About Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She posts over on https://plus.google.com/103115118174711820529/posts as well.
Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at http://www.ottsworld.com.com.
Latest Posts by Sherry Ott
A thick forest of trees below.
Being on the ground hiking and beach-combing in Kauai is great – but nothing beats taking to the air to see this lush island in it’s entirety. Based on the number of helicopters I saw taking off and landing (a steady stream on a nice day), seeing the Garden Isle by air is the most popular activity in Kauai.
There are parts of the island you can only see by helicopter, and if you are a waterfall lover, then you won’t be disappointed. Kauai is one of the wettest spots on earth, with an annual average rainfall of 460 inches. The frequent rains are what make this island spectacular and lush. The rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountains, carving out canyons with many, many waterfalls. At approximately $250, it is also one of the more expensive things you can do on the island. However as someone who loves photography and getting new perspectives, I felt like it was worth it for me to get the shots I wanted.
Helicopter Photography Tips
Kauai helicopter photography can be tricky, but I do have a few recommendations based on my experience. The doors off experience was great for photography eliminating any glare that you normally get shooting out of windows – choose this option if you can. If you are using a DSLR – know that you can only choose one lens/body to take along as they don’t allow you do have anything that is not strapped to you in some way and changing lenses during the doors off experience is not an option.
I used my 17-55mm, shot in RAW format and simply cropped in when I needed to in post processing. One other thing to consider is to shoot in shutter priority around 1/500th. Any slower than that you you are bound to get shake from the vibration and movement of the helicopter – especially with the added effect of the doors off.
Overall the experience was louder, colder, and windier than normal so be prepared. However I was able to get a variety of photos that I was happy with showcasing the diversity of the island – from it’s rugged coast to the farmlands, canyons, and craters.
The post Kauai From Above appeared first on Ottsworld Unique Travel Experiences.
Holi is the colorful spring Hindu festival which is a photographers dream and nightmare at the same time. Colored powder and water are thrown and painted on people which is beautiful to photograph, but also concerning from a gear standpoint.
Aas much fun as it is to participate, I was there to take pictures too. Here are a few tips if you are attending Holi to take pictures with a DSLR.
Cover Your Camera
I used a LensCoat Raincoat to protect my Canon 60D. I secured it with duct tape so that I could zoom in and out easily. The only issue is that it’s not see-through material – so I had to shoot blindly for part of the time. You can also use a clear plastic bag and wraps which solves the issue of being able to see, however it is a less easy to zoom depending on the size of your lens and potentially not as durable as the Raincoat. Some didn’t use anything and just planned on doing a thorough cleaning afterwards such as an air gun/compressor. This strategy can work as long as you can avoid the colored water.
Don’t Open/Change Anything!
Pick one lens and don’t change it out. Same goes for batteries and SD card. Do not open that camera body at all! Some photographers solved the lens problem by simply bringing two cameras. Something I don’t have the luxury of doing. I shot with my 17 to 55mm in a RAW format and knew that I would just plan on cropping in on the shots in order to get closer, zoomed in images.
Shoot in a Mode You are Comfortable With
Don’t plan on fiddling around with manual settings unless you are a pro at it. Do test shots first and ensure you have your ISO, aperture, metering, focal point set as much as you can for each Holi situation you walk into before you walk into it. Then just keep those settings and fire rapidly. I set mine on Aperture Priority and shot away not worrying about the shutter speed since I was mainly shooting in outdoor lighting conditions that weren’t changing.
Get Up High
Images showing the powder and playing from above are always great. I saw many people standing on chairs and shooting from balconies whenever possible.
Don’t Forget the Details
Get some detailed shots too of the makings of Holi, not just the people but the materials.
Ask to Take People’s Picture
This is not a holiday to be shy. It’s so easy to ask people to take their Holi photo – they love showing off their colors! Ensure you get those great close up portraits. And return the favor and agree to be in other people’s photographs!
