[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is now just over a month until my next wild adventure, the Rickshaw Run, begins — a 2,700km (2,000mi) journey across northern India. By this time in April, I will be on the second or third day in our glorified and pimped out 3-wheeled rust bucket attempting to learn how to drive the damn thing. Some say it’ll be a piece of cake, others have no clue what the hell a rickshaw is. For me, I am confident I can get the hang of it, as well as my teammates Derek (The HoliDAZE) and Rutavi (Photokatha).
But will that be enough?
Will I be ready at all for this road trip of insanity? Not only are we taking this rickshaw across the most unpredictable terrain in India for two weeks, but India itself is described as one big mind-fuck on its own. My first time in one of the most diverse and densely populated countries on earth and I feel like taking a leisurely drive through mountains and desert and rivers and a sea of honking steel in the cities. For two weeks. On a roughly “planned” route.
You can tell I am one for precaution huh?
I did purchase some safety gear. More like a get up to race in. Some safety considered when purchasing it though.
Maybe that is what has me on my toes this time around — that I never really plan anything at all when I travel. I tend to show up, hop off the plane/train/bus/boat, get helplessly lost in a place I’ve never been, wander for hours trying to find a place to sleep because I hadn’t pre-booked, and somehow manage to find a place to sleep for the night. This has been my travel style since I began roaming the world in 2011, and though I can’t say it’s worked for me, I can say I’ve made it work.
There are times that I kick myself in the ass for not thinking ahead. Like that time I was lost in Rome for 5 hours searching for a hostel in the summer heat, or when I ran out of money in New Zealand and illegally guerrilla camped in a Lord of the Rings location. Or what about that time…well, this could go own for a while listing my bad backpacker moments. Most of the time, not planning leads me to exactly what I’m looking for in life — the unexpected stories and encounters and experiences that later become either embarrassing tales, or times when I have had one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
So why am I questioning myself this time around?
To be straight forward with you my friend, I don’t know what it is that has me so anxious. And it may just be an intense excitement that I don’t know how to deal with as I sit on this couch at a friend’s house where I am crashing for the month. At the time of this writing, I have 21 days 21 hours 54 minutes and 10 seconds until my flight departs for Delhi. You can tell that I’m not counting down the seconds. No doubt that I am excited. It’s an electrifying feeling waiting to begin a new adventure, especially one of this magnitude. And maybe it’s just an overload of emotion that is bombarding me. Hey, I can admit my feelings.
Everyone that I speak to who has been to India all say the same things about the country. One majority gushes about how amazing the country is and how life changing it was for them. The other side will note something about how it is the most hectic and fast paced and stressful place they have been to. But even those people say they still enjoyed it. And being a person who likes to travel that off-the-beaten-path style, I am normally not worried.
I just can’t help being worried though, after all, India wasn’t even on my radar this year.
Maybe that is a small lie, because I’ve always had India on my mind as a top destination to travel to. And I have fantasized about staying there for an extended time to explore. It just wasn’t set up as a destination I thought of traveling to this year. After returning to the United States last summer, I had no clue where I wanted to go next. I was just dead set on working hard and saving money again, and waiting for some distant place to grab hold of me. I guess you can say India did that with the help of my buddy Derek when he suddenly invited me on this trip only a couple of months ago.
There was no way I could turn down this kind of trip.
Around November I was just beginning to break even after being completely broke from my 8 months in Southeast Asia and Europe, and I had expected to begin stashing money away for a trip after the middle of 2015. I usually travel until I am holding more lint in my pockets than coins, and I did exactly that on this last adventure. When Derek brought me on to his team I had nothing saved up for it. I just had that rising feeling in my stomach and chest, that feeling of something profound. So I joined up knowing I could scrap together enough funds to do the Rickshaw Run. And, knowing that I had two jobs, I was pretty sure I could continue traveling after that.
There’s no way I want to come back soon after.
