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You won’t be reading about the Taj Mahal here. Now, I’m not saying don’t go. But I’d like to inspire you to have experiences in India you can’t have anywhere else but in India.
India confounds me, trips me up, shakes me to the core, and blasts my preconceived ideas every time I show up here. It’s a good thing. My heart is drawn to the Himalayas and this is where I have spent all of my 4 visits here; for months at a time in the northern most states of Ladakh, Himachel Pradesh and Sikkim.
This is where I am called to go.
Don’t go to India for less than a month like I did on my first trip. You’ll soon see that you need at least 6 months to dive into this vast country. But don’t see it all – pick any one of these 8 things to do and you could easily stay in that place for many weeks as I’ve done and I never felt it was too much time in one location.
You realize how much India affects you after you leave her. Just like an old lover. You realize how good they are after its over. And once that happens you’ll keep coming back for more.
I still haven’t seen the Taj Mahal… it’s on my list but I never seem to get to it.
Here’s what has inspired me to stay in India and discover her secrets. Enjoy the journey, you don’t know where it will lead you but that’s most of the fun!
Tikse Monastery in Ladakh
High in the ethers of the Himalayas is this ancient monastery. Just down the street is Hemis monastery, so old that even Jesus visited it. You can stay here at Tikse (near Leh) for about $6 a night and the view is drop dead incredible. You even get a bed. The monks do their morning chanting and you can join them or not. Food at the monastery isn’t bad either. Go and go now, this place has a celestial feeling that flows through your veins. Your feet just might lift off the ground. See my video here.
Go to the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Ashram. Its the first week of March every year and has a full line up of amazing teachers from all over the world. I have gone to the festival twice. It changed my life. You’ll enjoy being on the banks of the Ganges River in the holy section of Rishikesh, in Ram Jula. Saints and sages have walked here. You can too.
Go to the Golden Temple in Amritsar,
Dharamsala to see the Dalai Lama and
Sikkim, a Northern state of India filled with forests, on the backside of Mount Everest.
Check it out.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar will knock your eyes out. Here it is in all her midnight glory. Yes that is really gold leaf!
Go see a teaching of the Dalai Lama. You will be blessed by his love radiance and we all need that.
See more photography of the Dalai Lama and get it for your own delicious projects.
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Every once in a while we need to revisit the basics. We need to get rid of accumulated junk, both mental and physical, that creeps up on us while we're busy living our lives.
Our environment affects us, whether we like to admit it or not. A messy desk or room, cluttered drawers and a sink overflowing with dirty dishes is not going to help you achieve a calm and productive mindset.
I am back in Thailand after 8 months of traveling in Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and India. I am falling in love with the Land of Pad Thai, Dragon Fruit and Orchids. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Here is what I love to do in Thailand: Motorbiking in the hills of Pai as seen in the above photo. Absolutely jaw – drop gorgeous scenery and no traffic until the tourists arrive in November.
And the best part? You won’t gain weight. No bread or cheese, mostly small portions of noodles or rice with spicy meats/fish and veggies. Barbecued fish is sold on the street for $1 to $1.75 US, what’s not to like? I was looking forward to cooking but since stoves are not standard issue in apartments I just walk out my door, hop on my motorbike and today for lunch I had roast duck with rice and it was crazy delicious. $1.50 US. My neighborhood in Chiang Mai is full of wonder and yumminess. Sap Li! (that’s Thai for very delicious) Khao Soi soup – my favorite!
Commune with an elephant. Read my Thailand issue of Vagabond in the itunes store for your ipad here.
Go see temples in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and in Issan: Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai and there is a Vegetarian restaurant in the back. Go to the markets – if you can stand to be shell-shocked by consumerism. But its all in fun and entertaining to watch other shoppers buying bags of loot. And its mostly all cheap too. You can always stop when you are getting overwhelmed. But you never know when the perfect pair of sandals will fall on your head out of the sky or you will just get so hungry you have to eat again – take your pick.
Enjoy the flora and fauna.
Discover waterfalls and hot springs in Pai.
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://bartnikowski.com
Now that I am immersed in no electricity, no TV, no wifi, and no cheese either I have a different perspective. I cannot dash out and get a rich cup of brewed coffee right now. If I want that I have to walk far into the sunshine on a winding path through rice fields with buffalo plowing the earth. I don’t want it that badly.
I have been staying at the Thosamling Buddhist Institute for Women and I have not left this sacred soil in 10 days. There is no traffic, no tooting horns, no crappy music, and no yelling. It’s Slow Here.
