Travel

Under the Shadows of the San Juan

Some places exist only in fantasy. A place where dragons soar and elves tread softly. There's always been something about these fantasy lands that always called to me. Maybe it is because that these places seem so unobtainable to us in the "real world", where the closest thing to a dragon is a dragonfly. In all of our minds, we have this idea of a fantasy world and some of us spend entire lifetimes trying to find it. 

While I may not have the budget to go to0 far of places, I do try to find these lands where I can. Over the weekend, my family and I visited Ouray and Telluride, Colorado. These two places couldn't be more different. Ouray is a small, tiny town of a single Main Street and dirt roads, the buildings retain their mining town heritage of wooden planks and hand-drawn lettering. Or at least they look like it. Telluride, however, is a mountain playground, surrounded by massive mountains and a towering ski resort. Parking is hard to come by and there's new construction around every corner. 

There is one thing that they share though, and its the towering peaks around them. The San Juan mountain range is the closest to that fantasy I've dreamed of. This area is filled with old mines and mining towns like Ouray, dozens of bare, rocky peaks over 12,000 feet, mountainsides covered in the light greens of aspen trees and the dark green of the pines. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the Rockies that are here in Boulder, but there is something about these peaks that command attention, a shame it's five hours away. These exposed mountain ridges have held me, despite the fact that they've made me feel rather insignificant. I suppose that's they're the best quality. They humble us, they keep us grounded, and they let us know that no matter what we as individuals or as a society accomplish, they have stood for longer, and always will. 

Places like this remind me of why I love living in Colorado. It's a place where I can indulge in coffee from shops like The Phoenix Bean in Telluride but also look down on the town from the tops of a mountain. And because this is a state where dogs live and people visit, everywhere we went, we were able to bring Rocky, our old, salty chihuahua. While he tends to prefer blankets and a bed over rocky (heh) terrain and trees, he began to warm up to it by the end of the trip, happily sniffing the trees. 

This trip will definitely go down as one of my favorites since there is something just so peaceful about this area. So if any of you are looking for a place to spend the weekend to kick up your feet, hike a bit, and eat some really great food, I can't recommend this enough. The dense forests and the highest peaks will have you constantly looking for ways to explore them, and as the old cliche says;

"the mountains are calling, and I must go"

Park & Life

Let's start with talking about "life". Here I am sitting at the tail end of my first year at college (ignoring summer classes), and trying to figure out what to do with myself. In two years, hopefully, I'll be out looking for a real job, living in an apartment and doing my best to be a productive member of society. 

In the last year, I've been pushing myself further in my creativity. I've learned an editing style that's mine, I've tried out making videos, and designing everything from logos to layouts, many of which will never be shared. I've been able to put in two really good semesters in college and found out what and who I want to be in life. I've been going to the gym more and started road biking in a bunch of lycra. It has been a lot of work, a lot of momentum and for the most part, that has been really good for me. There's nothing better than self-progression.

However, I noticed sometimes I'd forget to look after myself. More in a mental way than a physical. Yes, I've been more hydrated than ever but I've also hit some pretty low points. A year in college has told me that despite all the privileges I'm so fortunate to have, life can get tough sometimes. I realized I began to neglect "me time" where I'd lock myself in my dorm room, get annoyed at my roommate for doing nothing at all (I'm so sorry), and feel sorry for myself. I figure this isn't necessarily good for me. So, here is another place to put some work in. Self-improvement is a never-ending journey I suppose. I've been trying to spend more time with my friends, going outside more, and realizing the good parts of living. I gradually returned back to who I wanted to be and treated others better too. All of this is not to say that sometimes I relapse, but sharing it has helped more than I could have imagined. 

