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Thursday, 26 February 2015

India to Italy - the Western shift

Ciao bella gente!

After an amazing but exhausting 5 months in India, I am now experiencing a personal Renaissance in Italy.

How can one not? Italian culture is simply amazing, and is why the country is the 5th most visited in the world. However, before arriving, I did have some concerns about returning to Europe, and Western society. I anticipated some reverse culture shock, and even boredom.
My large for Asian eyes and twisted smile in anticipation of the gelato
Thus, shifting over a continent, I also prepared to shift travel gears. Since I have been to Europe before, my main reason for coming back is to visit friends. Being a tourist is taking a firm back seat.

Downshifting the Weight

In India, I carried 1 Osprey (70 L) backpack + 1 backpack (10 L) on my chest for a total of around 15 kg. I shipped the backpacks home, and nearly everything inside them, including my camping gear, DSLR camera, extra accessories, clothes, and souvenirs for the family. I am now carrying a cheap 280 rupee ($6 CAD) backpack, packing less than 7 kg in weight.

My reasoning is simple: less possessions = more freedom
Trekking with 15 kg of weight and a DSLR camera ain't easy
Yes, this formula works even when travelling.

All that weight was simply a burden. Now I have less stuff to pack, or that could be forgotten, lost or stolen. My pack is less awkward to carry around and easier to walk longer and farther with. It's a check-in I don't have, just in case I fly with a budget airline. It's also now easier to hitchhike, something I'm planning on doing extensively. One hardcore traveler I know hitchhikes across entire continents with a small backpack, and is the inspiration for my own journey.

Shedding the weight has made me feel lighter on my shoulders, and also on my conscience. Wandering the streets, I blend in like a local instead of looking like a high profile tourist. My stuff no longer anchors down my mind, freeing it up to float in the pure moment of experience. My DSLR was one major anchor of distraction and inconvenience I was relieved to let go (unfortunately this means no more nice pictures for you!). I did, however, compromise with my laptop, keeping it, acknowledging that its usefulness outweighs its disbenefits.

Aside from my laptop, I'm travelling - and living - as a pure minimalist. I'm wearing nearly all the clothes I have, save for a few changes of underwear and socks. I feel free and flexible, and I'm one step closer than ever to living up to my blog's name "All I Need is my 2 Bare Feet."

Continental Shift

My time in India shifted some of my perceptions about society and my place in it, .

The majority of Indians live humbly because they are poor. Many though are happily poor because they are humble. For backpackers, India is also a cheap and humble place to travel, and even then, many travelers I met took cheap and humble travel to the extreme.
Look how happy they are not to be paying 1st class

My low budget travels, I realized, was both a rejection and rebellion against the uncooperative and materialistic traditional economy. My one month spent at Sadhana Forest where I participated in a gift economy, lived off grid and ate vegan, further reinforced such alternative views. I even now see tourist attractions as consumer experiences (such as Taj Mahal, which I did not see), though I can't deny the educational value of museums, nor plan to avoid them.

I firmly believe that nobody should be forced to pay for accommodation if they don't want to. Consider that in every city, there are already enough beds for every person in it, be it local or traveler. So why can't we all sacrifice a little privacy to share our homes, cultures and laughter with eachother? I seldom paid for accommodation in India, staying with family friends, and it will be a similar case in Europe where I plan on staying with friends the entire way.

I've already earned my stripes in being accommodated, by accommodating travelers through Couchsurfing when I was in Calgary. Another website becoming popular, which is not free, but a cheaper alternative to hotels, is Air BnB.

Transportation is a similar realm to accommodation in which there are always more seats in moving vehicles than there are people moving. Logic dictates that we should share our seats and reduce our emissions. Hence, in my upcoming foray into hitchhiking I hope to discover the workings and nuances of this informal economy. I am also open to using ride share services such as Bla Bla Car in Europe.
I first tried hitchhiking more than 2 years ago
Air BnB and Bla Bla Car, along with many other websites, besides helping save money, facilitates a sharing economy, with Couchsurfing and hitchhiking representing the extreme alternative gift economy. These websites signal a trend away from a flagging traditional economy, responsible for rabid consumption and materialism which has spawned many of today's world issues.

If all goes to plan, I should be able to travel Europe paying primarily for food, and little else, relying largely on the sharing and gift economy. Italy has undoubtedly been much more expensive than India so far, but I've already been provided accommodation from many Couchsurfing hosts who have provided me with a more in-depth cultural experience than in my first 2 visits to Italy combined.
Cycling along the coast of Siracusa, Sicilia, Italia with my CS host
I know you probably want to read more about Italy instead! So more on this in my next blog...

1 comment:

  1. Write on bro, inspiring stuff. Now time to start toughening up those feet!