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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.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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  1. Hey Cope, I love those moments when traveling. You get a glimpse of something you would not ordinarily see. Except it’s not a static picture, you are there making eye contact and interacting, even if not talking. Cool.

    1. Hey Pierre,

      That is the compelling part of my travel many times. I am regularly amused that it is not the destination but the journey, and its unanticipated moments, that are most memorable. Occasionally the destination compares equally to the journey but not often. Safe travels.

      – Cope

  2. How psyched am I to come to one little piece of the internet superhighway and be entertained by not one but TWO of my favorite people!

    Enjoyed reading about your travels in India. I certainly hope to visit someday…

    and can I please get a decent amount of warning before this… “will likely live in Europe or Asia in the coming years”. :o)

    1. Hey Jill,

      Thank you for saying so. It is nice to be here. It was nice to see you this week.

      Living overseas seems increasingly likely.

      Demand for new infrastructure in the Americas may keep us here as I work on making things new again. But with Asia emerging as it is and Europe preparing for Asia’s arrival it seems likely that we’ll live abroad at some point in the next few years.

      We’ll be sure to give you, and the girls, plenty of warning.
      Have a wonderful long weekend. (Let’s hope there is no more snow.)

      Be well.

      – Cope

  3. I love this little glimpse into your experience in Bangalore. It whets my appetite for travel…looking forward to more!

    1. Thank you for saying so.

      I am looking forward to sharing more.
      It is a fascinating place and I will be back throughout the year.
      I am gorging a bit on travel these days but it certainly is interesting.

      Thank you for joining us.

      Speak to you soon,
      – Cope

  4. Loving knowing Copey two decades ago brought me to Carolyn, and I’ve loved knowing Carolyn through this beautiful website. Now I get Copey back too. Wonderful writing, thanks for taking us on your journey. xo

    1. Hey there JH,

      Thank you for joining me. Its nice to be back.
      I hope we see you soon. (20 years? Yikes)

      It is fun to write about as interesting a place as Bangalore.
      It has so much energy.

      I am sure the same is true for you and your photography.
      Your work is lovely. Congratulations on your 1,000th shoot!
      How amazing, and at Fenway Park of all places.

      Have a lovely evening.