Ok, now onto the “park” bit. In trying to stay on my goals of being outside and enjoying life, Rocky Mountain National Park is special to me. The wide range of ecosystems that the park holds is ripe for adventure. It has meadows filled with wildflowers, pine forests, and the high alpine rocks of Longs Peak. Don't expect me to be up there any time soon, though. More importantly, its damn pretty and once you get past the all of the cars on the few roads in the park you're welcomed by the pine-scented air, the quiet crunching of the dirt under your shoes, and the rustle of the wind. It helps me recharge and is a place where I can spend time with the people I care about. I hope these photos do it justice. 

A Look Back - India

    Traveling. It is what everyone wants to do, especially because it is January and that means it is resolution season. Traveling to India this winter break has been a mixed bag for me, not gonna lie. I really enjoyed the thrill of getting out of the country, and out of my comfort zone. This post isn’t a “10 Ways to be a World Traveler” cause, well, I’m not by any means qualified enough to give advice on that. So, instead, I am just going to share some of my takeaways from spending the last two and a half weeks on the other side of the world. 

    Every trip has its ups and downs, the Peaks and the Valleys. For this trip, those can be the same thing. For me, that was the street food, or really just food in general. On one hand, it was really freaking good. My family introduced me to the “real” version of the imported foods we get back in Boulder. Pani Puris from a dude on the corner, these, uh, things that resembled crepes, and my personal favorite; street chai found with the frequency of Starbucks back home. Actually, more than that, they were literally everywhere. The craftsmanship of these “chaiwallahs” would rival the best baristas at your favorite artisan coffee shop. There was also a ton of really good sweet things that pretty much were all some form of milk and sugar. Even the Domino’s had something special, a “pizza burger” which was basically a regular pizza sandwiched between two garlic bread buns. Noice. So all of that sounds like high points, yeah? Well, here’s the deal. Coming from the ‘States, my stomach was definitely a little weaker and didn’t have the constitution necessary to hold its own against everything Kolkata threw at it. Couple that with a dehydration and the side effects of anti-malaria pills and you get yourself anything but a good time. So it was out with the street food and in with toast, rice, and saltines for a couple of days. Good times. 

    As I mentioned earlier, traffic rules are a suggestion - not the law. So that means there are three “real” lanes with about 8 lanes worth of traffic. In-between that traffic is a bicycle, a motorcycle, an “auto” (my personal favorite), a couple guys selling socks and snacks, people crossing the street between all of the vehicles, some stray dogs, an open-air market on either side, and usually some form of construction. So there’s a lot of stuff in the street. It is definitely humbling as a driver when you’re in the passenger seat saying “there’s no way we're gonna fit” or more likely; “oh shit”. The size of the vehicle didn’t really matter as an SUV was driven pretty much the same way a motorcycle was driven and merging was more of an “I’m here now”. 

    While we’re on the topic of transportation I gotta mention the trains. The train system in India is pretty robust, you can get anywhere via rail. Now the metro system inside of Kolkata is a beast. It is continually expanding connecting the farthest reaches of the city which means more people can get around easier, but that’s a lot of people. We went off to visit a friend of my mom’s who lived on the northern end of the city. Since we were on the southern side, that means the closer we got to the center the more packed the tiny car got and soon we were standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back, and I was very thankful that it was both the winter time and there was air conditioning or my shirt probably wouldn’t have been the same color at the end. When we got off the metro we took the “local train” the rest of the way to her house and I really liked that, super picturesque and you could feel the wind rush by. I was told I wouldn’t like it as much during rush hour…     

    Now heading home, I have a greater appreciation for where my heritage comes from, more so than I did the last times I have gone to the country. I also think I have a greater appreciation for the many things I take for granted living here in Colorado. Under this, you’ll find some of my favorite photos from the trip, and if you do wind up going, let me know. But for now, it’s time to get back to college and look forward to the rest of 2018.

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36 Hours

After spending around a day and a half in either an airport or a plane, my family and I finally made it to India. So here are some thoughts from the air!

