Tbilisi, City Of Contrasts

Overlooking Tblisi
Zazz and friend looking out over old Tbilisi.

Standing beneath the shadow of the ancient medieval fortress of Narikala, my new friend Oliver and I gazed down at the city below us. His voice broke the momentary silence brought on by the awe that comes from taking in a beautiful scene.

“City of contrasts.”

I almost said, “jinx” before I realized he had taken the words out of my mouth. Old crumbling houses with sunken roofs, buildings in the shape of sleek metallic tubes, dozens of church steeples reaching out of dusty brick, and a modern cable-car lifting sightseers towards a giant metal woman brandishing a bowl and a sword. Tbilisi, Georgia is a city of contrasts.

I’ve always loved the sight of contrasts, whether in paintings, photography, or personalities; contrasts make things distinguishable. Two defined attributes working to highlight each attribute’s charm. Through contrast appears the heart and soul of a thing. What I found at the heart of Tbilisi was a proud culture rich in history and full of strength and opinion.

Mother of Georgia
Mother of Georgia.

Unfortunately, I quickly learned that coupled with the old and beautiful buildings in Tbilisi, was also an old form of sexism. Tbilisi has a strong feminine face, but a thick matriarchal backbone. Everywhere I went I would find eyes of men ogling me in obviously inappropriate ways. This caused me to want to wear longer sleeves and longer shorts despite the humid and hot weather in the summer. Possibly more upsetting than the heat, was the pressure to dress in a certain way to avoid being disrespected. 

However, I didn’t end up succumbing to the social pressure all thanks to a close friend of mine.

It’s easy to see that a truly strong country, making it through the test of time, produces strong people. In contrast to the old traditions of masculine privilege is a young woman working hard to make a difference with the rising generations of Georgian men and women. Elene Kvernadze of the United Nations Association of Georgia and my good friend, founded the movement “Open Your Eyes, Listen, Break the Silence” A movement to raise awareness about domestic violence in Georgia and to give more people strength to push social boundaries.

I got the pleasure of interviewing Elene about her home country and her views on gender equality in Georgia.

Elene Meditating
Kvernadze meditating on social issues over the old Tbilisi Baths.

As a guest to the country, my initial reaction might be a bit harsh. Is sexism really prevalent in Georgia?

Elene: YES! VERY! It’s strange how I never realized it growing up here… It took me leaving for college and actually looking at my country from afar to realize just how bad it was. It’s engrained in almost every aspect of our culture, but it’s wrapped in this strange tradition of respect; fake respect for women that blinds you.
Think of the statue you were talking about- it’s called the mother of Georgia. There’s a cult view of mothers and women, and how we have the utmost respect for them; when in reality the only thing this respect is visible in is calling the mother out from the kitchen during a feast to toast to their health and then letting them go back to being a slave for the evening- baking, cooking, and changing plates.

What are some of the cultural customs that stand out as sexist?

First of all, there’s the double standard! A woman is either a virgin or a whore; there is no in-between and the moment it’s know that you have had sex you are labeled as easy. It’s like you’re damaged goods. While on the other hand, guys are supposed to have a lot of experience with sex which includes prostitutes… from a very young age. It’s disgusting really. Women are basically not valued, no matter what they accomplish in life, unless they are married and have kids. So their value lies in their families. No matter how beautiful, smart educated and successful you are, if you are single, people kinda pity you. It’s weird… but it’s changing slowly.
Also, women are supposed to put their families first, raising kids and house work is their job… this is just the tip of the icebergs… there are also more serious issues, for example, that women should endure verbal and even physical abuse from their husbands for the sake of their families; which contributes to further violence within the home. I can talk about this forever, there are so many examples, but I think you get the idea.

Are there possible benefits to the way the gender culture in Georgia currently is and are they worth it?

I think in general the clear divide of roles between the sexes creates structure. Everyone knew their place and what was expected of them and life was “easy.” You know what I mean? Right now there is a crisis going on, especially in men, because those roles are changing. Women now do all the things men used to do but men are still struggling to realize that it means they now have to share the responsibilities women used to have. So there is a backlash from the society, and especially men, but I think that’s a normal part of change in any society: there is resistance and fear to the new and unknown. You will always have a part of the society who will try to conserve what was… but that’s just how it goes.