When I am in the USA I am reminded that Results and Speed are what matter. There is no process. We have to achieve and be successful Right Now. But try telling that to these butterfly pupas – they are on their way to being butterflies. They will break out and fly. In their own time.
We forget that.
Before I got my first publishing contract for a book I wrote, Everyday Naked, I wrote for 5 years and didn’t tell anyone about it. I just wrote.
When I wanted to show my writing to someone other than my dog I put together a book proposal and went to a writers retreat where I met my publisher.
Interesting, how a few people reacted when I told them about the book being published. Most people were happy for me but I also heard, “Did you know someone?” or “I didn’t know you wrote” which means I didn’t know so how could you be an author all of a sudden.
Because it wasn’t all of a sudden. They didn’t see me in my room writing every day being in my pupa stage. When it was time to bust out I flew out of my cocoon. But I was in there for 5 years writing every day.
And now after a bazillion years of meditating, (OK it’s been 25 years) I still am learning how to do it. Maybe when you try it you’ll get to a more profound level in less time but I’m only just seeing that some how what I was doing before was daydreaming while meditating and I’m very good at daydreaming.
So I’m still in my pupa stage when it comes to meditation. And mindfulness. But one thing I am learning is to be more gentle with myself, and less goal-minded which is difficult to drop. Why?
Because we are supposed to be PhD’s in everything we attempt and this kind of Western logic takes a while to drop. So the photo of the pupas helps me. Every one of us is a butterfly in the making. We’re all in this together – we’re all pupas. It’s easier for me to see this in Asia where I can happily live without a Mercedes Benz and have a more relaxed attitude about time.
You don’t have to go to the Himalayas to see this but it sure helped me to go without all my comforts to start to see that we are all the same. And that’s why when the Dalai Lama is out teaching in the world he doesn’t just talk to the luminaries like Richard Gere, he talks to the hotel staff, the old people waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of him, and to the babies who don’t even know His Holiness they are just playing outside while their parents wait for him. I’ve seen him do it. And it makes my heart glad.
I was blessed and grateful to be at the teachings this year in Dharamsala, India and to have a press pass to photograph the Dalai Lama. (Photos here) The best part of being there was that he directly teaches me to be happy being a pupa, not just the butterfly. By his example watching him interact with people he shows how to Go Slow and not be Fast. He seems to forget his bodyguards pressing in protecting him and reaches out to people and holds their hands reminding me to do the same.
It is said that Nepal is the holiest place on earth. Why?
It’s the rooftop of the world, home of Mount Everest and the Annapurna Mountain range but what keeps me coming back is the people. The kindest people I know live there.
Nepal breaks my heart and makes me cry and laugh within the same minute. How?
Well my favorite Grandma in the world lives in the Terai in Inawura.
She’s 90 years old but never complains. She has a lilting girlish voice that resonates with wisdom even though I don’t know what she’s saying because I haven’t learned Nepali but we understand each other.
One day we found ourselves alone with no others around and we were chatting after I made her a hot drink with peppermint and she would say what she wanted to say in Nepali. I would listen to her then I’d talk to her in English and she carefully listened to me. We understood each other but not so much with language.
My son who has stunned me with his generosity and beauty got me there. I’d never heard of this little town but I found myself flying domestic from Kathmandu to get there.
He discovered this village when his friend brought him here to meet his family and now they are my family too.
Wolf Price inspired American Apparell to make a tee shirt to sell globally to fund education and wifi for the girls who live here so they don’t have to get married as teenagers and live a life of servitude. He’s also making a documentary about it all. Find out more about him click here. You may want to donate to empower girls in Nepal and buy the cool tee-shirt.
I met many wonderful ladies and taught them yoga in the bamboo grove – they were courageous to try it out after saying they had aches and pains.
It was a non-stop love fest from morning to night.
Mom would wake me up with chai every day. Her smile made me never want to leave.
I discovered the Sacred Places in Kathmandu Valley
If you want to invigorate your soul go to Namobuddha Monastery
Then go to Kopan Monastery on the edge of Kathmandu.
And You Will Fall In Love with Boudha below, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world.
Wolf brought me to a dance recital he was shooting so I took some photos too. I loved the girls expressions and their enthusiasm.
If you have time, go to Lumbini where Buddha was born. He was not born in India as most people think he was born here in Nepal and you’ll be overjoyed to be in the sacred garden –its far from Kathmandu and if you don’t hire a car you have to take a public bus. Or you could fly.