Go Out For a Ride
Hire a rickshaw or car to drive you around – it’s a great way to see capture all of the action on the streets. You can cover a lot more ground than walking and keep valuables protected if you want to walk around an area for a bit.
Are you a photographer who has been to Holi? Do you have any tips to add?
Here were some of my results from Holi 2014 Jaipur
Kids play Holi
A very pink thumbs up!
Celebrating with locals
Remember the details!
Driving around the streets to capture Holi revelers in motion
Bags of powder – colorful details!
Reloading powder supplies! Change perspectives to mix up your shots.
Colorful hair and new perspectives
Capture the action!
Shades of Purple – ask people to take their photo
Locals crowd into a small bus to keep on partying
When I came across the Kauai Adventure Photography Workshops after doing a random search for photography workshops on Kauai I was immediately hooked. The premise of the workshops was to take people out to lesser seen and photographed areas of Kauai and work on specific photography skills such as night photography, landscapes, working with waves, long exposure waterfalls, and they even covered post processing.
Two photographers, Patrick and Matt, who live on the island, run the workshops. They know exactly where to go to get great shots that aren’t your run-of-the-mill Kauai photography. Many of their workshops included some pretty adventurous hiking, which was just what I was looking for – especially to do it with photography in mind and being guided by a local. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect opportunity for me.
I am no professional photographer, but I am a serious photo enthusiast who does travel photography. Even though I’m shooting regularly (which is the best practice you can get), I seldom revisit the techniques in photography. It had been 6 years since I had taken a photo class of any type, so I was thrilled to do a few workshops with Patrick and Matt.
I met with Patrick and we discussed what I wanted to focus on. I had lots of goals; I wanted to try my hand at night photography, improve my landscape techniques, I wanted to learn how to love shooting waterfalls (something I normally detest), and I wanted to improve my food photography. And finally if we had time I really wanted to go over my post processing.
First Patrick took me out to the end of the road at the Kalalau Trail head and beaches and we focused on shooting waves coming in along the Napali Coast. It didn’t take long for Patrick to get me out of my shooting rut and get me using new settings on my camera that I had neglected. I also received tips on how to choose the right aperture for the lens I was using as well as changing the way that I look at focal points. Some of this stuff was mind blowing to me – mainly because when you shoot for a long time without refreshing your technical skills – they really do suffer. I had made assumptions that were incorrect but had been operating that way for years so they were pretty deeply rooted. Things he changed in how I would have gone about getting this wave photo:
• Used a larger aperture than I normally would have approached the shot
• Moved with the wave like panning
• Shoot a single focus point
• Move off of auto white balance and shoot for the shade while outdoors primarily
• Use a telephoto lens to just focus on the wave instead of the whole landscape view
Many of these lessons were then used in all of my future shooting with Patrick over the next few days.
This is how I approached my first wave shot – before I had put any of the advice Patrick gave me to use:
Aperture: f8 Shutter: 1/2000 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 300mm
Aperture: f8 Shutter: 1/2000 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 300mm
Aperture: f8 Shutter: 1/2000 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 300mm
We next hiked down into a little known cave in the area. This is not a cave tourists would normally find on their own, but I was happy to follow Patrick and his friend and model, Morgan, down into the dark cave with our headlamps on. He had brought a tripod for me and this was my first step in learning more about long exposure photography. We set up deep in the corner of the cave and we took a number of test shots to figure out the correct settings. I honestly would have been lost doing this on my own. Even though I understand aperture and shutter, long exposure was a whole new world to me.
Aperture: f5.6 Shutter: 20s ISO: 100 Focal Length: 10mm Tripod
The next day after a heavy morning rain we decided to hike to Ho’opi’i falls. Patrick warned me it would be muddy, but worth it since the water would be flowing heavily over the falls. This was another chance to work on long exposure – there were 2 waterfalls we were going to hike to before nightfall. I normally hate shooting waterfalls, I think they are boring and can never really get the effect I want since I don’t have a tripod with me normally.
