What the hell just happened? – Transitioning back to my old life

A month has passed since I came back from exploring the world to sit in a cube and continue with my advertising career in NYC and it feels like this dramatic transition is just starting to sink in.

Dealing with transitions is something that we need to do throughout our life, yet while we have done it several times in our lives, as we grow up, when we move to another place, when we lose someone we love, they are still hard to overcome.

It is hard to describe what I’m experiencing right now both emotionally and mentally.  Not only do I lack vocabulary to describe it, but I myself don’t understand what’s happening. Lately I have been experiencing an inevitable urge to cry, but I’m not sure why. Are the tears fueled by sadness that the trip is “over”? Are they a mechanism to force me to think of this transition and deal with it, given that I haven’t given myself the time to digest it as a result of my current workload? Or are they from happiness of having had the amazing opportunity to experience a year abroad? Who knows, but I do hope I figure it out.

I don’t want to think of it as coming back to real life, because that implies that what happened was not real, and it sure was. Even though on the surface it almost feels that I just woke up from a dream, that nothing really changed, that last year didn’t happened and that I never left the frenzy of NY’s work and social life. Yet at times I feel completely out of place, I go with the flow given that everything is so familiar to me, but something feels off. Kind of weird isn’t it?

Deep inside I know things are now different and that something did change within me and in the way I see and relate to this world. I believe all experiences shape you to become a better person. But it isn’t until you face certain circumstances when this new you surfaces and you can really see the change. Until then I guess I’ll just have to go with the flow, cherish the memories and look into the future (for future adventures J )

PS. I thank Diego for last year and for his unconditional support & love, my friends for giving me that sense of belonging, and my family for always being there to cheer me up.

Goodbye noodles. (snif!)

C.

Q&A : Answers to things you might have been wondering about our trip

When someone embarks on a trip that is longer than the 10-day vacation break you get from work you start wondering how they did it, why they did it, what the risks are, if it is a good or bad decision, etc. Here are some answers to those questions. If some are left on answered or you have any more, let us know, we’ll be happy to respond!

Is it doable? It seems like such a crazy and expensive idea!
Yes it is doable, anyone with a job, some saving capabilities and the will to go for it CAN and SHOULD do it.
How much did it cost?

Our year long adventure visiting London, Spain, Egypt, 8 countries in South East Asia, India and Argentina cost us $25,000 including plane tickets. Much cheaper than living one year in NYC for sure. $20,000 we got from our savings and $5,000 we got from odd jobs we did along the way.

Did you have to scrounge around and live the cheapest way possible to stretch the budget?

Nope! We are, we decided, flashpackers. No 5-star lodging for us, which is ok since we are not the least bit interested, but rather nice comfy accomodation sometimes with a view that would range somewhere from $5-$20 per night. No tuna cans and baguettes as our daily food intake, but rather amazing food in local restaurants, street vendors and the ocassional splurge in a “higher-end” restaurant. Transportation, like the locals, we found the experience much more fun and enriching.

Did it affect your relationship?

Traveling with your significant other may go very wrong or very right. In our case it was the latter. Our relationship did change and for the better, we enjoy each other company even more, we communicate better and best of all we grew as people together. Our advice to couples traveling is to chill out, enjoy, talk things through and let go.

Do you regret it?

Not the least bit. As a matter of fact we have agreed that this has been one of the best decisions we’ve made in our lives. We will do it again many times.

What about work?

If the thought of being out of work when you get back from your trip scares you, relax. You’ll find something else good – or even better than what you left behind. As a matter of fact, you might even come back re-energized, more confident, with a broader perspective that many employers value, and new skills that will help you get a new job and/or define a new career path.

Did you miss anything?

Yes we did. Traveling is exciting but it can get tiring. At times we missed our comfy and amazing bed, we missed sitting in a toilet instead of squating for most of the year, we missed making our own coffee in the morning, and above all we missed our friends and family.

Did you change? Are you different from when you left?

Probably, you’ll have to tell us when we meet again. 🙂

Do you want to come back?

