Sandwiches Should NEVER Taste Like Cow Crap
Delhi Train Station, 2 p.m.
It’s 45 degrees Celsius, I’m as slick with sweat as a greasy New York hot dog, and I’ve just been elbowed in the ribs by a woman in a canary yellow silk sari who then spat out a gooey wad of betel nut onto the pavement next to my feet.
A pair of small hands moves towards my shoe and I step back instinctively: a plop of dog shit misses my left foot by an inch and lands on the steaming cement, not far from the splattered betel nut.
Delhi Dog Shit Man looks up at me and grins evilly.
Maybe it was the brain melting heat, or the immense weight of my time spent in India, but instead of screaming, I just start laughing, patting Delhi Dog Shit Man on the back and say, ‘Better luck next time dude.’
In the spirit of recycling, Delhi Dog Shit Man scrapes the crap off the sidewalk and lopes off into the crowd in search of other victims.
Sometimes the Travel Gods send you white sand beaches, swaying palm trees or mind expanding enlightenment that sends you on your way, reborn.
And at other times, they just send you the Delhi Dog Shit Man.
Sandwiches Should NEVER Taste Like Cow Crap serves up a tasty stew of lessons learned through adventures, disasters and situations – some good, some bad, some mundane and others unbelievable from Japan to Vietnam, Nepal to Tanzania, and Djibouti to the Maldives.
Looking back at the kaleidoscopic, psychedelic swirl of colorful locals, travelers, saints, sinners, madmen and madwomen encountered on the road, I can’t help but wonder:
Am I cursed? Could my size 13 shoes be spreading bad luck with every step I take? Or have I somehow landed on the Shit List of the Travel Gods, forever condemned to endure ﬂightmare after disaster after catastrophe?
The jury is still out.
At 19, I never set out for Asia like a modern Marco Polo in search of Eastern riches, a fountain of youth, a white whale or a Holy Grail, I didn’t go to ﬁnd myself on top of the Himalayas,
get a spiritual makeover and return home, transformed.
I did, however, learn on my very ﬁrst trip to Asia that in the world of independent travelers, India loomed large as an Emerald City or Mecca or Las Vegas or Shangri-La, where redemption and rapture went hand in hand with stink and scams, a place down the rabbit hole where you simply had
to venture, where you just had to go, in order to consider yourself a serious traveler.
In order to belong.
So on I traveled to South America and Africa and Australia with India always dancing in the distance, taunting me through the windshield.
In late 2004, I ﬁnally did it.
I gritted my teeth, plugged my nose and pulled open that trapdoor and fell down into that Universe that is India, and four months later, after enduring saddhus and saints and cows and chaos, I stepped out onto the tarmac in the Maldives, eyes wild, head spinning, and almost sank to my
knees like a Pope to kiss the sun drenched and sterile asphalt right then and there.
Grateful to be free of that beast.
Having just scaled the steep sides of the independent travelers’ Mt. Everest, I enjoyed the postcard perfect paradise that is the Maldives, thinking my Indian sojourn was over. Behind me. History. Hermetically sealed in my laptop’s hard drive as tack-sharp photos and in my brain as vivid memories.
But it wasn’t. On an island the day after Christmas I learned a lesson so far undiscovered. My journey had actually just begun. That’s the beauty of travel: with the horizon always remaining where it is, every trip is never really quite over, and the next one is already underway. Travel is all around us, constant, wrapping us in it’s ﬁngers, never letting go.
And for this lesson, oh Travel Gods, I am most grateful. After years on the road I now know these Travel Gods have a very keen sense of humor. Or at the very least, are very, very bored. What else can explain the cast of characters I have collided with, including a satanic customs agent in Japan, a horny camel called Raj in India, a demonic taxi driver in Ethiopia, a beaming Dalai Lama in India, or that woman in a burka who punched me in Djibouti?
Not to mention a sandwich served with cow crap. (That wasn’t served to me, scouts honor.)
So. After scraping the dog crap off the sidewalk, did Delhi Dog Shit Man head to the nearest sandwich shop and surreptitiously serve it to some unsuspecting traveler in India,
unfamiliar with the revenge some waiters love to inﬂict on hated customers?
Only the Travel Gods know for sure.
A selection of stories from Sandwiches Should NEVER Taste Like Cow Crap have been published on this website, and can be found by browsing the links on the navigation bar above.