What needs to change and what are you and others doing to change it?

More strict laws need to be in place to battle gender based violence. These laws need to be implemented properly, officials need to be trained to understand these issues, civil society needs to take an active role; and most importantly, raising awareness in the public and ingraining the idea that each one of us is responsible for creating a society where everyone is treated equally and with dignity.
I actually think we are heading in the right direction and I’m very optimistic about it. This year 29 women were killed at the hands of their husbands or ex husbands in Georgia, this is a tragedy. And this tragedy was an awful awakening for the country to realize that this issue, actually IS an issue! Everyone from politicians to regular people have started talking about this, it is starting to become a priority… again; because people have started to care.
Tblisi Candy
Churchkhela, a Georgian fruit and nut candy. Not to be mistaken for anal beads.

I’ve been following social media in Georgia a bit and I realize that Elene is right. The rising generation of Georgians care, and in this they have once again proven to be strong and resilient people.

Contrasts are beautiful, they highlight features that might otherwise be missed in a blend. But possibly more importantly, contrasts make it easier to see what is worth fighting for.

Elene, me, & Khachapuri
Elene Kvernadze with author.

Home Shock


I recently returned to my hometown after being away for over a year.

As my plane flew over my great salty lake and soured parallel to those ‘oh so familiar’ mountains, my heart began to beat faster. The excitement I experienced upon touching down at the airport easily rivaled the excitement I got from first leaving 14 months ago.

The plane needed to dock faster because I was about to surprise my friends and family and the exhilarating part was that no one knew I was even coming. I missed my friends, their familiar faces had frequented my dreams as I anticipated seeing them again. I had been planning this surprise arrival for months and what made me nervous was that they were going to experience the new travel me.

When it comes to travel, what we don’t often hear about is home shock. Often, most things remain the same back at home, yet us travelers have quite literally seen the world and travel has a way of speeding up the inevitable. Long exposure to change, differences, and experiences tend to alter a person, and the realization of the contrast can cause a bit of an identity tremor.

Accompanied with the excitement of seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while, was a slight concern of my expected behavior. How much had I changed? Was it enough to shock the people who knew me? One thing I’ve noticed about human behavior is that folks tend not to like change. We appreciate when our friends and surroundings are familiar, and the dislike of alterations have spawned negative associations to the statement, “she’s changed.”

I’ve noticed something about the emotion of nervousness; it’s that it’s identical to the feeling of excitement only with different thoughts behind it. So I decided to sit comfortably, or as comfortably as I could, in my new skin. If I changed then I changed, and my friends and family would have to be happy for it.

SLC crew
Zazz and friends.

I quickly found that the acceptance of my friends and family was the last thing to get nervous about, after all, I was still me and they love me. However, home shock came from an existential realization of change. We all eventually reminisce of days past and who we used to be; it’s the consequence of time.

Twenty years from now I’ll be a different person, and twenty years from then I’ll be another different person; and forty years from now you will be a different person too. This is because change always affects us, and change is inevitable. While driving along my old streets I realized that even my city will dramatically alter in another 50 years or less.

Culture shock affects us because it forces us to look at life and ourselves in another light. Home shock affects us because it forces us to look at our past, future, and present in another light. That new perspective on things lit up the realization that living in the moment is the only way to truly live.

Judgements From a Pocket Monkey


There is a monkey on my sweater with a stern look on his face. I can see him looking at me through my bedroom mirror. I bought the sweater from a thrift shop because I thought a front pocket was a fun spot to place a stern looking monkey. Surrounded by shitty half finished paintings, I’m questioning my purchase while I’m drinking horrible tasting wine and smoking far too much weed. Is the monkey judging me? Where am I? What am I doing? I’m momentarily obsessed with questions like these, yet I love when I feel the need to ask them.

I’ve been traveling the world alone and I’m currently in Australia, working in cafes and living in a shed for a few months while I work on my paintings.