Oh!! mixed feelings. At times we miss our routine and friends and would love to be back, but at times we find it hard to leave the good life. But like everything, doing things for a prolonged period of time diminishes the excitement. We would rather have intermitent short and long travels than keeping the nomadic life “forever”.

So fresh and so clean clean!

Cleaning my mind, body and soul through Vipassana and Ayurveda

People come to India for several reasons: to explore, to eat, to learn, to find themselves, to find a guru, etc. We were drawn to India by curiosity. We had heard so many mixed reviews about it that we needed to check it out. And while I didn’t necessarily come here for spiritual reasons, India does offer a wide spectrum of possibilities to explore your inner self. So I said, what the heck? I’m already here and I would be great to take some time to both reflect on all that has happened this past year and also reward my body with some thorough cleansing and pampering.

Meditating in a cliff by a waterfall

After doing some research I decided that Vipassana and Ayurveda were the two things that I would do. Vipassana, which means “to see things as they really are”, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. The course was 10 days long and required, amongst other things, absolute silence. But I tell you, the silence was the easy part – the course involved 10 hours a day of sitting mediation! It was very challenging, but like anything that requires a big effort, it came with a big reward. And for those of you wondering if I reached “enlightenment”, I didn’t …poop! Only someone with the Buddha’s dedication and will power can reach enlightenment. Mere mortals like me can only find some inner peace and maybe make sense of a couple of things. It was worth it! (And the food they provided at the center was delicious!)

To clean my body from the evil toxins produced by bad (and sometimes fun or delicious) habits, I signed in for a 2 week Ayurvedic detox. Ayurveda is a type of natural medicine native to India.  The practice involves herbal medicines, massages, the use of various oils amongst other things in order to balance your 3 elemental energies or humors: air, fire and water. It’s believed that when these 3 energies are in a more balanced state the body functions at is fullest. So, technical explanation aside, the last two weeks have been pretty blissful, I have gotten wonderful massages every day, some with oil and some with rice and cow’s milk that not only relax me but make me feel like a rice pudding, as well as some herbal concoctions to help me get rid of the toxins. I don’t know if I am healthier, but I definitely feel lighter and very relaxed. Can’t complain!

That's not me, but its one of the treatments that I got called Shirodhara

All in all I feel great. I feel happy, full of good vibes and at peace. I hope this bliss lasts and its not slowly absorbed by quotidian life and small stresses.

Clau

India: Living in the present

Dear readers,

We know that we have bluntly and deliberately abandoned you. What can we say? Exploring India has absorbed most of our time. And I also confess that I have felt more grounded in the present than ever before, without a foot here and there, barely thinking of what comes next and what happened before. It’s been a great feeling as I have a tendency to live and plan for the future as well as to remember, almost with nostalgia, what happened before. But India has been so intense, so rich in experiences, so delightful and changing that it has really kept me in the here and now. It feels good. The present is good. Life is great!  (But don’t get me wrong dear readers, abandoning the blog and leaving in the present doesn’t mean that I don’t think of you.)

We have been in this massive country two months already and time has gone fast. There is so much to see, eat and experience that it can take years to explore it. However in this time we have had a great taste of what India has to offer and we definitely recommend it.

From the hecticness of Delhi,
to the stunning beauty of the Taj Mahal,
to the erotic Kamasutra temples in Kajuraho,
to the living utopia of the Sikhs in the Golden Temple
(Where everyone regardless of color, caste, religion and
background is welcomed. and where amongst other things,                                        food has been shared and provided at no cost to anyone for                                      24/7 for the past 400 years!!),
to the forts, romantic landscape, creative beards and enchanting eyes of Rajasthan,
to the bustling and incredible Mumbai, the NYC of India,
to the peaceful, clean and palm swaying Kerala.

That is not to say that the landscape and places are the only thing that has made India so interesting and wonderful for us. It’s the kindness of the people, the amusement and joy that one gets seeing a bunch of Indians dance excitedly (especially men), the curious stares, the pride they feel for their country, and the hot blood and passion with which they deal with everything.