The hike through the dense forest was really fun and Patrick got me closer to the waterfalls than I ever would have ventured myself. He knew all of the ways down and around that made for great shots. I actually took a before shot of one of the waterfalls to simply capture how I would normally photograph a waterfall before Patrick taught me anything. Then I let him work his magic and we worked with a long exposure again to get the right effect. Morgan again was our model who was fabulous at sitting in cold water and holding a pose for a 30 second exposure! Having Morgan in the shot really added a great perspective overall to the shots.
The first set of falls were about a 20 minute hike in. there are a few vantage points and they require you to scramble a bit to get there. The water was flowing furiously!
Aperture: f5.6 Shutter: 3.2 s ISO: 100 Focal Length: 18mm
For the second waterfall we had to hike further in and down a pretty muddy bank hanging on to tree roots – but definitely worth it once you got to the bottom!
Aperture: f8 Shutter: 25 s ISO: 200 Focal Length: 10mm
Aperture: f8 Shutter: 25 s ISO: 200 Focal Length: 10mm
That night we also focused on food photography. He once again helped me with white balance, composition, and how to use a white napkin as a reflector to bring in more light in dimly lit restaurants. I loved it when he told me to think of the food on the plate as a landscape when it came to composition. He explained the mashed potatoes were a mountain and the green beans a waterfall flowing down the mountain.
Aperture: f3.5 Shutter: 1/25 s ISO: 1600 Focal Length: 24mm
We kept an eye on the weather got lucky with clear skies one of my last nights I was there. Matt and Patrick took me out to a lighthouse by the airport so we could do some long exposure night photography and light painting. With headlamps and flashlights, we hiked out onto the rocks as the waves crashed and we quick looked up the direction of the tide. We set up our 3 cameras on tripods and waited.
We were waiting for the planes to land to get a long exposure light trail over the top of the lighthouse. This was a simple waiting game that we had to test out a few before we were able to get the exposure and timing right. During the long exposure Matt would ‘paint’ the rocks with a flashlight providing more light on the rocks bringing out the details. It was like being blind and shooting. I never really knew what I was going to get until the 30 seconds were up, but with Matt and Patrick’s help I got the hang of shooting in the dark. Patrick also found a dirty little mud puddle that served as a great water reflection for the lighthouse (the lead photo on this post) – something I never would have thought of in the dark.
Aperture: f4 Shutter: 30 s ISO: 2000 Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f4 Shutter: 30 s ISO: 2000 Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f4 Shutter: 30 s ISO: 3200 Focal Length: 10mm
Finally I met with Patrick to put the finishing touches on the process – post processing. We sat in the Starbucks for a couple of hours and he was able to open up a whole new world for me when it came to using my post processing tools. I have been using Aperture for years now and it’s all been self taught which means I’m in ruts in post processing too. Even though Patrick wasn’t familiar with Aperture it didn’t take him long to play around and understand it.
He used it for 10 minutes and could get more out of it than I could get out of it for 4 years! Dodging and burning brushes, tips on how to deal with white balance and the colors, how to lift adjustments made for one image and apply them to many others in one click – all of these things were new to me. I normally used a macro editor called, Topaz, which Patrick explained to me changes my RAW file into a tiff to edit – so I already lose the details of the RAW by doing that. He taught me how I can better edit the RAW file directly in Aperture just as quickly.
In early April, I was in Fort Kochi India in the state of Kerala, the southern tip of India, and man, is it HOT here. Below are some random shots of Fort Kochi!
The Santa Cruz Basilica is one of many Christian churches in the Fort Kochi area in India . It looked as if the heavens were about to open up above it and provide us some.much needed relief from the heat.
Street art in the little town of Fort Kochi. Even the Indian graffiti is colorful.
This may explain my internet problems in India
Cardamom & cinnamon ice cream w a watermelon ball & mint sprig. It deserves a spotlight!
A bright morning in Fort Kochi.
