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Jul 3, 2015

These last few months have been crazy. If I had not already been to over 80 countries and considered myself a citizen of the world I think it would have been too intense for me.

It started 10 weeks ago when I was getting ready to leave my home in Germany where I had lived for a year and a half. Germany was amazing. With a great group of classmates and friends I had many events to choose from every night and life was great! Why would I ever want to leave? And it was especially crazy to leave after enduring the cold winter, right before the amazing summer full of festivals and lounging by the river.

This is a something I have been wondering ever since leaving the US and a future with a nice paying engineering career. The itch that I need to scratch, ADVENTURE!!! It is that same sense of adventure that has driven me to explore the world, go to countries I didn't know existed, and meet some of the most interesting people I had ever seen. It was always my plan that the last semester of my Masters degree would be abroad, but I had never thought of India would be a possibility.

It all started after becoming interested in the work of one of my favorite professors that the idea started to form. He was working on the propulsion for nano robots, how could I not be interested?!!? And better yet, much of his collaborative work was done in India! He said it was done in Bangalore...Bangladesh he surely meant.

Or was it the capitol of Bangladesh?

I wasn't really sure where it was but it sounded fun!

As my date began to come closer I was able to negotiate a pause from my studies. Three months would give me enough get my things in order in Germany, travel India, and get settled into my new home in this place called Bangalore. It was a brutal last few weeks because I wanted to make sure that my podcast would keep running at my twice per week rate. That meant I had to prepare 24 interviews for while I would be gone! This together with packing up my stuff, finishing up my schoolwork, saying goodbye to my friends proved to be quite time consuming.

Meanwhile the trip to India was all that I could talk about. After talking to my Indian friends and professors who had come from there, I was getting anxious. Everyone had horror stories of the big cities losing power, not having water for many hours per day, and the extremely slow internet. Did I mention I host a podcast? Skype-speed internet is something that I depend on in order to provide the value that I do. I was starting to question whether I had made the right choice, by my wanderlust was egging me on! I will talk more about doing what you love and not being afraid to be the person you want to be in a later episode.

As a spontaneous and carefree traveller I scoffed at my Indian-German travel companion as she carefully entered all the cities we would visit in her Excel spreadsheet. I laughed at how it was such a German stereotype to be planning so much and to be so efficient but am I glad she did it! The trains in India are overcrowded and tickets are almost impossible to get. Tickets sell out about a month in advance and if you want a same-day train ticket then you have to bribe someone and pay about three times as much. I was starting to eat my words and she told me the ever hated “I told you so.”

At last, my girlfriend and I were finally on a plane. Off to India we were going! We had planned 6 weeks of travel around India before finally getting settled into our home in Bangalore. We arrived in New Delhi at a friend's house. There we got adjusted to the food and prepared for the inevitable 'Delhi belly' which never came. At that point we headed overland to Nepal, a grueling 24 hours of busses away from Delhi. For whatever reason, we decided to do this instead of flying. I guess there was a bit of a masochist in us both!

We first went to Lucknow, the home of the most pure Hindi language and a city with very few tourists. Next we went on through many small cities and finally ending in Kathmandu, Nepal after many uncomfortable bus rides. Actually I was doing fine but Sonya was taking it a bit harder. I guess I am used to long bus rides after going across the African continent so 8 hours in a bus is not problem. Also I had podcasts downloaded to my phone so I had educational material to entertain me the entire way. This is something I highly recommend this because during these 8 hours it is as if I had read 2.5 books. This means that bus rides can become very educational!! Be sure to download 'Travel Wisdom' to learn even more! :P

Nepal was amazing. It was so cool to just be there and the prices were even better than India. Did I mention India was cheap? Food was about $1-4 per meal and the bus ticket all the way to Nepal was around $20. In Nepal the prices were even lower and it was possible to live quite well for almost nothing. I saw Nepal as a outdoor-lovers paradise! Mountain biking, hiking, river rafting, trekking, and anything else you could imagine was all being taken care of right there! I knew that the week our spreadsheet allowed us in Nepal would not be enough, that we would have to return. After Kathmandu we went to the beautiful city of Pokhara and vowed to never leave, 3 days later we crossed the border back into India again.

We then went to the holy city of Varanasi, where they burn the bodies in the holy Ganges river. Everyone had always said it was a disgusting river with intense people who would fervently practice their environmentally damaging beliefs...I liked it. I found it no different than any other Indian city and the water was pretty clean by Indian standards. I found it kind of a Venice meets Morocco, all set in India. No disembodied limbs floating in the water, tea stalls pulling from the same water they soaked the dead bodies, or hawkers selling anything more aggressively than anywhere else in India. Honestly, I could see myself living there!

And then we felt the earthquake. We were in a market stall and I felt some movement which everyone discounted as crazy. I then pointed to the dancing ceiling fans and we rushed out into places we wouldn't be crushed. Stories from the 2010 Haiti earthquake were bouncing in my head and I didn't want to be part of another story on the other side of the world. True, the shock was small but I was still scared. When we got back to our hostel we checked the news as to what happened and found out that Nepal had a huge earthquake. We had left only 2 days before and now it was destroyed! We thought about the people we had met and wondered if they were among the thousands dead.

What better than to contemplate your own mortality and the impact of a natural disaster on millions of lives than going to a freaky sex temple a few days later? Our next stop was Khajuraho where they have temples with intricately carved figures on the outside of their temples depicting various kinky sex positions. They have sex with horses, an 8 person orgy, and my favorite a headstand threeway. Its good to know that no matter how crazy your sexual fantasies are, there are some more perverted Indians that lived a long time ago. I will talk about sexuality a bit in later episodes as well.

Our next stop was Agra, home of the most famous symbol of India, the Taj Mahal. It was incredibly touristy but the prices still felt very reasonable. The building was nice I guess. Having taken decades to and thousands of people to complete I guess I was expecting something a bit better. This started my whole series of ideas about money and how to use it which I will mention in later podcasts.

Then we went to Rajasthan and saw all that there was to see in this desert state of India. This is the real location of the movie 'Aladdin!' I had always thought it was in the Middle East but it it would be firmly in India. I guess the name Arabian Nights always threw me off. This place was just as amazing as the children's show. Orange sand, towering forts and temples, camels roaming in the street, and sweet lassi offered everywhere. There is also a nice story about getting high on edible weed, Bhang, and going on a camel safari through the desert which I will talk about in a later episode. Although we had reached Rajasthan during the hot season it didn't feel that hot for me. I never was actually sweating, I would just come home with my neck being very sticky. Since it was so dry, the sweat would cool me down instantly.

After a quick stop off in Delhi, we boarded our 46 hour train ride down to Bangalore in southern India. We chose to do this instead of a flight because of all the trinkets and clothes we bought along the way costing us lots in baggage fees. The ride was actually quite comfortable and they served 3 meals per day which was included in the price. This was a great time to read lots of books and to catch up on my podcasts. As a person that doesn't much like flying, this might be a preferred way of travel in India.


We then arrived in Bangalore. It was a completely different feel than any other city in India, palm trees, comfortable weather, and a completely different alphabet. But more on this in a later episode...