Immediately I began cutting things out of my life that cost extra money; from nights out at the bar to dining out to whatever in between. I became a hermit. But I go into hermit mode whenever I’m stateside, given that my only goal is to leave again. Hell, even pumpkin spice lattes couldn’t break my savings stride. Well, six days a week at least. During this time period, working two jobs exhausted me, and I let my creative endeavors fall to the wayside. I wrote in a blog post about how unhappy and unmotivated I am when I am back living in DC, and how I contributed to the exact thing that helped fund my trips. I always came back to Washington DC knowing I can make fast and easy money waiting tables, but making this compromise was taking a serious toll on me.
In the new year, I decided to finally stop holding myself back.
I told myself that this trip will be the big one, the one where I surpass the boundaries I’ve set for myself that hold me back from transforming my life of travel into my career as well. My dreams will go hand in hand with my work. After the Rickshaw Run, Derek invited me to go on another amazing journey, one along the ancient silk road where we would travel to all seven ‘Stan countries. Again I believed that I could save up enough at my restaurant job in the short amount of time and that will be my chance to explore a region that most travelers do not — a region that was once the heart of trade in the world with a history spanning the centuries. I added that to my travel plans for 2015 right away.
And while still thinking I could save up enough, one of the worst things happened.
In a recent (and a tad bit depressing) newsletter I sent out, I told about an incident at my restaurant that happened and I was fired. I won’t go into too much detail, but essentially I told my management team 2 months in advance out of respect that I was leaving, and their attitude for me changed. I had never been in trouble at work before, but just a couple of weeks ago I made my first mistake, and was fired for it. But as he stated, “we just don’t have room for travelers here, we need committed people“. And that put a complete stop to my income and ultimately froze my budget savings. On top of that, my roommate was suddenly deployed to Africa and I had to find a place to lay my head for March before the race.
Demoralized is putting it lightly.
This intense fear took hold of me, and I was panicking thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go through with the race now. Also, I had just dropped our deposit of $1,600 on the rickshaw which brought my savings down 75% up until that point. Before, I hadn’t worried, because waiting tables I can make that in two weeks easily. But now, I was left trying to figure out what to do. Our Rickshaw Run team is in the final stages of fund-raising, and I couldn’t even concentrate on the mission at hand. Everything felt like it had fallen apart, that I wouldn’t be able to travel this year, and that I might have to stay in DC longer. And I can’t bear it any longer. I was letting the world shit on me and wallowing in it.
But, as I like to say — the world wasn’t acting against me, the world has bigger things to worry about — like revolving around the fucking sun!
Here I was letting fear take over my emotions, and letting money control my mood. The things that make me happy were overshadowed by this pressure that I had put on myself. Staying positive is key to staying driven and I had to rebound from this and pick myself back up. Shit happens, it is just the universe testing the fortitude of someone daring to break societal rules. The adventure was still there, the world hadn’t ended, I still had some savings stashed away, and I still had time. I just needed to get my mojo back.
This week, I realized that I had allowed outside forces dictate my mood, and I wouldn’t have any more of that.
Good news came to me early this week, when my media job that had been only a 2 days a week gig suddenly expanded to give me 3-5 full working days a week until the trip to India! Also, a best friend of mind and his housemates were rad enough to let me stay at their place for the month on their couch, which is more than enough for me. I began doing what I loved again and getting back to writing and piecing together videos, and I felt an incredible surge in energy.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″]Rickshaw Run: What happens now?[/custom_headline]
On the Rickshaw Run front, things have been slowly coming together as well.
Though our fund raising for the charity went phenomenal by raising a whopping $4,000 for Cool Earth and Planterra to support local communities, our personal fundraising has been a bit slower. Slower in the means of finding sponsors. We had set out to try to find sponsors to cover some of our race costs by donating tech we needed to capture this adventure, or sponsorship for ads on our 3 wheeled beauty. Some promising brands have emerged as potential sponsors, but we are still sending emails out night and day for it.
But you, yes you all who are followers of Derek, Rutavi and I, are phenomenal. Your support with our personal GoFundMe page has been so amazing, and so far we have raised $380 of our goal which will help us with costs like fuel and food. You all are so great, and I really can’t wait to send those of you who donated postcards and secret goodies from India.
