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Anthony Bourdain & 20 Random Observations About Turning 27

Date: 06/09/2018
Time: 20:02 hrs
Location: We Haven’t Located Us Yet!

I woke up today morning on the couch of my kind friend, who happily put up with another of my unplanned visits. The extreme dehydration from the copious amounts of alcohol, dancing and the resultant sweating from the night before did not prevent me from experiencing the full force of the unfounded grief I felt on reading about Anthony Bourdain’s unfortunate demise. I have never felt so strongly about the loss of somebody I never met, let alone knew. But there was something about the way he spoke and the things he wrote that really hit home. In another world, in another life, we may have been the best of friends. Brothers, even!

Nonetheless, I’m currently on a bus back to Paris after a ridiculously short weekend in Berlin. In a few hours I turn 27! Once all the old-age jokes settle in and the alcohol wears off, I realize this is a landmark year. Not in those tacky ‘silver-jubilee’, ‘golden-jubilee’ kind of ways, but the stroke of midnight today will be the culmination of what has been my longest standing commitment to myself or any body else.

At 22, I made a loudly whispered promise into the universe. I was going to spend my next 5 birthdays in 5 different countries. Tonight, as I turn 27 somewhere along the border between Germany & Belgium, I will have fulfilled this promise. This may not sound like a big deal to some of my newer friends who do not truly understand the meaning of modern day passport control on a 1st world passport; but for someone who travels on a weak passport and poor currency, this is no mean feat!

I know I sound pompous and boastful, but that’s a part of the self-obsessed, self-involved, badass persona I have built around me and my genitals – I look to toot my own horn when other people aren’t doing this. But today I am going to take some time apart to willingly and publicly acknowledge parts of my life and other myriad random observations that have helped make the last five years what they are! This is going to be a disjoint, brutal, random piece-of-shit and you are going to wonder multiple times what the point of this is or was, so feel free to stop and turn away any time you want; but this is also the most personal thing I have ever written and posted in public domain and I hope that you will find solace, companionship, belonging or a reason to laugh at some point through this read!

Let me begin by saying the reason I have turned into a presumably self-centered narcissist is because I am by default a cynical, depressive personality that often focuses on the lows than the highs and obsesses my sad little ass into perpetual misery. If I don’t constantly celebrate my little wins, and loudly proclaim how awesome I am, I’m afraid I will have a long hard tryst with a shrink and a bottle of anti-depressants. You guessed it right – this is a bit of a coping mechanism!

In a way, I’m writing this to talk about my growth, openly and without embarrassment. To celebrating my wins! Acknowledge my flaws! Because trust me you can have an army of friends, family, lovers, and well-wishers to do this for you, but until you recognize and love yourself for the things you have achieved, it won’t become gospel! So here goes nothing:

  1. My relentless pursuit of this quest was admittedly born out of a strong desire to show off on social media and have something to write about. To regale friends of friends over dinner and wine several years later, when they will all be married, while I can weave that illusion of a free, unattached spirit. I couldn’t have imagined it would do so much more for me than just that. I have made some of the greatest discoveries about myself (and the human condition) on these trips – one of them is the acknowledging the fact that intimate, committed relationships scare me shitless and this may be part of the reason I am always moving, and I never notice because I never stand still.Rolling Stone
  2. I am one of those weird people that simultaneously craves and shuns attention. I will feel let down if you don’t call me on my birthday, but I will also run miles away from you, because I find it weird that you are all loving and mushy just because it’s my birthday! Yes, good luck being my friend!
  3. I have never really, truly felt like I belonged anywhere, but guess what? Gradually, every passing day, I am more and more okay with this. Maybe I am a rolling stone after all, and rolling stones turn into sand if they don’t find a place to stand…but sand is awesome too, and so it’s okay!? Here’s proof:
  4. It was lovely to (re)discover that real magic exists. And it doesn’t exist in bed with that gorgeous woman you always wanted to bone (ok it’s a close second, but it really isn’t); nor in the unidentified shot of alcohol you just accepted from a stranger because he found out it was your birthday and because Armaggedons are cheaper than water in Budapest; not in the countless drunk I LOVES YOUs screamed from the top of buildings, cars, garbage bins or just the bathroom as you spew from both ends. Don’t get me wrong, these are beautiful moments and each of these must be cherished like a rare penny as well.
    Christopher McCandless

