To give you an idea of what this little party is about, here’s the gist of the trip:
The five-month itinerary will begin in the Blue Mountains of Australia with a couple days in the happy-hippy town of Katoomba followed by ten days of serious meditation at a Vipassana center located nearby. It’s inevitable that after six months of resuming a very public role in customer service, the voices in my head (the ones that prioritize, plan and placate) will have gained some ground. I’ve discovered that the best method for reasoning with them is to stare at them squarely and ask the question, ”Really…this is what you find important?”
However, close examination of the inner-workings of one’s mind is nothing compared to the excruciating pain of sitting perfectly still for ten straight days. My reward for making it through: A spa orgy!
I discovered Bali last year. The original plan had me volunteering in Indonesia for six weeks, with a small orphanage located in Banda Aceh. It’s a city with a predominantly Muslim population located in northwest Sumatra, tragically impacted by the Boxing Day tsunami eight years ago. For numerous reasons the area doesn’t see a lot of tourists. Following the strings of a tear-jerking marketing campaign I found myself stuck in a web of manipulation woven by the mother and son running the center. They had discovered an effective formula for exploiting the human heart. As I also soon discovered, the American woman that founded the NGO referred to herself as ‘Mommy’. Speaking in the third-person, she sent lengthy e-mails written in all caps and only thickening the plot as MOMMY GOT VERY ANGRY WITH HER CHILDREN.
The realization that my American Express was my get out of hell free card, I played it and hopped a boat to Pulau Weh along with the adorable British girl that was also volunteering at the center. We skipped off to the island of little thieving monkeys and lizards the size of sequoias. After a week of recuperation she grabbed a flight home and I migrated to Bali. Free from the lurid leers of Acehnese men, I found myself someplace akin to paradise. It’s amazing how a week’s worth of massages, pedicures and facials can help a person accept the woes of existence and forgive those handed a shitty lot in life.
This year I’ll skip visiting ‘Mommy’s children’ and instead use the time to explore a small handful of islands off the coast that have patiently been awaiting my return.
After the three-week Bali-chill, Cambodia marks the next peg on the map. There is really only one reason for going; because I’ve never been. The country is also relatively new to tourism and home to Angkor Wat, a massive Hindu turned Buddhist temple. Cambodia’s history is however, marred by a torrid past consisting of mass genocide and famine. Its people have been in a delicate state of recovery for the last three decades and there is a developing balance I’d like to experience.
All of this is priming me for the most extensive portion of my trip, three months in India! I could not be more excited if I tried. My two-month introduction last year was like navigating through a video game. Acuity must be honed to peak performance and rabbit-fast reflexes poised in every direction and no matter what, nothing, may be taken at face value. You need to be careful of whom you trust, what you exude and above all else, what you put in your mouth. Vibrant colors, repulsive smells, hordes of people; India is a battle of the senses. In short, it’s absolute mayhem and sooo worth signing up for.
When I consider the overall objective of this trip it’s remarkably simple. I want to move within the ebb and flow of life, enhance my connectedness with all that is and avoid getting arrested.
Last year my goal was to make a difference. Last year I was hoping to discover my calling as I found myself at a crossroads between choosing a life of service and a career serving the one-percent. As a good friend once explained, there is a certain nobility in parting celebrities from their money, but any longer, it’s not precisely what I see as my life’s ambition. I just happen to be good at it.
This doesn’t mean I’ve given up the ideal of making the world a better place; I just need to find my own way of doing so. And this, in large part, is what this trip is about. For years I’ve known that there is something else out there for me and the only absolute certainty I’ve held onto is that I’m not going to find it sitting behind my desk. I’m hoping this journey will bring me closer to discovering what I’m searching for.
 If you spot a ten-foot lizard on the island of Pulau Weh missing a section of tail please explain that it wasn’t intentional; it was my first time navigating a motorbike.