Leg 1 - Denver to Seattle

    Leaving home is always pretty hard but the flight was a treat. DIA is one of my favorite airports by far, maybe that’s just cause it is home base but it just is objectively really nice. Anyway, at 7 am security was a breeze, and after a breakfast sandwich we were boarding and heading for Seattle. Alaska Airlines had free WiFi for texting which was rad, good on you Alaska, good on you. I got to settle in, listen to a podcast, and watch the snow-covered American west go by beneath us. It was gorgeous, the mountains that I was so used to, I-25, Lake Yellowstone, it was a helluva way to bid goodbye to home and I can’t wait to see it again heading home.

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Leg 2 - Seattle to Dubai

    After a short layover in Seattle where I chugged a mocha and watched an episode of The Grand Tour (shout out to Prime Student), it was time to settle for a long 14-hour flight. It was really long. That sounds dumb but I mean, that’s what it was. We took off in the middle of a snowstorm on Christmas Eve where I was rather bitter about missing a white Christmas and began a long haul over the Arctic towards Dubai. 
    Unfortunately, I am no Casey Neistat so it was economy class, which to be fair wasn’t all that bad, it was just 14 hours. Did I mention that it was long? The food was pretty good since it was an actual meal, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 kinda sucked, and sleeping was interesting but the hours passed by as we looked over small Eastern European towns waking up on Christmas morning, the roads snaking through the snowy land. At this point, thoroughly missing the festivities, I fell asleep again and woke up over the sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula. Kicking myself for not having a camera, I gazed down as the sun set on the dunes casting an orange glow that reflected off the wings into the cabin. 
    After the sunset there was just darkness, we were traveling over a place where civilization didn’t reach its hand. As we kept moving forward a glow appeared on the horizon and the plane banked towards it. The desert sea began to be dotted with soft orange lights as roads materialized from the sands. We could see the clouds of a sandstorm envelope parts of the road as nature tried to reassert some dominance, but the darkness faded away to be completely overcome by the lights of Dubai. The urban sprawl was reaching out of the dark to welcome us and we gladly accepted, 14 hours was enough. 

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Leg 3 - Dubai to Kolkata

    The Dubai International Airport is huge. Massive ceilings, huge glass bugles looking over the desert, and all served by three airlines. The hub for Emirates is the 3rd busiest passenger airport in the world, and its no wonder. When Emirates claim they are connecting the world through Dubai, they aren’t kidding. The main concourse between A and B gates is like a massive mall of luxury brands, fine alcohol, and refrigerators of caviar. Dubai has wealth, there is no denying that, but what was more interesting were the people from all across the world. From the local Emirati to travelers speaking languages from all corners of the globe, everyone it seems was centered right here. 
    A 7-hour layover later, we boarded our final flight heading towards Kolkata. It was a 2 am flight which was a little weird, but at this point after hopping through so many different time zones, sleep was an afterthought. This flight was one of eager anticipation as I could finally get out of a plane or an airport, and that sounded pretty damn good. As we flew over India we broke into daylight and was able to look down towards the ground, or at least the haze. Pollution is more of a problem here than it is in Colorado or anywhere in the States, but that’s what happens when the population of the country is as big as it is. But descending into the haze was a relief as it meant we had finally arrived. 
    After baggage claim, we made our way out of the airport and into the city. We were greeted by my Aunt and Uncle and the driver that would get us back to their house. Getting there was a rollercoaster ride and so much different from the mundane drive it is at home. It was a sensory overload of the sounds and smells of a city with 4.6 million people. Traffic rules seemed to be more of a suggestion than law as a two-lane street became a six-lane where cars would be a few inches away from each other and bikers would wedge themselves in where they could find space. But when the traffic light goes green, the driver would thread his way through the city, shifting his SUV as if he was driving a Formula 1 car and fitting it through places I’d hesitate to ride my bike. 
    When we pulled into the driveway I feel like the high-speed ride had already acclimated me to the city. It’s been four years since I’ve been to the country and after this, I have no idea when I’ll be back. We unloaded all of our bags, carried them up the stairs, greeted the family, and then I went to bed at noon. Jet-lag amirite. 

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