Tips for better travel days

I’ve done a lot of traveling during the past six years, domestically and internationally. Over the years I’ve grown to be a pretty good traveler, but I can still find travel days and transitions hard. As I prepared to return from my latest trip after 5 weeks abroad, I had a series of anxiety dreams (finding someone else’s name on my plane ticket, returning to find that my parents had sold my childhood home and moved away, etc.) that reminded me how important it is to take extra care of myself while I’m on the road. Here are some of my techniques for low-stress travel days: Keep reading…

Traveling as an introvert

Traveling as an introvert is its own special breed of adventure. I find myself one or two or no friends in every city instead of a group. I wander alone, noticing a lot (because I’m not distracted by and exerting energy toward my companions instead of my surroundings) and being noticed a lot (especially in a place like India where being alone, particularly as a woman, is still considered odd). I settle into a micro-rhythm for the days or weeks I’m in one place and get to know my small orbit well, taking comfort in it even as I miss out on the unseen wonders that could be literally just around the corner.

But am I really missing out? A recent article on the Matador Network emphatically tells me that I am. Keep reading…

Almost invisible scents

Ever since I quit smoking cigarettes I’ve become far more attuned to smells than I was before. I thought it was something that would wear off after a while, like the dizziness and poor nights of sleep. But it stuck, and now I’m one of those people who splurges on oils and creams and soaps for their lovely smells alone.

Last night I left India via the Fulbright House in Lutyens’ Delhi. It smelled of dust and smoke, A’s face lotion, and, as I passed down the driveway dragging my suitcases toward the waiting taxi, rajniganda, night-blooming jasmine. A large pink- and white-blossomed tree hangs over the barbed wire–topped walls of the Fulbright compound, and the scent follows you all the way to the road. Intoxicating.

Early this morning, Heathrow smelled of gray, raisin toast, women’s perfume, and disinfectant. And now, in an apartment in Paris, I smell wood, olive oil, wet pavement, and fresh sheets.

Like the smell of home, these scents will probably become undetectable after a few days. But they’re awfully sweet today.

Fun Fact #11

Today’s fun fact: Dhobis and press-wallahs (that is, people you hire to wash and iron your clothes for you) don’t work on the 11th of the month every month.

I have spent three years of my life in India and still never knew or noticed that. It’s one of the fabulous, fascinating, and frustrating things about life here: there is so much to know I barely know what I don’t know.

Full power Goa

Acro yoga. Osteo-thai. Juice fast. Full power. Full moon parties. Leg warmers for the women, cloven-toed leather booties for men, even in the 90-degree heat. Someone’s bike is pasted with a sticker in rainbow-colored Hebrew. Another advertises a tattoo shop down the way. This one a crystal shop on the other side of the river. Tattoos on chests, backs, feet, snaking up torsos, of lotus flowers and many-armed Shiva types. DJs, American, Australian, German, playing sets at 5PM or at 5AM. Studded leather fashion utility belts. Sunburns and babies blonde from the sun and far tanner than I. A dress without a back, a man without a shirt, almost everyone without shoes.

We all gather one night at Matsya, whose name is written double on the sign: in English posing as Devanagari and English posing as Russian. Keep reading…

Le jao puppy

Two days ago we saw four puppies—three, maybe four weeks old—tumbling around outside a half-finished house on the Assi-Nagwa Road, where we walk every day. I stopped and oohed and ahhed. Andy picked one up, his hand wrapped easily around the puppy’s waist, and we scratched its tiny head. A woman leaning out from a doorway said le jao—take it. No, no, no, we laughed.

Yesterday we went back. There they were again. Andy clicked his tongue to call them over. A small, dirty dog across the street started barking. A neighbor boy appeared, pointing to the barking dog. “Mom.” Mom came over and kept barking, but without much force. Dad, slightly larger, came over too, barking, also insincerely. Now the boy pointed across the street. Keep reading…

World’s largest big sky

Last week I drove across the country: Massachusetts to Utah. When my friend and co-adventurer Ben dropped me off at the airport in Salt Lake City, the trip odometer read 2999.5 miles. We had passed through twelve states over six days. Keep reading…


Culture shock always surprises me with its subtlety. It would be easier, I think, if the signs were indeed as drastic as the word “shock” suggests they should be. But my experience is not so straightforward.

I’ve come home to a place I know very well, and perhaps the most shocking part about it just how familiar it is. It doesn’t surprise me to use tap water to brush my teeth or walk outside in tight jeans and a t-shirt that clings to my breasts. It doesn’t surprise me to get behind the wheel of the car and drive through orderly traffic on the right side of the road to go to Whole Foods. It doesn’t surprise me to see the aisles of goods, all packaged and labeled and government-approved, every one of them safe for my consumption. Keep reading…

A day’s blessings

The moment I keep coming back to is when we ran. Asha’s slimness, her yellow salwar kameez, her small, damp hand pulling me along behind her. Once or twice she glanced back to look at me; she was laughing just like I was. We were running simply because we could, and because it felt joyous to run. It felt like being a kid again. Like finally making it to the front of the line for a ride at the fair at the end of summer in middle school: a girlfriend next to me, some boys our age a few rows behind, the exaggerated way we burst forth, our relief and disappointment that the anticipation that something might happen was suddenly over. Keep reading…

Aesthetic Udaipur

Udaipur centre and City Palace, seen from Lake Pichola

Udaipur centre and City Palace, seen from Lake Pichola

I’ve been in Udaipur for two weeks. In two days I’m leaving, even though I’m sure I could happily stay on for longer. I told myself this would be the trip where I actually travel, rather than move and resettle, move and resettle, like I’ve done before. Still, if I’m so comfortable and entrenched here—and to be clear, I am quite comfortable and entrenched here—why am I going? It just feels like it’s time to go, if only so I can leave on a high note. I’m going to Bundi next, largely because Gabriella, an artist and new friend, told me she loved it there, and because I’m having a nice run with this accidental theme of visiting ruined temples, palaces, and forts. Keep reading…