    But real magic…it lies in those moments out in the wild, walking through unidentified villages; alone, you are defenseless with your guard down. You don’t really care for survival, you are not fearing for your life or your social well-being. Just for a moment…which turns into a minute, which turns into a day, which slowly rolls into night…you look at yourself from outside your own body…your own brain; and see you for who you truly are – no pretense, no defense. Just you – vulnerable, skinny, fat, strong, brown, black, white, happy, depressed! That moment of epiphany is one of the strongest, most magical feelings you will ever feel! And you will only feel this by being alone – by being out there where nobody watches (or so you think, at least!) Tbh, Shivya Nath, one of my favorite travel writers nailed it with what she said below:
  5. I am not an extrovert. Period! There will be lots of people shaking their heads at this! Don’t get me wrong – I have my moments. There are days when even the Christmas Grinch would want to be friends with me! I can talk to everything – you, your dog, your momma, your grandmomma, your tree, even your bedroom door! But I am not really an extrovert and I am not really social. It was hard for me to accept this and the older I get, the less I feel like investing time and effort to engage people in conversations when I don’t want to.
  6. This above is perfectly acceptable social behavior. Nobody’s going to think you are a weirdo if you go to a hostel and want to spend an afternoon alone, sitting at the bar, sipping beer! Okay, they might, but fuck them! They’re further away from discovering the comfort of their own company than you are!
  7. The journey is more important than the destination – ALWAYS! I was fortunate – I learned this very early. Days into my very first, carefully organized, planned-down-to-the-last-detail trip, it hit me out of nowhere that I am missing out on every single thing because I am so focused on getting to the next street, the next pub, the next city, the next country! And then I threw the Lonely Planet out the window (ok, I deleted it on my Kindle, coz GenY/X or whatever they call us these days), decided to slow down and I saw the magic again.

    The magic is in the details – always the details. There is an old man who sits in an obscure pub in Letterfrack, just outside of Connemara National Park. He’s been sitting in the exact same spot for the past 47 years. He drinks the exact same brand of whiskey (Bushmills) in the exact same glass every single day. He’s been served by the current bartender’s father. He’s been waiting here for a guy he met on the road and promised to see him back at this pub 2 years later. 49 years later…he is still waiting! How do I know this? I asked! There are stories in every corner, there’s magic in every speck of dust. You begin to see it as you learn to pause. As a kid I wouldn’t sleep without a story from my papa! Today, as I grow older, I’m starting to rediscover my penchant for stories again and hear me if you will, it’s a wonderful world!
  8. Addictions are real; most of them are terrible, some are okay. Everybody has them! I started to smoke when I was 21 years old. When I was 16-17, I used to turn my nose up at my first few friends that had started to! I vehemently swore I’d never smoke. But I did! Six years later, I still do! This is despite having had one life-threatening tryst with a respiratory disease! I have never felt the need or the urgency to quit. I did a couple of times – briefly; once while I was just recovering from said life-threatening disease; next when I briefly wanted to train for and run the Marathon. I relapsed both times, but today I am going to smoke my last cigarette and this time I want to ensure it sticks. The truth is I don’t even enjoy smoking any more. I have become a slave of the habit. It’s time to go! Sorry, Mr. Rosenberg – from now on, I am going to find some things you say that I can’t relate to any more!87,000 cigarettes
  9. Smoking isn’t even my real addiction! My real addiction is melancholy! I love melancholy! I am obsessed with the idea of forlorn places I have never been to and magical people I have never met. I love listening to songs which you can instantly tell are coming from a dark place. I love the agony and I love that these experiences exist, and people experience and feel them and to such an extent that they can create wonderful art, capable of stimulating similar experiences in some one else! This is a problem, because every time I am genuinely, truly happy for extended periods of time, I set out trying to sabotage it…seeking melancholy! We need to talk more about this, by the way, and here’s a wonderful piece to start with – We Need to Talk About Art’s Obsession with the Tortured ‘Genius’!
  10. There are no bad mistakes! You have just got to try and avoid regrets! This one’s right off a bumper sticker and/or the Great Godly Book of Cliches, but it’s true. I have made enough mistakes to fill some minor ocean, but I am fortunate in the sense that I can count my regrets on the fingers of my hand. Some of them include hurting people I dearly care about, knowing full well, they’d be hurt. Some include hesitating about doing something and then taking the safe way out.
  11. Privilege is a REAL thing. Run very far away from anyone who tells you otherwise. Or kick his/her ass – if he/she is smaller than you. But privilege is real and it exists everywhere. There are degrees to it, of course. There’s the straight, white-man privilege, which sits pretty much at the top of the privilege food-chain, and then there’s the broke, brown man privilege, which may not sound like such a big deal but still is a pretty fucking sweet deal, when you consider a double digit % of the world’s human population can not afford four square meals a day, while I am making a list of the amazing things I discovered spending 5 birthdays in 5 countries! Jeez – do you see the brutal injustice in that? So let me repeat again, P.R.I.V.I.L.I.G.E is a real fucking thing and it exists. You also grow used to it and never quite at the same time.