No plastic bottles at Kashi Art Cafe. All clean filtered water without waste.
Look what we found this morning – OUR Rickshaw!
“Happy Holi!” the young girl said as we walked by her in the streets of Jaipur. Her colorful scarf trailed behind her as she walked by and smiled. I’m not sure why I was surprised at this greeting, the Hindu festival of Holi was the main reason that I came to India early. Besides the pictures I had seen of people covered in colorful powder I actually knew very little about the festival. But I was about to get a very quick education.
We went to Jaipur because we had heard Holi was also accompanied by an colorful elephant festival and thought we could do both. However, due to issues around the treatment of the elephants, the government cancelled the elephant festival at the last moment which left us to go visit the elephants instead.
Preparing for Holi
Holi vendor measures out colorful powder
Selling trees for Holika bonfires
The day before Holi we went into the old city of Jaipur to look around. The streets were filled with vendors selling bright colored powder, balloons, and paper horns. There were also corners filled with tree limbs and bundles of dried grass with men bustling about picking up everything they needed for their community’s Holika bonfire that evening. The general feeling on the streets were jovial as everyone greeted us and people bustled around getting their last minutes items they needed for the holiday. We were focused on getting our Holi clothes (aka cheap clothes that we’d wear once and throw away), baby wipes for trying to clean up gear and ourselves, and some additional duct tape for our cameras.
I couldn’t help but compare it to my own culture and our Christmas holiday. “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holi” had the same feeling to me in a way. The trees on display in Old Town were being bought up voraciously for the Holika bonfires – similar to our Christmas trees. I often like to compare a new cultural activity to something I know so that I can better understand what it may be like.
However the real story behind Holi goes like this,
“The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, felt he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu.This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.” Via Wikipedia
At sunset on the eve of Holi bonfires were lit in neighborhoods around the city signifying a symbolic victory of good over evil, Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu. We watched the locals carefully construct the fire and then light it as everyone let out a joyous yell watching the flames. Much like how the Olympic flame travels – so does the Holika flame from neighborhood to neighborhood. Men lit a smaller branch on fire and then walked it to the next fire to start. The bonfire is accompanied by singing and dancing and merriment. However in the neighborhood we were in, they celebrated with a rousing game of cricket late into the night.
A late night cricket game
The next morning you get up early and the colors come out. People celebrate with their family members first. They spread color on people’s faces and body, which often ends up morphing into chasing each other, laughter and rowdiness. Then people tend to take to the streets drinking, singing, dancing and dousing people with color as they go by. No one is safe, it doesn’t matter if you are friend or stranger, what age or nationality you are – you are a target of color.
One of my favorite things about Holi is the terminology that is used. The act of putting color on others is called “playing Holi” – of course this brings up visions of childhood and fun. I think it actually encapsulates the experience well.
We went to an event put on in the morning by the tourism department. It was a mixture of tourists of all ages and some local Indians associated with the tourism department and guides and their families. They supplied powder and various bands and traditional entertainment. I was a skeptical about the manufactured tourist Holi – but it had been put in place due to all of the safety concerns for tourists – specifically female tourists on the streets during Holi.
The tourism sponsored party was not my favorite but it really did give you an idea of what it was like as families and friends played Holi. Colors and powder flew everywhere as strangers became your friends and companions. After getting covered for a few hours, we left and went out to driving around the streets to see a more local look at Holi. Groups of friends convened on corners and often times in front of bars (which seemed to be the only thing open that day) to play. We hung our the car window and took pictures mainly but it was a good way to see it all in action at a safe distance form the drunken men.
Rowdy streets of Jaipur
Our Jaipur guide Janu then took a bunch of us out to a local home to play which was my highlight. The colors seemed to get more vibrant as we went out of the city center. When we showed up at the home we were all greeted with powder rubbed on our face and then the playing began. It was sort of like a waterfight or food fight for young adults. (I’m not really sure where I fit into that age group…but regardless I had a blast!). They mixed the bright colors with water which seemed to make them more permanent (thank good ness for the baby wipes!).
