A: Ok, Steph asked this question waaaay back when we were in Alleppey. We answered the one about the weirdest person we'd met and if we watched TV, but at the time, we felt that we were ill-equipped to answer this one. Sure, we'd already finished almost two-thirds of the trip and only two new countries lay ahead of us, but we didn't want to cheat any one of them. So we held back. Of course, life got the better of us, and I didn't find the question again until today when I was feeling all nostalgic for the trip. Lizzi and I have talked a lot about this, and we feel that it would be best if we each answered this question.
It's kind of a cop-out to say that I wish I could have spent more time everywhere we visited. Four months is just way too short for our itinerary. When I look back and see that, on average, we spent less than 3 days in any one place, I realize that we only just nicked the tip of the iceberg. But before I make my pick, I want to say that there isn't a single place we visited where I wouldn't want to spend some more time. Despite the rough time we had in Vietnam, I would wish we could have spent some more time there to really find something to enjoy about it. I'm convinced that if we'd had more time we could have escaped Hanoi and found something wonderful about northern Vietnam.
With that said, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when I say that I wish we could have spent more time in Nepal. Even though we spent two weeks there, we really only got to see a small part of Kathmandu Valley, not to mention just a sliver of the country as a whole. But what's hardest for me to believe is that we went to Nepal and didn't spend a single day trekking. Not one! All of those glorious mountains went completely unexplored. I mean, if you're going to Nepal, you really should do some trekking. Personally, I have a dream of returning to Nepal to hike up to the Everest base camp or maybe trek the snowy ridges of the Annapurna Range. No matter what I desperately want to go back just to take in the vast outdoor adventures of the Himalayas.
But it's not all crampons and ice axes for me. Some of our friends at VSN who had more time ended up in Pokara, as well as a number of ashrams and even some of the more rural areas outside of Kathmandu. I'm not really a touchy-feely guy, but some of the meditation/yoga retreats sounded really relaxing, and, hey, I'm willing to try anything once.
Still, I feel that I didn't get all that I could have out of Kathmandu. The city has a little bit of everything from the adrenaline-addicted climbers to the electronic-music raves that went till the wee hours of the morning. With so much to experience, two short weeks really didn't do the city justice.
And, finally, there are the kids. I would go back in a heartbeat to spend more time with them, helping to build them a better school or lifting them high into the air just hear them laugh. Lizzi's not sure if I think about them at all, but I do. And I miss them dearly.
I sort of wish we'd had more time to spend in every place that we visited. Time and time again, we said that if we'd had six months to do the trip instead of four, we wouldn't have changed our itinerary at all. We would have just spent longer in each place. It certainly would have cost about the same, since the biggest expense is definitely the plane tickets.
But when I think about this question now that we're home, I think about it in terms of the places I'd return to if someone were going to give me a free ticket. Probably first on my list would be (not surprisingly) Nepal. The people and the culture there were amazing, and there's so much of the country that we didn't even catch a glimpse of. And of course, there are lose little ones at the orphanage pulling me back. But even beyond that, there was something about that country that really just felt right to me. The pace of life is slower, by and large, than the pace we left behind in northern India, and life is simply saturated with the color, smell, and sound of Himalayan culture. It's really just an incredible place to see.
Other than Nepal, I find myself often wistfully thinking of Bangkok any time I'm in a city, which is fairly often. I just loved the hustle and the bustle of that city and the general hum of life there. I loved the mix of old and new and the fascinating place that is Thailand. If I could work in Bangkok and live in Pepsicola, vacationing occasionally in Koh Lanta and Siem Reap, I'd be a happy, happy girl.
Of course, there are days when I think that I could spend a lifetime in Munnar, that I fantasize about someday being sent on a business trip to Saigon, and I wonder what the people in the Hmong village in Lao are up to. I also think that if we'd had more time in some of the places that we didn't like as much (Hanoi for me, Delhi for Matt), we would have ended up liking them a lot more. I think that it's no coincidence that part of the reason I wish we had more time in Nepal was because it was the place we spent the longest amount of time. We actually had a brief chance to get a flavor for the place, long enough (for me at least) to want to stay.
My desire to see more of the world is curbed only by the fact that the teeny tiny portion of the world that I saw only made me wish that I could spend my days as an independently wealthy traveler, staying in one place as long as I desired. The backpacker lifestyle does get exhausting and I wonder if, had we been traveling for, say, a year, we would have eventually come to place where we thought, "good enough, let's hang out here for a while." As it is, we never really got to that point (or we did, and it coincided nicely with staying in Nepal for two weeks). The bottom line, of course, is that if the Internet wanted to send me to any one of the places we visited, I wouldn't turn down the opportunity. So, um, if any one of you really REALLY wants me to go back and love on Vietnam, all you have to do is show me the plane ticket and I'll be there in a heartbeat!