting There

Getting here was a trip, quite literally. My driver drove me the 7 long hours from Delhi to Rishikesh. He stopped to ask for directions 6 times, although I had given explicit instructions to his boss on where we were going and who to call for directions on how to get here. Finally, my driver gave up next to a foot bridge that our car obviously couldn’t cross. I called the nice people at Yog Peeth and they sent one of their workers over on a scooter to get me. We managed the impossible by stacking two large suitcases, an overstuffed backpack, me and my handbag all on the back of his little scooter! I wish I had a picture of that, because it was India at its finest.

Chandra Taal, India

5 Reasons Why I Like To Travel And Why You Should Too

For the first time in my life I have the freedom and means to travel a lot and it feels wonderful! Everyday my bucket list grows with new places I want to visit; Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, Croatia, Italy, the Greek Islands, Bora Bora….it never ends. Fortunately, this year I have scratched off a few destinations too; Nepal (check), Dubai (check) and Amsterdam (check).  Each time I set out on a new adventure I feel free to explore the world on my own terms. When the trip is over, I find myself longing for the next one. I wish more people would travel. It brings us together as humans and we learn things through our adventures. Here are the 5 reasons that I enjoy traveling and I hope they will inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and visit someplace new.

1. It opens your mind

When the boundaries of your world extend only to the next state or county, your perception is limited. Your world exists only within the confines of your own limited experiences.

The world is huge. There is so much to see and do, and every time I travel I see things from a fresh pair of eyes. Things are not black and white, right or wrong. There is a massive grey area when it comes to other cultures. They have different values, ethics and traditions. They see me through those limited perspectives as well. The only way to bridge these gaps and narrow our judgments of one another is through travel when you can experience such things for yourself. The Discovery Channel can’t make you feel what it’s like to see genuine poverty with your own eyes. It can’t make you feel the desperation from a street kid begging for money. Even the beautiful videos and pictures can’t make you feel the cold from the Himalaya Mountains or really appreciate the hardiness of the people that live there without heat and electricity. These things must be experienced first-hand to really be appreciated and understood. 

Nepalese Man Resting in the Sun

The 5 Things That I Liked Most About the People of Nepal

Nepal is a beautiful country full of gorgeous countryside, fascinating cultural and a rich history. But my favorite thing about the country was the people. They left me with a lasting impression of peace, happiness and love.

They are happy

The Nepalese people were always so happy! They had big smiles on their faces and always gave us a warm greeting. According to Phycology Today “a happy person is someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness,anxiety and anger. Happiness has also been said to relate to life satisfaction, appreciation of life and moments of pleasure.” To me this has never been more evident than on the faces of the Nepalese people.

They are simple

This may be closely related to number 1. Perhaps when you don’t have to spend two hours a day commuting or have to worry about posting on all your social media it is easier to just be happy. The people that I saw were very poor. They lived in little shanties and were lucky if they had electricity. Yet they seem to genuinely appreciate what they have, instead of focusing on what they don’t have.