They brought out soda and some snacks when we were exhausted in the hot sun and we all had a chance to see our palette of colors we created on each other.
Playing Holi with the locals – and a little bit of water!
All I can say is plastic bags are your friends. If you must take stuff with you – put it in plastic bags if you want to protect it.
I saw all levels of protection when it came to cameras during Holi. I was most surprised when I saw people with DSLR’s with absolutely nothing at all to protect them. Granted the camera bodies are supposed to be sealed and no one was changing out lenses, but it would have taken a pretty thorough and time consuming detailing job to get it clean again. One man I talked to said he went to a gas station and simply used an air gun.
Protecting your camera….or not.
I decided to use my LensCoat Raincoat to try to protect my camera which worked really well and was easy to wash out afterwards. However I took the extra precaution of securing the Raincoat to the lens hood with duct tape which allowed me to zoom the lens a bit easier without worry. Charlie simply used a plastic bag with duct tape so she could see her controls – but found it frustrating for zooming in and out and gave up on it after a while. She spent a lot more time cleaning her gear up than I did in the end.
One of my most frustrating things about Holi was the constant warnings about attending. I know they are meant as helpful, but there are only so many times you can hear about the horrors of Holi.
I was warned over and over again to be careful, and don’t go out and participate – so much so that I was getting frustrated about the whole experience. The warnings came from Facebook friends, India specialists, Indians, Jaipur shop keepers, and even the tourism department. I had read about the rowdiness and drinking that goes on at Holi with some of the men and boys who took liberties to grope western women during Holi.
Charlie and I arrived in India to a bit of culture shock, but pretty quickly got into the swing of things in this colorful, assault-to-the-senses country. We arrived early to get settled into India a bit before starting the Rickshaw Run on April 3rd.
In true polar opposite India form we experienced wealth and poverty all in the same week as we stayed at some lovely 5 star hotels as well as simple budget accommodations. Each has it’s advantages. The budget gets me much closer to the culture, but the luxury certainly provided a soft landing and a way to get through jet lag in style.
Thanks to our guide Janu, an old friend of Charlie’s in Jaipur, we were taken care of incredibly well. We went to textile manufacturers, temples, forts, elephant farms, and had amazing food. In addition Janu was our key to experiencing the colorful Hindu festival of Holi in Jaipur.
This week was full of adjustments. My body adjusted to the time change, heat, and bacteria and my mind had to adjust to driving rules (or lack thereof), the availability of clean water, food spiciness, and the role of women. It’s just another thing to love about travel – testing out your flexibility and ability to adjust to any situation. I had my share of it this last week and a half in India!
Fishermen loading net near the Amber Fort in Jaipur
Finding glorious local dining experiences is easier than you think! We all have to eat – but the question is where should we eat when we travel? Connecting through food has been bringing families and cultures together for years, and now there an increased desire to interact more locally and find more meaningful connections and relationships when we travel.
Connect to the Local Restaurant Scene
You want to find the popular local restaurants, but it’s hard to decipher through all of the tourism hype. Let’s face it – no New Yorkers ever go to eat near Times Square unless they have Broadway tickets. The understanding is that Times Square is for tourists. As a tourist, how do you find where the locals go?
If you don’t know anyone in that city that you can get recommendations from, then book a food tour the 1st day you are in a destination. Food tours generally teach you about the food culture of an area and give you great ideas on where to go! They are usually put on by a person that lives there and is somehow connected to the foodie scene. When researching food tours, just send them a quick question and ask about the background of the guide before booking.
Small bites to taste at a Berlin food tour.
I always recommend this to people visiting NYC. As someone who lived there I regularly went on food tours as it was a great way to learn about new neighborhoods AND get new restaurant recommendations. Most food tours are walking tours where you walk around a neighborhood and learn the history of an area, but also try out various cuisines throughout the tour.
