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New Orleans is a hazy fever dream of a city, with a history as winding and arabesque as the stretch of the Mississippi River Delta upon which it sits.  ~ Todd Plummer


I’m so excited…I’m going to India this January. Not to meditate, just to hang around and explore.

It’s been five years since my last trip there, and I always knew I would go back. So when my friend Deborah texted Want to go to India?, my instant reply was WHAT???? Hell yeah!

We’re going to base ourselves in Jaipur (think Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Love Jaipur, a book that was recommended by a woman I met at the NY gift show last month, arrived in the mail yesterday. It had to be shipped directly from India; hence, it arrived bundled up in such a cocoon of cardboard and packing tape that it took me 15 minutes to carefully extract the book from its wrappings. “This is so India,” I thought fondly. Our soap papers come from India, and envelopes of samples always arrive taped up the wazoo like that. (When we get a big shipment, it’s usually in a heavily taped carton labeled Stayfree Maxi Pads. The UPS drivers must wonder about us.)

Of course, this trip contributes to the usual Aiyiyi! quality of my life.  I’ll be plunging pell-mell through the busy holiday season (oh yeah…and we’ll be remodeling the kitchen) and then heading immediately to India! Which is so intense, so stimulating, so exhausting!

Oh well! Life is short! I’ll rest when I’m dead.

I wrote this post last month, just before leaving for Burma.

It’s been a month driven by lists. There has been so much to do before my trip.

This weekend I started one final list that I titled The Last List, with just a few items on it. I’ve checked them all off, so surely I must be ready, right?

Now, with nothing more to do, I’m left with just me – with my jittery excitement and a touch of melancholy, because I’m making this journey alone, and I’d rather not be.

So here’s one more list. I’ll call it The Last Last List.

1. Remember that being alone is just an idea. Look around you. You’re surrounded by people, plants and animals – in fact, the whole world.

2. Remember that (in most cases) you can always rely on the kindness of strangers.

3. Remember that you can also rely on yourself.

4. Remember to bring kindness and curiosity.

4. Remember to bring the inner child along, but let the adult drive the bus.

5. Remember that you don’t know what’s going to happen next, but of course, that is always the case.

I’m going to wear my Solmate Socks, in part to keep my feet warm, but also because they make me smile, and might attract good juju as I traverse the globe. Here we go:


I love traveling to a new place, even if just for a short visit.

Because the plants are different…

And the colors are different…

And the air smells different…

And the mind and senses WAKE UP!






In October, I joined the Kwan Um School of Zen for a two-week pilgrimage to Buddhist sites in Northern India, followed by another week of travel with several friends. Notes from the road…

As we travel from place to place, toilet stops every two hours or so are an unexpected source of enjoyment. Sometimes the buses stop at grungy rest areas, but just as often we are “toileting” in nature. The men pee quickly and then retire to smoke cigarettes, while the women coalesce into a comradely band as we search the bush for suitable coverage. Our tour guides are willing to erect paper port-a-johns (the blue thing in the picture below), but most of us prefer to find a tree and squat. Diana says, “I’m at a point where I don’t care who sees my butt!”

Which is a good thing, because no matter how remote the location, people instantly materialize from nowhere to enjoy the spectacle.  These men and boys are watching the action from the road. The women below, who are collecting kindling, came along during our pee stop in a teak forest.

Elsewhere on the road, we have to come to terms with the Indian-style toilet. Western seats can be found here and there, but the norm is the squattie with a faucet and bucket for bottom-washing. (Toilet paper is strickly a bring-your-own affair.) Thanks to yoga and good knees, I’ve found this operation do-able and even sort of fun, once I got the hang of it. Here’s a video on how to use an India toilet, in case you’re curious. The video is posted on Breath, Dream, Go, a wonderful website for anyone interested in India.

In a week and a half, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be on my way to Laos.

When I tell people about my trip, they usually look puzzled. “Why Laos? Are you going for business, or is it a vacation?” I hesitate a moment. The word vacation just doesn’t seem to fit. Finally, I say, “It’s travel.” As to why…well, it seems important to get outside our cultural bubble every once in a while.

Laos is a deeply Buddhist country with a laid-back manner and friendly people. It also happens to be very hot right now, both in the temperature sense and the trendy sense. Since buying my ticket, I’ve seen Laos on half a dozen must-see lists. It’s not often I find myself on the cutting edge.

Let me say right up front, I’m not an intrepid adventure traveller – but I’d like to be. Perhaps this is my version of a sixty-year-old guy buying a silver BMW convertible to prove he can still be the person he wants to be. As it is, my feelings about this impending trip alternate between pleasurable excitement and insomnia-producing anxiety.

There are endless thoughts about Things to Do (find the pin for my ATM card), Things to Decide (travel insurance…yes or no?), or Things That Might Go Wrong (a snowstorm on the day of departure!), each delivering a little jolt of adrenaline to the solar plexus. It’s what happens to me when I face the unknown.

Lately I’ve been reading One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy. She’s a super-intrepid traveller, a weather-beaten Irishwoman who trekked around Laos alone when she was 66. I’d love to have half her guts, but that’s not me. I have to accept being a traveller who’s half intrepid, half chicken.

Anyway, a week from Thursday (God willing and there’s no snow storm) I’m flying to San Francisco, where I’ll meet up with friends Deborah and Jan. And then…

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