A number of years ago, I went to my friend Kris’ piano recital. I had known her for years, but till then, had never seen play. We were the kind of friends who went on trips, celebrated Thanksgiving and had each other on speed dial. After I saw her perform I said to her, “it was like seeing a room inside of you that I didn’t know existed.” She took it as the compliment I intended.
Dare I say that Virginia Woolf was a bit limited when she wrote about a Room of One’s Own? Yes, we literally need the space (and resources) to create, but after seeing Kris play, I realized that for many, there are so many rooms inside us that we chose to lock up or cast wide open. Some of these rooms fill us (travel, being in nature, caretaking animals) some allow us to express art (writing, music, painting) and some are scary, the ones that control us (alcoholism, drug addiction). Since I don’t like being in nature, I don’t get to watch my friends who are filled up by being outside, but I imagine that they probably get similar endorphins that I get when I travel, especially to Asia.
We are about to embark on my seventh trip to Asia. I’ve been to 13 countries and 15 cities and this time we will explore a new city, Hanoi. There’s something about Asia that fills me up and I know I’ve been gone too long when I crave to walk on crumbling sidewalks, enter spectacular hotels, shop in wet markets
Floating market in Thailand 2005
and buy clever notepads and papers that are never sold in the West. I feel it when I start to miss the plastic stools that are ubiquitous throughout Asia at the places where I slurp down a bowl of noodles, rice or soup, sometimes one in the same,
A roadside cafe in Saigon 2006
and I am restored.
Rice growing in Korea 2005
I’m fortunate that I can get an infusion of Asia when I feel that room inside me that’s ready to be front and center, if just for a few days.
This is the Tibetan family that Andy met on his climb to the Portola Palace. It was his highlight of our trip since he not only got to talk to them, he took their picture and was able to develop a copy and give it to them, which was tough given that we were in Lhasa, and the altitude was a million feet, and he had to run up and down a road to make sure they didn’t disappear. A “Not in Kansas anymore” moment.