 Considering my situation, I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I’ve found myself yet. I suppose it’s a cliche’ for people to travel while in search of themselves, so I can’t blame them for asking. But I can’t help but wonder, where is the finding when the found is always with you? What excites me is the thought that we’re always finding ourselves.

Whether stationary or not, travel is a metaphor for life. Confronting the world forces you to confront the different aspects of yourself in relation to the different aspects of the world. Because the world is full of changes, so are we. Since I was a teenager my goal in life has been to create myself through experience. What new things can I explore? What new sensations may I feel? I have inadvertently “found myself” while traveling, but that’s only because I’ll find myself everywhere I am.

Zazz and sweater-Pocket Monkey in her art shed.

This doesn’t mean I don’t get scared. In all actually, I’m often fairly terrified. What am I doing with my life? Why have I anthropomorphized a pocket monkey? Where will this all take me? I’ve recently bought an expensive professional camera with the goal in mind of creating a traveling podcast. I know nothing about cameras, filming, or editing. The other day I was playing around by recording random things, when the reality of what I’m trying to do freaked me out. Talking alone into the camera is actually pretty damn hard, it can make you feel vulnerable and a bit crazy. Especially when you find yourself doing it with little friend support in some crummy and cold shed in the backyard of a crummier house in Melbourne. Are my goals a joke? Even if I pull this off, who will watch it?

I travel in order to explore and open myself up to possibilities, but I also originally took off in hopes of finding an opportunity that I can commit to. I often feel constantly torn in the directions I want to take in life. Some days I just want someone to simply tell me what to do. Yet if there is anything else I hate more in this world, it’s someone telling me what to do. I’m a walking contradiction in that way. I think my desire for instruction is derived from a fear of responsibility. If someone else is dictating my life, I can blame them for my disappointments; but I can’t live that way because I know it’s a lie. I’m responsible for my own life, I have no one else to blame if I fail.

This realization of responsibility has been an enormous thing to take in. I’ve always thought of responsibility as this thing associated with a career, children, or doing the dishes; but it’s more than even that. We are responsible for our entire lives. Not just our current, living, and breathing in this moment lives, we’re responsible for everything leading up to our inevitable deaths. What’s worse, failing or never doing? The answer is never doing. Because if we fail when we reach the end of our lives, we’re failing anyway; but we’re failing without having even tried.

I ended up in Melbourne after a series of bizarre and fantastic events and my mind is still reeling with the freedom I currently possess. The pocket monkey might be looking at me disappointingly, but I love my situation. I’m living a dream of mine since childhood and I’m free to explore the world and myself as I please.  This is a good thing. The more things I explore, the more things I try, the more I learn about myself; my true self, not the self filled with “shoulds” and “can’ts.” And whatever I end up doing or abandoning, at least I’ve learned something. At least I’ve DONE something, instead of sitting on my ass complaining about life and wasting it. Judge that pocket monkey.

Quality Over Quantity

A fellow traveling friend recently asked me how my experiences visiting new towns and cities have changed since I first set off on the road nine months ago. Does the excitement of seeing a new place still compel me to, “go, go, go” and explore every crevice, monument, and tourist sight possible? Or do I take it slow, spending a day or two in my guesthouse or hotel relaxing?

photo 3(1)
Western Australia

It didn’t take me long to answer his question. I have thought about this many times before and I have found that the longer I’ve been on my travels the less of a tourist I’ve become. I’ve found myself spending hours, sometimes days, indoors, on the porch, or in a restaurant reading, writing, painting and skipping popular tourist destinations altogether.

This is a topic I have talked about with other travelers before, and it seems to be on many nomads’ minds. What’s more important, quality or quantity? Should we feel guilty for not exploring everything we can of a new place? We travel in order to see, explore, and experience new things after all, shouldn’t I get off of my computer and do exactly that?

