Behind the Scenes of “Pocket Gypsy” (The Feature Film)

Siem Reap - Angkor Wat Poser

Siem Reap – Angkor Wat Poser

“Wow, you’re a really good story-teller!”

I blame my Indian roots – telling Mahabharata-length stories is part of my culture. Despite my aversion to spicy food and my inability to speak Telugu (“Italian of the East,” as dubbed by 14th century merchant Niccolo de Conti), it seems I’ve inherited more than enormous eyes, a love of parties for literally any or no reason, and Miss America’s ancestors (Telugu lady, what what!).

In the past two months, I’ve told far too many stories about my travels. Everyone wants to know “how was it?!” and a few are so interested as to drill deeper, asking about accommodation, safety, packing tips, cultural observations, tourist attractions, etc. To those people: I’m flattered that you value my experience, and that several of you tell me that you check my blog regularly and appreciate my (lengthy) accounts. (I know they ramble on forever, but I write like I speak, and “speaking less” has been on my to-do list ever since I learned to talk in the first place.)

Considering this is a blog, and by nature it features topic-specific content, it is a perfect repository for stories. But in order to determine what would be interesting to you, I pretty much spew out information nonstop and take notes when people actively participate (head nods, questions, laughter, etc). It’s a model that works, and it is almost inconspicuous under the guise of my incessant chatter anyway.

London, England - Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) Restoration

London, England – Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) Restoration

The real deal.

But it should come as no surprise that the Voyage wasn’t exactly one unfolding story after another. Yes, the experiences I had abroad were exciting and funny and strange, but this is due to three significant reasons:

  1. Everything is new or at least unfamiliar, so I’m more likely to observe abnormalities or aberrations from good ol’ America.
  2. I moved around so often that I couldn’t predict what would happen next, so everything was an adventure.
  3. I sought to see life in this bizarre, unconventional way.

It’s for the last reason that I’m able to tell these tales. In a year of travel, it’s inevitable that I would return with some crazy story about the mysterious death in Kampot and the calm local reaction, or the unscrupulous tuk-tuk drivers waiting at the Full Moon Parties, or the chain-reaction of CouchSurfers from Spain to Italy to Croatia. But many of these stories are only interesting because I present them in a specific way, focusing on details that tickled or confounded or angered me. It appears that many of these details are things many people wouldn’t notice, thus explaining why some enjoy reading this blog or hearing me pontificate for hours (sorry!).

But there are also a lot of really awful, heart-wrenching moments that occurred on the road, and I don’t write about them either because they’re too particular for a wider audience, or because they’re too painful or embarrassing or depressing to post. I did not enjoy every minute of my travels, though in hindsight I appreciated what I learned from those instances. While sometimes the hard times can inspire a motivational piece, most times they’re hidden to protect myself and whoever was involved.

Which, of course, results in a very cheery, optimistic view of my trip. And this is the case for many forms of social media – Facebook is the best example. Some people might look like they’re at a party 24/7, but in reality, they’re just attempting to patch the reality between these Kodak moments. While I’m not actively attempting to push this view, it’s inevitably the outcome of a polished, vetted content publishing process. I loved my Voyage, but I didn’t love every second of it.

And that’s okay!

London, England - Bicycle Parking

London, England – Bicycle Parking

Don’t quit your day job. Or do. But not because the grass is greener, but because your lawn is dead.

Despite being currently unemployed, I would not trade my year on the road for another year in the work force – but I also don’t think that people who chose the latter route should feel in any way jealous or trapped in their present situations. I oftentimes get the response that people wish that they were doing what I did, that they regret never leaving their jobs or their hometowns, even, and that they feel like their lives are exceptionally boring in comparison.

Something my personal Yoda Rafaela has to keep reminding me is to stop comparing myself to others. This is valuable advice. I would say that I chose my path, but in some way, it was inevitable that my personality would lead me down this road. But despite the glossy version I’ve presented here, others might not have enjoyed the same journey, or preferred to have allocated their money and time in a different way. Arguably, everything happens for a reason. Maybe my trip will inspire someone to travel, or to at least reevaluate why they want to leave; in this case, their own Pocket Gypsy moments were meant to come later. Others will never go and will be perfectly happy, and that’s something to appreciate as well.

I do encourage everyone who can travel to do so, but it’s obviously not as easy for everyone, and some just aren’t inclined. I had planned this trip originally with my best friend, and she decided instead to move to Portland and spend her money on establishing herself there. She doesn’t feel jealous at all, and that’s totally awesome.

Recognize – for your own sake – that not everything is as perfect as it seems. It entirely depends on your outlook. If you seek a story in every situation, you will find it. If you seek to be miserable, misery will befall you. You get what you ask for. Framing is everything. These are things I have to tell myself as well, so I know it’s not easy to placidly accept them. But now that I’m back home, I have to keep that in mind – as long as I’m alive, there will always be a story to tell. I just have to live my life and look out for it, no plane ticket necessary.

Philadelphia, US - Sunset in a Box

Philadelphia, US – Sunset in a Box