    Let me give you an example – and don’t get me wrong, this is not a defining trait of my experiences. It isn’t even the majority but the very fact that it exists, curdles my blood. Just being brown sets me apart in a world where I live and breathe amongst whites…and not in a good way! I have been subjected to excessively longer rub-downs, asked if my countrymen own a pet elephant, had suspicious glances thrown at me, dealt with barely concealed exasperation, auto-rejection at the hands of Caucasian women, so on and so forth! I can’t imagine the lives of people who belong to the black communities!


    These things are real and they are okay as well (not really, but you need inner peace, don’t you?) You’ve got to come to terms with it and you have still got to somehow manage to retain your faith in humanity. This can not be the majority. This cannot be the norm! This cannot sour your experience as a human being. And it will not until we remain aware and we continue to disallow ourselves from becoming hence. Still not convinced? Here, take this test to find out “How Privileged You Are

  12. Forever is Not Real
    Forever is only a sequence of ‘Now’s that come to an end at some point. Permanence doesn’t really exist. Even the people who stay together their whole lives are not the same people they were when they first met. Promises are only as important as a factor of the person who makes them and the circumstances they are made in. This does not make anybody a bad person. This doesn’t make the circumstances they were made in or the experiences you shared together false or that they meant nothing. This has often been one of the hardest pills for me to swallow.

    I tend to place a big price on the promises I make and I hold people accountable at the same rate. But there’s 7.6 billion people in this world and none of them are like me, so how does one expect every one else to put the same price on their promises? Life gets busy, people get hurt, people change, priorities change, and sometimes you are just collateral damage in somebody’s war against themselves. I have been the damage, I have been the war, I have been the somebody – I am yet to figure out which of those is the worst. I have stopped trying! [Read: We Forget That Everything Will Become No Longer Ours]
  13. Rejection hurts. Loss is a bitch and none of this is anybody else’s fault! But remember what I said above – it isn’t permanent! [Read: How to Deal with One-Sided Love]
  14. Badassery will get you laid. Sex is important! Kindness is more important! If you have a contrary opinion on this, I respectfully disagree, but fuck you! I have been on both sides of this fence and I can say this now, better than ever! As an ambivalent, unattached, young man, the more of a badass you can be, the more and more social success you will have. This includes with women and men, in terms of love, sex, friendships and simply privileges. This is the hard, ugly truth – whether you want to accept it, or you don’t is none of my business.

    A lot of people will tell you traits such as vulnerability, sensitivity, empathy, consideration for somebody else’s feelings, and effeminate displays are desirable traits in men – these people are lying. Not just to you, but many to themselves. We are an evolved species, but our social wiring is still ridiculously primal. Nobody wants to accept this – no shit! None of us would like to accept that we are still animals when it comes to one of our primary needs. This sucks, but if you want proof, look at the people in power today. Look around you in your immediate friend-circle and think of the guys who have the most social success! Most of these are people you’d loosely describe as alphas; many of them aren’t, but some know subconsciously how to get there, fewer still, are able to model their behavior and be alphas-by-proxy!


    There is nothing wrong with this, except one – there’s no space for kindness in the alpha-tool-kit! This bothers me! I have learned over the past few years that the greatest regrets have come from inconsiderate behavior on my part that has hurt people irrevocably. I have become acutely aware in recent years that some of my behavior as a cackling, bullying, typically ‘popular-boy’ teenager will have had a lasting effect on the lives of a few individuals whose self-respect, image, sexual orientation I mercilessly mocked for a few laughs and brownie points from my friends/peers. These people may never truly recover from the damage I did them in those early days, but I hope if they are reading this today, they can see I can accept I was being a little bitch and I have discovered better!

    You see the whole problem with ‘alpha’ is that it only works so long as somebody else is beta or omega or whatever the fuck the other Greek letters may be! What happens in a world where everyone is alpha? You guessed it, nobody cares. This is why people mock others, put them down. To create that divide between alpha and the rest. There’s nothing bad about this – this is how the way of the world; survival of the fittest and all that! This is what people do, because they realize at a subconscious level it needs be done. How did I figure all of this out? Because like I said, I have been on both sides of the fence – I’ve been alpha and then beta and then alpha again. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore, but the promise of abundant sex, the pick of the food & drink and the biggest social prizes is a major temptation – will I withstand the test of time? We will see – maybe you’ll find an answer when I write a similar post at 47!

