Above: Kelsi and I in Thar Desert in India about 30km from the Pakistan boarder.
Kelsi and I set out from Boston six months ago and this seems like an opportune time to reflect on the trip thus far. Although on the blog we’re still posting stories from India, I write this from a café/bar on an island in Vietnam. Vietnam is our last stop in Asia and we soon will be flying back over the Pacific. We have lot more stories to share from India and the rest of Asia, so expect more of those to come after this post, but for now I take a moment to look back.
This post is full of some of our favorite photos from the last three months, most of which came from blog posts we haven't yet published. Consider them a preview of blog posts to come!
The best part of travel, without a doubt, is that Kelsi and I basically get to hang out with each other all the time. Normal life would have us saying goodbye to each other in the morning as we go off to work and there would be this giant chunk of the day where we wouldn’t see each other. A part of me wondered if we would go nuts not having any time away from each other, but that fear has proved to be unfounded. I know that there are many couples who rely on a certain amount of space between the partners. We have found that is largely not a need of ours. We have disagreements at times and can even annoy each other, but it happens way less than even I expected as we set out. Mostly we never tire of hanging out together.
A (big) chapter of this adventure is closing as we prepare to leave Asia. We have months of travel still ahead of us, but I’m still pretty bummed. I think this is because I know we’re taking one big step closer to our return normal life. I’m excited about medical school, about living in Boston, about seeing our family and friends. I’m not excited that I probably won’t have this much uninterrupted time with my wife on a regular basis until we’re retired. I’m holding onto all our time together as much as I can.
One of the parts of travel that I did not expect but enjoying is the amount of reading we do. Travel offers so many opportunities for reading. Bus, train, and plane rides pass immeasurably faster with a book. I feel cultured as I read many of the classics I’ve heard of but never got around to before, pop culture aware as I’ve read series I’ve heard people talk about but never entertained myself, and driven as I read books about healthcare and health disparities. In particular, I expect the growing number of books I have read about healthcare access and delivery in the United States to stick with me and have profound impact on the medical career I am pursuing.
The ebook readers Kelsi and I brought have been worth their weight in gold, especially as we’ve been able to check out digital books from the Boston library for free even as we gallivant across Asia. I highly recommend one to any traveler.
Here are our three favorite books we’ve read on this trip:
- Transatlantic - Colum McCann
- The Things They Carried - Tim O’Brien
- Peony - Pearl S. Buck
- The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo
- Pathologies of Power - Paul Farmer
As I mentioned, I’m really bummed that Asia portion of our trip is coming to a close. We travel through Tokyo on our way back to the Western Hemisphere and I wish we had time to build an extra week or two back in Japan to see if it felt different being more experienced travelers.
In the bigger sense, though, it feels like we’re at a transition point. We have been in Asia six month. It’s not long enough to call it a “chapter of my life,” but it feels much bigger than “that thing I did once.” I’m excited for our volunteer project in Ecuador, but right now I am disappointed to leave the wandering life we have led in Asia. If we didn’t have a firm commitment in South America next week, I’m sure we’d double back and explore Vietnam some more before traveling to a new destination like Laos or Indonesia. This Asian adventure has been thrilling and it’s hard to watch it go.
Another consistent feature of our trip is that for about 70% of our time, one or both of us has had some minor ongoing medical issue. There were my kidney stones, Kelsi's leg infections, (very brief) food poisoning in India, colds here and there, some really rough periods of mosquito bites for Kelsi, and various other small maladies. Today, Kelsi woke up at 4am with an ear infection that took us to a clinic and then to a hospital. We also have an appointment next week for her to have a longstanding sore on her leg examined.
Overall, we count our luck and (we think) good sense that we've avoided major injury and illness on the road, and that we've encountered top quality medical care whenever we've had to seek it out. We've never had to change major travel plans or shell out more than $150 to see a doctor. Most days we go about our business as usual. That said, it's been a pretty ongoing, if minor drag and we hope that our Latin America leg is in better health than our Asia one.
On Pickpockets and Thieves
We successfully managed six months of travel without being pick pocketed, having our bags lifted or broken into, or being robbed in general. We chalk this, too, up to a mix of luck and good judgement.
Also, we have always kept our spending money in my wallet in my pocket. We really don't like travel belts/pouches that some tourists prefer.
On my Beard
In my three month post, I talked about the need of frequent barber visits to keep my beard in check. I even mentioned the offhand comment Kelsi made that maybe this trip would be the best time to experiment being clean shaven. On our very last day in Asia, we visited a barber in Hanoi, Vietnam, that decimated my beard. I asked for a trim and she put her clippers on ultralow and mowed my face down close. I’m not clean shaven, but I’m pretty close. Kelsi says I look naked. Neither one of us approve. Once I nurse the beard back from the brink that it is currently on, I will maintain it at its previous length indefinitely.