My Southeast Asia Reading List

So you’re on the road for a few months and looking for some good books to read and don’t know where to start? Here’s what I’ve been reading (so far!) on my travels. A good book can keep you company when you’re missing your home, and gives continuity when you’re constantly changing spaces.  So what follows is my tried and true list.

A short side note – if you’re traveling with someone, especially a romantic partner, why don’t you try this: instead of the two of you being in separate worlds on your smart phones during your down time, try picking up (or downloading) one of these books and read it out loud to each other. Take turns. Make your partner try to read in a different accent. Talk about the book as you read. Read a chapter per night. I promise you, this will be something you can’t get enough of. It’s so much better than TV. It will change your life and your relationship. Do it!

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Part truth, part fiction. It’s sort of an embellished autobiography about an escaped convict who hides in the slums of Mumbai and creates a new life for himself. A lot of crazzzyy shit happens in this book – it’s set in India after all – but what I was really drawn to were the authors insights into love, life, loss, and our connectedness to other human beings. It’s by far by far my favorite book that I’ve read this year.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. OK, so I never saw the movie, but I found myself in Ubud, Indonesia (where one third of this book takes place) trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and why I react sometimes the way that I do. And for most of the book, I was thinking..”Yes! I am Julia Roberts!” To be honest, i didn’t finish the last chapter: the ending was turning out to be too perfect. But it’s a great read if you’re in a yoga state of mind.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I love Haruki Murakami. I love how twisted his stories are. I love his references to music and literature (The Centaur is on my reading list now thanks to this book). To be honest, this isn’t my favorite Murakami novel by a long shot, but if you’ve never read any of his work before, pick up a copy of Kafka By The Shore. You won’t be disappointed.

The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. If you like reading books by Eckhart Tolle, you’ll really enjoy this one. Learn how to watch the voices that are constantly babbling inside your head, how to train your mind to think positive thoughts, how to live a happier life without attachment.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. More to come!

 

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What are you looking for?

fullsizerender-17It’s astoundingly easy as a gay guy to meet other guys when traveling through apps like Grindr, Jack’d, Tinder, etc. I doubt that straight people have this luxury, but who knows (Do they? Do tell me!)

There’s one question that invariably pops up any conversation you have on one of these apps: what are you looking for? Usually it means one thing: I want in your pants and I want to find the quickest way to get there. There is an expected response, details of which I’ll skip over since my parents (Hi Mom!) or friends’ children (Hi Sequoia & River!) may be reading. I usually stop responding at this point. Companionship and a partner in crime don’t usually go over very well with anyone who poses this question.

The funny thing is, I actually have been thinking about this question a lot lately, although in a completely different context.

What am I looking for?

In some ways, it’s an unanswerable question that lies in the silence of the spaces between words. It’s like the monster in the closet that disappears the moment that you turn the light on, and yet it’s still there, you know it’s still there, but it’s image fades if you try to focus on it.

What am I looking for?

In Ubud, I started reading Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve never even seen the movie (I know, shame on me), so didn’t realize that part of the story took place here until I was trolling around TripAdvisor looking for things to do. I strongly identify with the main character of the book, with her attachments to relationships, her fear of being alone, her bouts of self-induced depression. She’s trying to find herself, but we hear that phrase so often that it’s become hollow and almost meaningless.

I went to an Ayurvedic clinic yesterday and talked to a doctor there. He was equal parts psychiatrist, herbal pharmacist, and counselor. I had no problem calmly describing some emotionally charged things that have happened to me in the past which are no doubt still buried deep inside, poking at me every time I turn the closet light off. But there was one thing that he said when he was describing what sorts of changes I should make in my life that really hit home hard. I was feeling calm and centered and wondering what kinds of herbs he would prescribe, and he said one thing and suddenly I had to fight back the tears: “You get to close and give to much of yourself. You need to save room for you.”

Ohhhhh.

So I think this is what ‘finding yourself’ means for me, at least a big chunk of it. The answer lies there.

And so the journey continues!