Along with the fundraising lately, we’ve also added a new member to our team who is the gal I have mentioned in this article a bit. And a new team name!
Since our previous Rickshaw Run team name was Do Yaar Romanchkari, translated to Two Adventurous Friends, we changed it to include our new member to Teen Romanchak Yaar, or Three Adventurous Friends.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″]Meet Rutavi[/custom_headline]
Born in Mumbai, India, Rutavi is one of only a handful of Indian women to ever participate in the Rickshaw Run. Adventure has been in her blood since she was a little girl and has led her on some amazing adventures, such as since hiking to Everest Base Camp and spending months living on the remote and uninhabited Lakshadweep Island. Using her travel stories and experiences, as well as the upcoming Rickshaw Run, she strives to empower women with a “women can do, and will do” attitude. Aiming to show that Indian women, and in fact all women in general, can take on incredible journeys and travel India safely.
We knew Rutavi’s sense of adventure and her goals to inspire others aligned with ours, and adding her to the team is exciting.
[highlight]We also finished the Rickshaw Run design![/highlight]
Before we take off into the unknown in that brave little 3-wheeled toaster, we get to pimp it out. All of you have seen Pimp My Ride right? Imagine that without the dubstep, or gold teeth, or transforming cars with hot-tubs, or the tens of thousands of dollars invested in the design. So pretty much nothing schanzzy. Even lacking all of that bling, the rickshaw still gets a freshening up with a custom paint job I designed below. And maybe I’ll bring fake gold teeth.
Since our rickshaw was already named in relation to Hindi culture, I thought I would design a paint job that honored that as well. Sure, most of the other racers do it up hardcore with the British flag or smothered in ‘Merica, and even some are dressed up like freakin’ Furbies.
Instead, I chose to honor one of the sacred animals to India, with a badass graffiti Indian elephant bursting out of the front, and the Indian flag wrapping all the way around to where our route is shown. That back part is definitely some marketing forethought, but the rest was for the spirit.
[highlight]What do you think?[/highlight]
Seriously, it’s pretty rad huh? Maybe we can get a battery-powered radio to pop in and pretend to have sub-woofers.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″]Moving forward[/custom_headline]
Moving forward is they key to it all. When all of those things happened at once recently that I considered set-backs, I let it halt my drive completely. But no matter what, I just have to keep moving forward, and looking forward. Fear is something that is always creeping upon us, and trying to prevent you from doing something great. And in this instance, because I am nervous it means that it is something really great, and something that defies that standard logic of “normality“, which is exactly the life that I want to lead. Maybe, at a time like this where I have taken a couple of shots at traveling long-term only to return because I had an easy way of making money, this is the craziest adventure and travel test most can take on. And maybe it is just what I need to take my life to the next level.
Third time is a charm right? Even if not, whether I come out of this adventure in the green or in the red, or I have to find a way to keep going without the budget I had hoped, one thing is clear — I won’t let fear dictate my dreams. And I won’t let my dreams be compromised.
[callout type=”left” title=”Join our team!” message=”Since Rutavi, Derek, and I are taking on this intense adventure, and paying out-of-pocket for expenses along the way by ourselves (including but not limited to: Fuel, flights, lodging, food, water, beers, excursions, repairs, tools, toilet paper, shampoo, etc.) we are still raising money through our GoFundMe, and we have some pretty awesome perks for you awesome people!
$5 – A personal thank you email and Social Media shout out. What’s up!
$10 – Get a postcard from India! Woo! And everything before.
$20 – Get a postcard and Polaroid from India, AND all the prior jazz.
$50 – Get a custom T-Shirt from our team, and the gnarly stuff before.
$100 – You are SICK! And our hero. Get a photo book from exclusive photos taken on the trip, a t-shirt, Polaroid and postcard, email and shout out!
” button_text=”Become a contributor!” button_icon=”smile-o” href=”http://www.gofundme.com/rickshaw” target=”blank”]