It’s worth it.
I didn’t feel this love struck after the 14-hour bus ride back from the village of Inawura to Kathmandu but have now realized that driving over rocky dirt roads on a night bus will not feed my sanity or give me easy access to a toilet so I will leave this pass-time to the youngsters who can stomach it as I noticed there were no other people on the bus over age 30.
Perhaps this is a sign.
So if you are going and want to do something other than trek check out the sacred places of Kathmandu, go to the jungle and play with elephants, or just stop and go meet some Nepali women, maybe you can come to the picnic next year on Women’s Day March 8– here is me on the bus to the picnic Wolf Price puts on for the ladies.
We had a blast and my face hurt from laughing all day.
My favorite new friend who busted out some amazing moves while dancing right here.
Do you want to escape the USA? Or just take a break and feel free?
You can travel all the time on a low budget and a high level of fun and adventure. You can work while you travel so all your costs are covered. Find out how in Vagabond Travel Photography Mag for your ipad here
I’m in India now and am head over heels happy I photographed the Dalai Lama here in Dharamsala where he lives. If you want to see photos click here
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10 Reasons to Quit Your Job Now
The Dalai Lama said, “Asians don’t know how to worry.”
He must have noticed that people in the USA are about to have heart attacks from thinking too much.
I have the solution. Quit your job and leave the West behind – spread your wings and fly!
Here’s my list to inspire you:
1.You’ll get younger (not older.) Studies have shown, keep learning
and you won’t age. Those brain cells need revitalizing.
2.Stress kills, quit, and find something you love
3.Go live in another country. It costs less than staying in the USA working.
My rent per month in 2012 in all the countries I lived in this year:
Belize: $450 for a shack – it was on the Caribbean Sea, folks!
Guatemala: $300 for a lovely house with private terrace overlooking Lake Atitlan utilities included.
Tulum, Mexico: renting a clean basic room on the Yucatan a few kilometers from the sea for $20 per night or if you like rustic, $8 per night for a hostel or camping on the beach, same price. I liked the beach until I got rained out.
Half Moon Bay, California $600 for 2 weeks for a small 2-room house walking distance to the glorious beach.
Bangkok, Thailand: fully loaded hotel room – AC, own bathroom, king-size bed, wifi in room, proper air flow, quiet and all for $21 per night.
Loei, Thailand in Issan. Room in guesthouse: use of kitchen, wifi in room, fan only, kind family, shared spotlessly clean bathroom, $6 per night.
Chiang Mai, Thailand: Guesthouse $12 per night; wifi in room, AC, fridge, good bed, Quiet.
Pai, Thailand Best Deal of the Year: $200 per month (incl. utilities) for my own house in Pai with a breathtaking view of the sunset, quiet, mountains, hot springs, and clouds floating by (no wifi in the house, no AC, I loved it!)
So the high cost is no longer an issue.
4. Don’t think about it – just dive in. Luangpo my meditation master and spiritual friend in Loei, Thailand says, “You thinking, thinking, you aren’t in Thailand. Look at heart, look at body.” It’s all about the moment.
Anything you have to think about for too long usually doesn’t work.
5. You discover the wonder inside you by slicing off the past.
There is nothing familiar: no anchors to hold on to — you are free floating.
I’m not saying the past is bad. Just that the Past is Over. The Present is where it’s.
6. What do you live on?
You live on your wits.
You can volunteer and receive room and board
You can give massages, cook, teach yoga/meditation, English, you can do it!
I currently, teach photography, yoga and meditation, write and shoot for Vagabond Magazine, and get hired to shoot photographs.
Set up a business for tourists – guiding, teaching.
Run an Internet business
Do the business you are doing now as a consultant from Asia, Belize, or Fez, Morocco.
7. “I’ll do it next year” — never happens.
Once you do it – you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
8. OK you do have to pay back your bills before doing it. So did I.
Now I have one bill: for my storage unit back in California for my photography/art stuff, china dishes from my Mom, glassware and artifacts.
9. Being free is a choice. Choosing to be happy is also a choice. I choose happiness every day even when I’m feeling bratty.
10. Invest in your self. Rather than the stock market or a house.
Give your self the option of re-inventing yourself. Only you can do it – no one else will do it for you.
Jump in! Don’t think about it. Bathe in the sweet waters of wonder and awe.
Write and tell me what you feel and how you will implement your new plans!
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