A Shameless Opportunist
The young man in a deep red uniform with glittering gold trim hands me another class of champagne. Another one hands me an hor dourve as Jodhpur’s Maharajah, all in white and gold and his family dressed in a brilliant array of colorful saris, enter. They have graciously extended the use of their ballroom for a birthday party for one of the actors of the film we are in Jodhpur for.
Fast forward 24 hours. A young gentleman in military fatigues, who speaks only Hindi, helps me with my backpack and to find a seat in third class passage of the train. I sit next to an elderly Indian woman who offers me a samosa from her lunch. I spend that night with an Indian family in Bikaner. The mother tries to teach me how to make chapattis and some kind of lentil dish that she is preparing us for dinner. In the morning I wake in a small room which consists of a wooden bench covered with thick, hand dyed comforters to the sound of the temples loudspeaker.
Fast forward another 24 hours. I am warm and cozy under a mound of blankets layed on the sand, watching the sunrise stain it’s vibrant colors over the sky and desert dunes. The camel, that will be taking me soon to the famous Rat temple of Karni Mata, snorts nearby.
Fast forward, a couple of days later. I settle myself down in my comfortable room of the 5 star hotel that I am fortunate to have as a home base. The young gentleman who takes care of our room comes in and says he hadn’t realized I was leaving for few days. He had wanted to invite me to his wedding. I have a message waiting for me that the fabric merchants I have become friends with are waiting for me to come have chai tea when I get back.
I am an opportunist and I am fortunate that I get to travel in all kinds of ways. Not every trip I take is like what I just described, where I get to experience someplace on so many different levels. However, I do try to seize all the opportunities that present themselves to me through work or circumstance. On my own, I am usually on a limited budget. I stay in hostels, guest houses, camp, couch surf, even an occasional train station. I enjoy wandering the streets, meeting locals and artisans and sharing dinners and wine around community tables at night. However, I also love the unique opportunities that I get to have when I travel for work situations that I might never get to have otherwise. Like attending that birthday party at the palace. In these situations I get to stay in luxury accommodations and can get in to places that are often off-limit to the general public. There is a beauty and something to be learned from all ways of travelling. I don’t think one way is better than the other. It is simply just the door that I got to go through at the moment. Sometimes it takes me to places that I hadn’t even thought about seeing. Sometimes it makes me realize that there is more that I need to see and will need to come back to view it from a different perspective.