We apologize if we have become proselytizers of India, but you have to experience it to agree. A word of advice, though: in order to get the most out of India, you have to remember that this is NOT the West, it doesn’t look or feel like the West. It is its own unique thing, with a ton of flaws and a ton of great things. In a nutshell, to enjoy it, you just have to let yourself go with the flow!

Diego & Paulo dancing with the Indians

The pictures speak for themselves. See more here:

Delhi, Agra & KajurahoRajasthan: Jaipur, Bundi & Chittorgarh , Rajasthan: Udaipur & JodhpurRajasthan: Jaisalmer

Claudia

Join the Goodbye Cheese, Hello Noodles Book Club!

One of the great pleasures of our journey this year has been the opportunity to read more extensively than we ordinarily have time for. We’ve made it a point to read books about or set in each of the countries that we’ve been to on our trip. Although we’ve been limited mostly to titles available for the Kindle, we’ve still managed a decent list. For the price of a quick trip to Barnes and Noble, or even better, a free trip to the library, you can join us on our travels.

Books related to the countries we’ve been to:

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux

Egypt: The Yacoubian Building by Al Aswamy Alaa

Malaysia: Outcast of the Islands by Joseph Conrad

Indonesia: In the Time of Madness

Vietnam: Father of All Things by Tom Bissell, Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong, Night, Again by Linh Dinh, The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh, Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham

Cambodia: Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short, First They Killed My Father

Thailand: Travelers’ Tales: Thailand, Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Laos: Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos by Brett Dakin,

Burma: The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U, Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Burmese Days by George Orwell

India: Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, the Bhagavad-Gita translated by Sir Edwin Arnold, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments in Truth by Mohandas Gandhi. (I also tried to read part of the Kama Sutra, but it’s impossibly boring! It reads like a PowerPoint presentation from a military briefing. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.)

Other fiction we’ve read:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Parable of the Sower, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Nonfiction we’ve read:

The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, The Bridge at the End of the World by James Gustav Speth, The Logic of Sufficiency by Thomas Princen, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Getting To Yes, The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, Food Culture in Southeast Asia by Penny Van Esterik, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.

Amritsar, the Golden Temple and Sikhism

Dear readers,

we know you’ve been craving your latest installment of Goodbye Cheese, but we’ve been somewhat remiss in our writing. So, since we are now traveling with our very articulate and more-punctually-blogging friends Paula and Paolo, we will let their excellent travel blog “One Year Abroad” do the talking for us about our very special two days in the Punjabi city of Amritsar in northwestern India. Check it out!

http://www.oneyearabroad.com/archives/916

India with open arms

So much talk about India with fellow travelers both lovers and haters, combined with some readings aroused mix feelings of excitement and fear of coming, but all the fear vanished when we set foot in this country of contrasts as India welcomed us with open arms!
Our first 10 days here have been a delight. Unlike some traveles’ tales of stares, harrasment and hassle we have experienced nothing short of friendliness and help. And we have indulged our taste buds with A-M-A-Z-I-N-G food and still haven’t gotten Delhi- belly which we are publicly praising our “mexican stomach bugs” for.
We hope it stays like that!
Delhi, although hectic, loud and dirty is an amazing place to be. There is a lot to see, do and eat. And our time here was enhanced as we met our good friend Sandhya and a couple of her local friends giving us a chance to experience Delhi life beyond just the tourist attractions.
Highlights of Delhi:
  • Visiting Humayun’s tomb early in morning when there’s barely any people and the sun tries to filter its light through the dense mist
  • Hearing the Sufi’s sing qawwali at the muslim quarter
  • Shopping! (suprising myself on how controlled I’ve been. I want and need everything!)
  • Feasting at Karim’s kebab restaurant and at Sandhya’s family’s home
  • Walking around dodging people, cows, goats, cars and trishaws, while making sure not to step on some nasty things on the floor
  • Feeling like locals moving around in crowded buses, subway and rickshaws
  • Oh! and watching the premier of Harry Potter 7 – Exiciting!

Diego in the Red Fort, Delhi

See some more photos from Delhi here.