"the last time i saw you"
The first time I heard about Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, located a couple of hours outside of Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, was when I was in Sri Lanka in 2009. As somebody who loves elephants, I asked around whether or not I should go visit. I mean, you hear the word “elephant orphanage” and it seems like it should be legitimate, right?
After reading dozens of reviews and articles about the subject, in a word: NO.
If you follow any major travel websites, blogs, or Pinterest boards, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of “experiences, not possessions” or maybe you’ve read about people who never buy souvenirs, preferring to travel light or to save their money.
And while I appreciate all of those arguments – I’d much rather have plane tickets than a designer purse, for example – I am one of those people who ALWAYS buys souvenirs. In fact, I’ve bought souvenirs (sometimes multiple souvenirs) in every country I’ve been to, even if it’s something as small as a thimble or a postcard. I have lugged bags full of knick knacks all over the world, sent boxes full of treasures home, and budgeted souvenir shopping into every trip I’ve taken. Some may call that materialistic, but I just call it sentimental.
Because the fact is, I LOVE looking at the souvenirs I’ve brought home from around the world. I love walking around my flat and picking them up. I love remembering where I was when I bought it, or who I bought it with, or who I bought it from. I love surrounding myself with little memories of my travels. Of course, I have photos and journals, too, but there’s something about having a little piece of a place to yourself.
Yesterday was one of those jam-packed days in London that had me running all over East London, and it culminated in a really fun and random night of pub-hopping with amazing friends. I stayed in bed for a very long time, too comfortable and warm to get up despite the sun streaming in my windows, a welcome sight after some gloomy London weather.
When I finally got up, I made a coffee and sat on the couch. I live alone, and I relish these long and lazy mornings, especially on days when there are no pressing deadlines. I didn’t have plans until the afternoon, so I took the time to call my mum, read a few chapters of my current book, and then go online. I saw on Facebook that my blog’s page reached over 6,000 followers overnight, and part of me just can’t believe all the support and kindness that I’ve received through This Battered Suitcase.
I love this time of year, I really do. It’s not just the food and the decorations and the smell of the pine tree, it’s the time spent with family. This year, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to see all of my loved ones on Christmas day; my dad and sister Zalie, who both live in Winnipeg, my mum, who lives in Toronto, and my brother, who lives in Vancouver. We’ve already shared tons of laughs (and drinks) together, and the festivities will continue until I fly back to London on the 29th.
But OK, I’ll admit, I love the presents, too. Which brings me to the point of this blog post – I’d like to send ten gifts out to say thank you for another wonderful year of your comments, emails, messages, likes, and general support.
I go through phases of blogging, just as I think that all people in creative fields do, whether their craft is painting or writing or singing or dancing. We all go through phases in life where we feel successful, where our output is high and our accomplishments prolific. This summer, for me, was definitely not one of these times. In fact, thinking about blogging often made me feel sad – sad because I love it so much and I wasn’t doing it, but also because I just couldn’t think of a damn thing to write.
It was March in Varanasi, and I had arrived as part of a three-week tour around India. I hesitated signing up for it all those months ago, when I was still mapping the route I’d take through Southeast and South Asia, an eight-month adventure that I’d thought of for years. I had never taken a tour of any kind, and I envisioned a bus full of khaki-wearing, sunburnt tourists, the kind who refused to eat street food or use a public toilet. As a solo traveller, I finally decided it would be easier and safer to travel with a group, even if it meant our days were sometimes planned down to the hour.