What I love most about travel is that it is a reflection of our journey through life itself. While caught up in the mundane tasks of everyday modern living, we often forget to see the whole picture of where we are. Our lives are relatively short on this earth and we shouldn’t take our days and hours for granted.

photo 2(2)
Learning para-sailing

Living and being completely in a moment is exactly how we avoid wasting our lives away. If the hectic worries of catching a bus at noon or seeing x number of sites before evening is getting in the way of actually being wholly in a moment, then we should take a step back for a second and let go. If we’re burying our nose in maps and guide books and treating a place like Disneyland, then perhaps we’re missing the point of travel. We’ve got to take time to breathe, look around us, and reflect on the moment. If we’re too preoccupied on sticking to a schedule and our minds are filled with fears of missing out, we often are missing out.

The mirror of travel has shown me that, just like in life, I can’t do and see everything; it’s not humanly possible. But it has also shown me that life and experience is all there for the taking; I simply have to learn to close my laptop sometimes and walk out the door. As the hectic rush and worry of, “go, go, go” can take away from living in the moment, hiding away in a rented room for days can do the same. 

There is no Lonely Planet book to answer my friend’s questions on when it’s right to sit, and when it’s right to go. The pace we choose to travel and live our lives is a personal thing which can change from day-to-day. The important thing to remember is that quality, not just quantity, is most rewarding.

photo 1(3)
Melbourne gallery art installation by Mark Hilton.

World Bowlers

I’m not a fan of bowling, despite it being a favorite pastime of some of my favorite people in the world. The combination of finger food, shared balls, shit beer, and personal let-downs just doesn’t appeal to me.

But the other night I managed to make an exception. It wasn’t because bowling suddenly became fun for me, it was the insanely odd situation I had found myself in that made this Thursday night exceptional.

A surprisingly little known fact: the most bombed country in the world is Laos. A less startling, yet still bizarre, little known fact; Luang Prabang has a bowling alley that fills with foreigners from night to night. And this bowling alley happens to be where I found myself spending my Thursday night in Laos.

Upon arriving, the judgmental hipster in me instantly wanted to hate the place as I entered it.

“Where are all of the locals?”

For me, this was a disgusting display of western drunken influence on an old and beautiful culture. I instantly wanted to distance myself from it.

Stuck there until my current travel companions decided to leave, I soon found myself as a fly on the wall.

There I was, alone in a room full of foreigners from all over the world getting drunk and making fools of themselves. It was disgusting, it was intriguing, it was… Beautiful?… The anthropologist in me was suddenly intrigued.

You see, back at home when entering a busy place full of people who you don’t know, its a bit odd to sit down at a random table and easily join in in a conversation with strangers.
But we were in travelers land!
No one really knew anyone, except the few traveling with friends from home.

Belgium, Argentina, China, England, Australia, Switzerland, Egypt, France… Everyone was from another country! Everyone was getting along, united by the oddity of a bowling alley in a small town in Laos.

This was a beautifully insane thing.

Photo by Victoria from Pommie Travels


We’re All Alone in This Together

As you may have noticed, I’ve created a website.

Why did I do this?

Well, I’m not going to lie to you beautiful people, it was for a selfish reason.

No, not for money and not for glory. To be honest, I’m currently amazed that you are reading this at all right now. I hold few expectations or delusions of grandeur stemming from brain-dumbing this pseudo-philosophical travel website.

Existential Travel Zazz, (Meant to be spoken while waving spirit fingers) is a title worth rolling your eyes at.

“Here is yet another young traveling blogger, out to inspire the world!” C’est la vie.

If you’ve been following my posts at all, you’ll find that I’m a bit of a fromagerie. I’m here trying to get to the heart of it all, and sometimes that heart is made of cheese. And cheese is delicious so you all should have little to complain about.

The heart of the matter here is, I do hope to inspire the world. But this real hope, stems from a selfish desire to not feel so lonely.

(A question for later: is the desire to not feel lonely a selfish desire?)

While on the road, I’ll meet people. We’ll connect on a deep yet rushed superficial level and then they’re off in a week or two. It’s how it is.

It’s kind of sad being around so many people but having none of them really know you.

Often when I attempt to connect with friends back at home, they think I’m bragging about my travels and wish not to engage me. I don’t really blame them for this, but the reality is that I’m just a lonely human, and humans need to share.

