Friday, September 16, 2011

Travel Makes You Be Gentle With Yourself


I had contacted two couchsurfers in Srinagar, one who seemed a cool guy my age, and one that was a family. The guy my age had some last-minute obligations, and the family turns out to be a guesthouse, where instead of a free couch, I was given a nice room for Rs1000 ($20)/night, rather in the middle of nowhere. (I can't even walk to an internet cafe.) Dang- couchsurfing lose.

Wait, it gets better: the guesthouse operator, Faisal, and his travel agent friend Altaf, are also pushy hiking guides! I mentioned that I might be interested to do some hiking in Kashmir, and they pulled out all the photos, gave me the whole spiel of All The Places You'll Go, described how nice it is, pulled out a pen and paper (hoo boy) and started writing things down, called a dude, and quoted... US$965. For a 5-day hike and a couple of day tours.

Maybe this is an okay price for full-service trekking. I don't know. I do know that $130/day is about $100/day over my India budget. Faisal's friend Altaf later joined in the fun, offering something like $500 for a less amazing tour. Still a lot. I eventually just said no, no trekking for me. And they've talked about nothing else since. ("you know, we could do a 3-day trek. or day trips." "what's your budget?" and my favorite, "I've noticed it is only Americans who have this problem. French and Germans just make decisions but Americans think about it too much.")

Anyway, three thoughts, each of which could take a whole post: 1. I hate being seen as a bag of money; 2. Nothing is explicit here, everything requires talking to someone; and 3. I guess when you're traveling, sometimes you just get stuck in a dumb situation, and it is important to know that, accept it, and not beat yourself up for wasting a day.

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