The portions are normally smaller so that you can get a variety of food samples. But every tour I have done has been plentiful so come hungry. The tours normally provide a map or list of the restaurants you visit during the tour so you can refer back to them and potentially make reservations during your stay for a longer, proper meal. The restaurants also often offer discounts to people who took the tour. The guides are normally enthusiastic about recommending other restaurants in the city too.
If you are in a country that is known for street food but it is all foreign to you, then definitely book a tour to learn about the different specialties of the area and to decrease your trepidation at trying new things at the outdoor markets. I did this in Vietnam with my niece by taking a street food tour run by locals. It made the Vietnamese food less intimidating and I was able to try much more during my visit.
Learn how to order off the streets in Saigon
A local guide points out food details on a walking food tour.
Eat with Locals in their Homes
Much like Airbnb.com brought the average traveler inside people’s homes as an alternative to hotels, there is another craze beginning similar to this with food. Locals invite strangers into their home for a dinner party.
People attend these dinner parties in lieu of going to a restaurant. The people who are hosting these experiences normally fall into two categories; people who use it to serve as a platform to gain valuable cooking experience or launch a professional cooking career, and those who passionate about food and enjoy having people in their home and entertaining.
It’s very similar to an Airbnb model where a website facilitates the search for home restaurants or dinner parties around the globe and then provides reviews from both the host and the attendee which provides a safety element to something that might seem strange.
Read the reviews, check out the menus and pictures from the host’s past parties and then decide if the price is right to book! It’s comparable to going to dinner in a restaurant and you still get ‘waited on’ as if you are in a restaurant.
However one big difference is that these dinners are meant to be social, so you are normally seated at a communal table and encouraged to meet your fellow diners. Sometimes alcohol is provided with the prices and sometimes you bring your own. You can interact with the host before hand too if it makes you feel more comfortable about eating in a stranger’s home.
Enjoy a dish served up in people’s homes when you travel.
There is not one website that has really taken over this space yet – but I have tried a couple that are on their way to world bookings. Else you can also find very specific local dining experience websites for a specific city if you just search.
Bookalokal – locals host guests in their own home for a dinner party. The one I went to in Brussels Belgium was a combination of expats, locals, and travelers. I had a great time at the dinner meeting new people and swapping stories over more than a few beers! I walked away with new recipes, knowledge on what beer to order in restaurants, restaurant recommendations, sites to see, ideas for neighborhoods to check out, email addresses of new friends – and a very full stomach.
Socializing after dinner via a Bookalokal event in Brussels
EatWith.com – available in 31 countries, just go to the site and type in a city to see if they have a host. The same idea as BookaLokal where hosts throw dinner parties. They have a vetting process which is quite thorough.
The events have a mixture of locals and travelers typically attending. I went to one recently in New York City in Brooklyn and had a great time meeting a bunch of locals who were food enthusiasts – plus it was cheaper than eating a similar meal in a restaurant. It was very social and typically in these situations (like BookaLokal) the hosts sits and eats with their guests. Once again I walked away with local restaurant advice and more insight into what it was like to be a New Yorker.
“Closed door” restaurants are also popping up all over these days in large cities. And they are extremely popular in Buenos Aires. These are basically eating experiences in people’s private homes.
Not exactly a restaurant, and not exactly a dinner party among friends. However it is a great way to have some amazing food, experience local living, and meet a bunch of other people – locals and travelers alike. Some of these have communal tables and some are set up more like a restaurant with multiple tables and reservations – but held in a person’s home. I went to one in Buenos Aires called Casa Salt Shaker. It was communal, but it also felt a bit more like a restaurant as the host/chef didn’t sit and eat with us.
Eating at Casa Salt Shaker – a home restaurant in Buenos Aires
Dessert at Casa Salt Shaker
It’s 4:11 am and I’m awake. This wouldn’t be horrible except I went to bed at 1 am. Jetlag is something that comes with traveling, yet I have to believe this is more than jetlag, it’s anxiety and nerves.
