Author’s note: Welcome to Life’s Travels
Welcome. Thank you for joining me. Are you up for seeing the world? I’m a bit of a traveler. I have always tried to be, but not always for the same reasons. Life strikes me as more interesting when you can compare and consider its many forms in its many places.
My travels have taken me to Africa, America, Asia and Europe, though to none of them comprehensively. I have lived in America and Europe and will likely live in Europe or Asia in the coming years. I have always lived in first-world comfort but have never been of particular means, so I have mostly traveled as a student, an athlete, or an occasional vacationer.
More recently I have traveled as a professional. The nature of my work—construction and urban planning—offers a wide-ranging view of life as it is now and as it is hoped to be.
Liberty, prosperity, sustainability and all their darker counterparts are often on full display in my travels. For the foreseeable future, I will share with you what I see and learn as I travel in America, Asia and Europe. Please join us if you’d like.
It was tea
When I arrived in Bangalore, I was met by a friendly, stocky driver.
We shook hands upon determining that we had business with one another and proceeded to the car park. It was 3 a.m., but life in the car park seemed normal. Stray dogs mingled with tea-drinking drivers, all of whom were quietly observing and chatting.
We proceeded across pavement, medians, dirt, mud, and grass to a waiting car. I smiled amusedly as I seated myself into the back of the C-series Mercedes. Fly 20 hours in cushy business class only to be driven to my cushy hotel in the back of a car nicer than I drive myself at home. These trips leave me with many questions, but there’s no question that they are comfortable.
Comfortably settled in the car, we proceeded onto the vacant highway. From time to time we overtook a lorry filled with granite or men or agricultural something. We passed a lorry filled with goats at one point.
The ride to the hotel took longer than I expected. Weaving and turning through ill-marked roads, my driver seemed to need something. Finally he found what he was looking for, and it was not my hotel.
It was tea.
Apologizing for the stop, my driver explained that he would like a “tea-to-go?” He framed it as a question to me, but as he had already stopped the car, answering affirmatively was hardly necessary.
The transaction seemed almost illicit. The tea station was roadside and small—like-fit-on-the-back-of-a-moped small. Hand signals led to a five-ounce cup of tea appearing at the passenger-side window in a little less than a minute. Though it was 3:30 a.m., a small group of men were clustered around the tea station. They stared at the white guy seated in the back of the driven Mercedes with some amusement and some apparent deference.
The stop took little more than four or five minutes and won me a lot of appreciation from the driver. It also reminded me of how other-worldly traveling in luxury through the developing world is.
Impossibly simple luxuries
These men clustered around the tea station were as curious about me as I was about them and their tea. I was their imposition as they were mine. The luxury they saw in me and the life I saw in them were not foreign to either of us. They seemed to recognize that I did not have more than they. And I certainly could see why.
India is changing quickly—quickly enough that I have noticed it in my three brief visits over the last 15 months. What must have seemed like impossible luxury—Mercedes limos with suited passengers—is now commonplace. Technology of every hand-held variety appears to have made many of life’s luxuries vastly more attainable. Except of course the types of simple luxuries that are experienced only as a passing of time with friends and strangers over tea. I wonder whether that type of simple luxury may soon become impossibly simple.
I wonder whether India will still have the scene I experienced over tea when my work here has finished in five or more years.
I hope so, but I suspect not.
Speak to you soon.