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Musings about me as a traveler

November 30, 2017

I don’t blend in.  I’m not quite Vinny bad, or maybe I am, but I am always visible.  I am so sensitive to cultures, or at least I try to be. But I am always spotted as an American.  And worse (or better, who knows) as a middle aged American woman traveling alone.  I’m like the freshest meat possible for vendors.

I’m not very good at saying no, but I’m getting better.  I hate, hate, hate the phrase “free for looking, no obligation to buy,” which I have heard around the world.  And so often I’m drawn into these stores because I happened to catch the eye of the shopkeeper and he (its always a he) goads me in.  Today, I walked the entire market area in old Jaipur just repeating the word no. It was liberating.

I always get a little bit scammed.  Overpaying usually.  In Marrakesh I cave a snake charmer like $20 just to stop following me.  In Delhi I took my change without looking at it after buying something or other.  When I went to use the money I learned it was useless. The currency changed two years ago and someone handed me one of the worthless 500 rupee note.  That was a harsh $8 lesson.

You have to trust someone.  I generally chose to trust whatever guide I have for the day.  They always try to bring me to shops and tell me what is best to buy – commission is a powerful motivator – so that stinks, but alas, as a woman alone, I want to make sure someone has got my back and if that means buying a trinket or two, I’ll do that.  I’ve had guides that I’ve liked better than others, but I’ve never had a bad one (well, maybe once – I’m talking to you Morocco).  And when I do decide to buy something, I have to believe it will all be all right.  Today I had my purchases shipped to New York.  I left the store with a receipt but no tracking number.  I brought all my Christmas presents from one textile shop in Jaipur and if they decide to keep my money and not ship the items, it will be the year without a santa claus.  But I think they will.

I am very tolerant of discomfort, but a little uncomfortable with luxury.  I was bored in my gorgeous Agra hotel and even a bit bored by the fab massage.  But the chaos and confusion of the bazaar rocks my world.  The poverty is real and it is troubling, but I don’t feel like staying home because it bothers me is a good option.  We bear witness and do what we can and really understand what is happening out there.

I really like traveling.  Like I really like it a lot.  I need to do more.

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