I feel I have much to share and I can’t keep it in for myself, it’s almost painful. I want to share and inspire people around me.

So there, I said it. Now get your eye-roll over with and join in on this with me. Because I know you actually want connection too.

So what makes my website different from most inspirational travel blogs? Or a more accurate question, what do I hope makes my website different from other travel blogs? Existential involvement of course.

So what does existential actually mean?

Existential adjective

– Of or relating to existence.

Travel with awareness. Awareness of existence, life, living, and the present.

And it’s not just travel in the conventional sense.

I know not everyone is stupid enough, or able, to sell all of their shit, quit their job, and buy a one-way ticket to Asia. As much as I wish to shout, “you can travel the world too!” I realize that not everyone out there can.

But I’m not creating this website to reach out only to the nomad.

You see, I have a confession. I’ve always loved traveling, but I’ve never loved following travel blogs or travel magazines before. The reason being that I often found myself unable to travel and those beautiful traveling blogs only rubbed that depressing fact in my face.

(Apparently their inspiration worked, however, because here I am.)

Ultimately, My hope is to make a community that everyone can enjoy and take something useful or helpful away.

After all, we’re all travelers.

There’s that cheese again, but it’s true-blue and stinky too. It’s a simple reality of life which is obvious because realities of life usually are.

We are all on a personal journey in life; we are all travelers of life.

And that’s why I made this website. To connect that simple reality with the world, the traveling community, and my lonely self. To inspire creativity, forward thinking and movement in our lives.

The nomads of the world often see it clearly, it is full in the face of their existence; we are on a very literal journey through life on the road, life itself is a journey too.

That’s what makes travel so invigorating. Travelers are living in the moment, everything is new and unpredictable and it makes us think about ourselves and our place in existence.

And we have to live in that moment or we run the risk of getting hit by that bus going down the left side of the road instead of the right.

So! I hope you follow me and my adventures. But most of all I hope you join in, leave comments, give feedback, and submit your own existential travel zazz stories and opinions.

I don’t want to end up just being on a lonely pulpit. I want to talk, connect, engage in discussion, and reach out to anyone else who feels lonely on this road of life.



Laos Flood

They say that everything happens for a reason. I once believed this with complete certainty. The logic made sense to me at the time.

“A results in B which results in C, so therefore fate.”

But now I wonder if it is up to us to create a reason or a purpose for things that happen.

Which comes first, fate or the egg? Awareness or the chicken?

I may be less certain if there is a divine force guiding the world and deciding our fate, but I am more certain that it is up to us to choose how we perceive occurrences and how we decide to react towards them.

Maybe it was fate for me to choose to stay in Vientiane Laos a day longer to paint a wall. A spontaneous decision which ultimately caused me to be on the same bus as a girl unknowingly facing death, while on our way to a small town which would soon experience a flood. Or maybe it was the unexpected occurrence of finding myself in the middle of a flood, with a woman who needed care, which caused me to feel that it was fate for me to be there.

Philosophical reasoning aside, the last few days have been quite an adventure.

Nugget had already made her way north when I last met with her in Lauang Probang, Laos. She had told me to visit a fantastic cave in Ban Kong Lor, which I decided was a fantastic idea.

From the capital city, Vientiane, I hopped on a bus to arrive in the small and beautiful valley where the cave was located. There were only a handful of other travelers with me, one of them being a woman who told me she was feeling ill. We all checked into one of the only guesthouses in the area with plans to see the cave in the morning. Our plans became a fantasy when the torrential rains began to pour.

I woke up in the morning to find the roads slightly flooded and the power down. We were told that the caves were too flooded and we would need to wait a day for the rain to stop and the water to recede.

We stayed the day, but the rain never stopped.

It was that evening when myself and another traveler became aware of the sick woman’s severe condition. Still unknown to me, she had multiple severe infections on her leg which were giving her blood poisoning, a life threatening sickness. I had assumed at this point she had Dengue Fever, still life threatening but not as critical.

By the next morning it became clear that we weren’t going to see the caves, the weather was only going to get worse, and we needed to get the girl medical attention.