    For now, I am trying every day to be kinder because there’s no shortage of assholes in this world, but there can never be enough kindness. More importantly, I am a bit tired of being the asshole – it’s time to take a break! Assholes may finish first, but sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and not compete!
    Kindness

  15. No matter how different we are, or the places we come from, or the circumstances we were born in, or how many shades of skin-color separates us…at a very very very basic, stripped down level, people everywhere are the same. We have the same fears, we have the same desires, we want the same things. Everybody wants a full tummy at the end of a day, a safe place to sleep in. Everybody fears the dark – what construes as ‘dark’ and why people fear it may differ, but literally EVERY body has a dark place, and everybody fears that! Everybody craves companionship – even Christopher McCandless. Everybody wants the best for the people they love and will go a long long way to protect them! Once you know these things, it becomes infinitely easier to understand people and why they do what they do. This enhances the human experience.
    Christopher McCandless
  16. Nothing bad you experience is ever any body else’s fault! Without a question in my head, this is one of the best things I have discovered. There is a particular gentleman who I shall not name who is most responsible for setting me down this path; if you are reading this, you know who you are – thank you! This is the commonest trap of the under-achievers and the perpetual-victims. I was far too susceptible to this! Everything was down to bad luck! This is not entirely true; it is also not entirely false. The universe functions in mysterious ways and there are forces out there that you can not control – this is true! But that’s the extent of it and it’s the same for everybody.

    Once these constraints are established, you got to suck it up, take charge of your life and responsibility for your actions and power through nonetheless or keep whining about how wretched your luck is and turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy!This is easier said than done, but the first step towards happiness is always the hardest! Who said that? You did! I did? No…Yes! It is a life-long process of doing things nonetheless, knowing full well it could still go wrong, but even if it does, it’s not the end of the world!
  17. We live in an interesting time! It is hard to have a social conversation these days without being acutely aware of gender roles, gender equality and much the same. I am completely onboard – our social rules have treated women like shit for centuries! We have also treated our men like shit and beaten them into believing that expressing emotion is weak, that vulnerability is less desirable, that open displays of affection are ‘pansy’…I can go on and on, but I think we have established where this is headed!

    I have been a victim of this, I have also been guilty of doing this. Locker room banter is funny – I will be the first one to acknowledge this. We are also shooting ourselves in the foot while we do this though! Every time we ridicule a dude for showing sensitivity or vulnerability, we are telling him this is abnormal male behavior, and this is BS! Men are allowed to feel and display it too. This will help us, this will help the women, and this will help the relationships we have with both men and women.I have friends who will read this and mock me. I will let them. You should, too.
    Some More Really Interesting Reads on This Topic:
    The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality

    When The Internet Made Some Kickass Points About Masculinity

    The Subtle Shaming of Men & Vulnerability
    Why Male Vulnerability Matters Now, More Than Ever
  18. It’s ridiculously easy to take offense and equally pointless. This is problematic in many ways. May be your exasperation is valid, and nobody else realizes it yet – the way it was until enough people started getting offended with slavery to realize it’s BS! Maybe it isn’t, and you need to learn not to take yourself or life seriously. Either way, it’s good to have an opinion. It is great to stand up for it; but it’s even better to not force it down somebody’s throat when they do not see things the way you do.

    I wish I could translate this for my non-Hindi speaking readers, but that would just spoil the fun – I suppose you can guess, anyway?

  19. Anxiety and strength are not mutually exclusive. It’s very easy to forget that strong individuals deal with anxiety too. It’s very easy to miss signs of alarm when you look at people you have always considered or perceived as ‘strong’. Remember that strong people deal with problems as well. Every major life change – a break up, a relocation, a new job, a new career path, recent unemployment, loss, etc. can trigger anxieties, even in the strongest person you know. Keep an eye out for them and speak to them. There’s a difference between alone and lonely. Lots of people enjoy alone; most people I know do not enjoy lonely. Be aware of this – a little smile and a hello can go a long way in making somebody’s day, and it costs you nothing.
    Strength, Anxiety
  20. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    I don’t quite remember who said this, but it fits right in. The universe is extraordinary. You are extraordinary. I can’t hardly believe that I managed to get my brown little ass to so many parts of the world already. Consider that during 1 of those years, I did not even have a job, and in another 2 I had zero savings. That I still managed to travel is testament to the fact that when you really make commitments and mean them, you find a way to keep them. In some ways, the universe does come together to ensure you get what you want, but it is not all some magical force that makes it happen. It’s you! You make it happen!

I am going to stop now, because I just realized the word count on this post is already well past 4000. I have been writing 4000 words of a Master Shifu-esque memoir as opposed to the 3000-word essay on International and EU Law I was supposed to have turned in a couple of days ago ! But I do want to sign off by thanking all the people that have played a part and touched my life in whatever ways. I spend a lot of time complaining and whining about the things that suck, so I suppose this is my little bit to be publicly thankful at having such a blessed life! Good luck & Godspeed!

Also Read:

7 Travel Lessons I Learned From My First Trip

Travel Blogging: The Ugly Truth Social Media Doesn’t Show You

Why I Travel Solo & Why You Should Too!

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