As the minutes of darkness roll on, I gradually hear the streets become filled with noise – stray dogs fighting, the distant din of constant horns, people walking in the alley below, kids screaming, and finally around 5 am I hear the call to prayers.
I landed in Delhi yesterday, a place I’ve been before 6 years prior. I’ve come back to India to do the Rickshaw Run in April and I’m experiencing a little India culture shock. Ideas like the Rickshaw Run always seems great back in the familiarity of your own culture or home. In fact I still remember the day when I went to Charlie and said “I think I’m ready to take on another adventure.” Her face lit up and we started planning the Rickshaw Run.
Traffic in India – imagine me driving my rickshaw in this!
But now I’m here in India, and I find myself staring at these foreign looking rickshaws among the insane traffic trying to picture myself in it. Not just in it, but DRIVING it. The only picture that comes to mind is a terrified white woman trying to make her way through cows, street vendors, commuters, and trucks. I imagine being swallowed up by the sounds of the horns and wonder where we will put all of our stuff and keep it remotely safe. I hate doubt, but I’m seriously doubting my ability to do this.
But then I remember that I’m not alone in this quest – I have a partner in crime, Charlie. Charlie is much braver than me, and I have to believe together we’ll make a good team. We have had a lot of practice these last 3 years at pumping each other up through good times and bad, being a shoulder to lean on over Skype, or simply listening to what’s happening in our unconventional nomadic worlds.
A Girl Named Charlie
Sometimes I look at this woman 9 years younger than me who is in my face digitally or physically always telling me “You got this. You got this.” and wonder how our paths ever crossed. This is a relatively new friendship that feels much older than it is. But it’s a friendship that is incredibly important to me.
We met at a book reading for the Art of Non-Conformity in New York City 4 years ago. The subject couldn’t have been more perfect for 2 women rattling around in the world, living unconventionally, and trying to shake up the world with different ideas around travel, career, and art. Charlie is a professional photographer (yes, the real thing – not an amateur like me!) who also runs an unconventional pop-up gallery in New York City.
Charlie is one of my few friends who always seems to be able to accomplish more than I think is possible, making it seem like there are more than 24 hours in a day. Yet she has also figured out how to relax and watch out for her own mental well-being – something I often neglect. Truth be told – I look up to this woman 9 years younger than me.
As of late, you’ll find us frequently laughing – a nervous laughter – about our upcoming adventure, which marches closer every day now since we’ve arrived in India. We are both seasoned travelers and know the Rickshaw Run will be full of unplanned good and bad – but of course there is that element as it gets closer it gets more real. We aren’t new to adventure – we both completed the Mongol Rally. However unlike the Mongol Rally when I did that with a team of strangers who had to learn how to get along, Charlie is no stranger. There’s a part of me that worries if we are risking our friendship by doing this race together?
We actually sat down in NYC before we left and reassured each other that this race wouldn’t break us up but make us stronger. However I’m realistic – I’m sure I’ll have times where I really dislike her and vice versa – but I think we both know that dislike in the face of travel stress and adventure is not permanent.
Over the next month in my social media streams you’ll be hearing a lot about this girl named Charlie as we learn how to drive a Rickshaw on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and figure out how to traverse India as two females in this country people are constantly warning me about.
Traffic in India – bikes, rickshaws, trucks, and cars all share the road….and cows.
But for now, I tell myself not to get too far ahead of myself with worry – one thing at a time. Right now, I need to go through the process of succumbing to the force that is India. I know this process of entering a new culture, one that is radically different. It’s filled with doubt and wonderment. The doubt makes me want to turn around and run, but the wonderment makes me want to see more. However the smell of urine in the streets makes me simply go “eeewwww”. Eventually in a week or so this will all seem normal (yes, even the urine), I have to trust my gut on that as I’ve been through this process many times before.
And for the immediate moment, I need to figure out how to go back to sleep as the sun comes up in India.