On day two we negotiated a simple plan with a couple of local guys who owned a tuk tuk and a boat. It would be simple, we would take the tuk tuk as far as we could, hop in the boat, and we would get out of the flooded valley in a few hours. We were all wrong on it being a simple process.

The first half of the plan worked out smoothly. The farther we drove out of Ban Kong Lor, the higher the flood waters got. It seemed a fun novelty at the time. The locals were taking advantage of the extra rivers and were fishing in the roads. Soon the time came where the tuk tuk could no longer drive through the water, so we brought out the boat.

There were ten of us trying to get out of the town that day, and the boat only carried 5. It was decided that the sick woman would go first, and I happened to get included in that group of four other travelers. As we started off, we were in awe of the amount of water that covered the rice fields and road.

Only two days before we had driven a bus into the town where we now required a boat to exit.

After about an hour on the boat we came to a small bit of high ground which formed an island of road and houses. The driver couldn’t find a way to go any further so he dropped us off with instructions to walk as far as we could and wait for the second group to join us. By this time our patient wasn’t doing so well, she was hardly able to step out of the boat let alone walk for very far. It was with her pant legs rolled up to avoid getting them wet where I first saw the sight of her infected legs.

A couple of weeks before I had googled information on staph infections, confusing Staphylococcus with ring worm at the time, and I had seen pictures of mild and severe cases. This woman’s legs were undoubtedly on the severe end of the spectrum, and I knew the severe end of the spectrum meant deadly.

Thanks to my nurse mom, I also knew that Staphylococcus and other wound infections required antibiotic treatment. By the look of her legs, coupled with the presence of a scary high fever, I knew that she needed antibiotics immediately. The damp wet environment we were in would only worsen her condition, which was already life threatening.

But we were stuck on a small bit of island with cows, rain, and chickens, but no medications.

Well, except for the antibiotics in my pack which my nurse mom sent me off with. Fate? I don’t know, but I do know that the antibiotics didn’t hurt the situation, nor did my awareness and decision to be concerned for a fellow person.

After waiting for 2 hours, we found another boat which would carry two people out of the flood and possibly to safety. It was quickly decided that the sick girl should take the opportunity to leave, accompanied by someone to help her. A new friend of mine who had also taken the girl under his wing opted to join her, while myself and two others stayed behind. We waited another two hours before officially deciding that the boat wasn’t coming to get us.

A small part of me almost wishes we chose to stay on that small island with a nice local family who offered their home to us for the night. It would have been a fun story to tell. But perhaps it was fate whispering, because we decided to walk forward despite the warnings from others that the water only got higher further on and we would be swimming by nightfall.

With our packs lifted high on our backs we trudged through the shin deep water, then the knee deep water, which quickly became waist deep water. Just as we were realizing that we were crazy for doing what we were doing, our boatman finally found us.

The hour long boat ride from our pickup point is one that I am unlikely to forget. The water quickly appeared to rise higher and higher the further through town we got. The rain never stopped and unfortunately my camera became too fogged to capture the images I witnessed.

Entire houses under water, families on roofs, cars submerged, boats filled with electronics, water buffalo drowning, people clinging to bamboo, and all of the smiling faces.

Yeah, you read that correctly, the people were grinning. I don’t know how, I can hardly comprehend why, but the people we passed in our boat were smiling. Their fields were ruined, their homes trashed, their animals dying, but they still had time to laugh.

Perspective, a beautiful lesson on mood.

We eventually arrived to high ground where after a 6 hour adventure we finally met up with the rest of the group, our sick patient included. From there a tuk tuk brought us to the nearest town.

I could write another whole blog post on the conditions of the hospital we eventually brought our ill friend to, but I’ll sum it up with telling you that it seemed safer to leave the hospital than be there. After consulting a doctor in Australia, it was confirmed that her condition was indeed life threatening. We were told to get her out of this country or to get her immediate antibiotic treatment through I.V.

One person alone wasn’t enough to convince the doctors at the Laos hospital to give our friend the treatment she needed to save her life. They kept insisting we wait one week for the test results, but the frightening reality was that she might not have had one week to wait.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s to avoid the need to visit Laos hospitals.

Maybe I was meant to be in that flood to give our sick friend antibiotics and to then provide needed backup for further treatment. But I personally would give more of the credit to a girl named Ally, who helped me back in Thailand when I had food poisoning, an event I wrote about in a previous blog post. She reminded me of a simple human lesson; we should look out for each other.

Even with cause and effect, it’s up to us to shape our perception and reactions. Awareness and movement is more powerful than fate alone.

By the way, those are power lines.

Dedicated to Vanessa and Greg. Love you guys.

Guilt of the Lazy Traveler

Leaving my hostel to the bus station I was told to pay no more than 30 baht (.96 cents) for a ride, any higher I would be getting ripped off. I was also given the advice to go to the main road and catch a blue truck, which Chiang Rai uses as public transport. Armed with this advice I headed out into the heat with my backpack; but my plan was quickly thwarted by the sudden appearance of a tuk tuk driver on the sidewalk, blocking my way.

Not wishing to walk any more in the heat with a heavy pack, I decided I would at least check the price. If I could match 30, no need for the blue truck. After a couple of rounds of a see-sib, sam-sib duet (40, 30) I was able to get him to agree on sam-sib baht, or 30 baht.


Except that this was before my slow realization that the tuk tuk was not a tuk tuk at all, but a good old-fashioned ricksha. And the driver happened to be a little old man who was smaller than myself. As he struggled to peddle my heavy bag and self to get started on our way, I realized I had made a horrible mistake.

With each valiant effort of my driver to peddle me to my destination, I began to feel more and more like an ass-hole tourist. There I was, a white middle class tourist paying a little old Thai man pennies to wheel me around.

Before we had even gone one meter I had agreed with myself to pay him his original 40 baht he suggested.

Whenever we came upon traffic or a slight incline upward, forcing our momentum to be lost, his bicycles wheels would lock, forcing him to struggle even more. With each moment this happened I silently told myself I would give him more.

“Ok, 45 baht…. No, 50. This deserves 50.”

I couldn’t back out, it was far too late. I had agreed to pay him money and he was determined to follow through no matter how shaky his legs got.

The apex of the situation was reached when we came to a stop light in front of traffic. As the light turned green motor bikes zoomed past us and cars waited patiently for us to get going.

We weren’t going.

I watched some pedestrians smile and chuckle as I silently put a leg out to help push the rickshaw forward. I was shamefully reminded of my youth, health and laziness in this moment. Why couldn’t I have walked one block further to the main road? This tiny old man was out-doing me by a long shot.

One hundred baht I decided then. This crazy old man was getting 100 baht.

Before handing him the 100 baht upon arriving, I asked for a photo which he proudly posed for. Before putting my camera away I handed him the 100 note, signaling to keep the whole thing. When I looked back up he had his hand stretched out for me to hold. I obliged and was surprised when he didn’t shake it, but held it firmly with both hands.

It was clear in his eyes as he looked into mine, that he was very grateful. I wish I could say it made me feel like a saint but 100 baht is only 3 USD and it was given partly out of guilt. I can’t say it was all out of guilt, however. That amazing old man peddling my 160 lb. bag and self through the streets of Chiang Rai undoubtedly earned my respect.

– Zazz

Chiang Mai Train Ride

Originally posted June 2013

A little soul on a train all alone.

How do you draw a great expanse of space and time? How do you write of the sensation of speeding past beautiful scenes on a clicking bullet; all the while being oddly aware, but not fully comprehending, the lands, mountains, and oceans separating you from home, friends, and anyone who knows your name?

I am simply a little soul on a train in a great expanse of land full of many. And there is something wholly awe-inspiring about that, something exciting as well as deeply lonely.

I plug my music into my ears and I can’t help but cry from the sheer beauty and power of this experience. Music, art, and literature are the tools we use to share and connect with the other humans around us. An artistic connection helps us not feel so alone in the world. But nothing can compare to the dizzying sensation of being completely in a moment.

I am not alone in my loneliness, therefore I’m not alone.


Peter Bradley Adams everyone,