Friday, June 7, 2013

Life After Bangkok (Again!): Where Will My Gypsy Road Lead?

Anyone who knows me very well knows very well that I'm easily obsessed: with music, movies, people, places, lists and, more uncommonly, with patterns and coincidences. I regard the latter two the way some people use tarot cards, crystal balls and what's written in the stars -- as sign posts and guiding lights to the future, as flashing neon reminders that whatever will be will be.

It started with my first boyfriend Derek. For a year and a half, I convinced myself that he was my destiny, the one with whom I was supposed to be together forever because we'd met between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue in New York City (at the Roxy, then the best gay disco in town), between the 10th and 11th of May (circa 3am), at a time when my favorite album was Between 10th and 11th by The Charlatans. For all of the attention I paid to these cultivated coincidences, amazingly, I never once considered that my favorite song on that particular Charlatans CD -- the single "Weirdo" -- might be yet another clue, an example of how much of one I'd become.

Patterns and coincidences have remained pivotal to my life since then. At the beginning of the year, when I was considering places to go after Melbourne, Berlin moved to the top of the list when, out of the blue, I received a Facebook friend invitation from a handsome Michael Fassbender lookalike from Berlin whom I'd met in Bangkok in December. (Only days earlier, a Melbourne-based friend had told me about his new boyfriend who was from, of all places, Berlin.)

I might actually be there now had I not been scared off by the winter there. I decided to enjoy the rest of summer in Melbourne and postpone Berlin until the big chill had moved on. Then Buenos Aires put a spanner in those works. I was selling my apartment in BA (a development that had come about purely by coincidence), and my physical presence there was required, leading to seven largely sleepless weeks in the Argentine capital.

During that time, Cape Town and Bangkok (again!) leaped onto my travel radar. I'm not sure yet what the coincidences were (sometimes they're delayed, coming after the decision has been made), but there were certainly a few patterns to consider. Cape Town would continue my trend of living on continents whose names (or at least one of them) begin with an A (yes, I realize that would be all of them, with the exception of Europe), or it would kick off a nice alphabetical trend, since my round-trip ticket to BA required me to return to Australia for at least a few days: A is for Australia (and the A in BA), B is for Bangkok (and the B in BA), C is for Cape Town....

Then my friend Adriaan in Cape Town inadvertently gave me another idea: What if I were to spend the next 12 months living in a different city/country for 30 days apiece? While he was inspiring my next adventure (and possibly my next book), he also convinced me that perhaps Cape Town wasn't quite yet ready for me. It's heading into winter there, and as he put it, one's first time in Cape Town is always best if it happens in spring or summer. In other words, I should put at least two months and two cities between Bangkok in June/early July and Cape Town.

That's when Berlin returned to the top of my list. It's warmer there now, and my friend Cara just returned from Berlin and gave it a rave review. Berlin, here I come.... I think.

No, it still wasn't a done deal -- at least not in my non-committal head. Last night, after I arrived in Sydney, another idea popped into it while I was waiting for my take-out at an Indian restaurant close to my hotel: Mumbai! I've always been a little bit on the fence when it comes to India, and movies and TV shows like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Outsourced have painted such a duotone portrait of the country (colorful and intriguing but hot, dusty, overcrowded and likely to induce severe stomach ailments), making it harder for me to decide for or against it.

So I came up with a plan: If my take-out was as delicious as I hoped it would be, Mumbai would join Berlin at the top of my list of to-do cities, maybe even pull slightly ahead because while I've been to Berlin (way back in 1995), I've never been to Mumbai. (On a scale from 1 to 10, I gave it a 7, leaving me still somewhat undecided.)

Now as the result of a conversation with Ben (one of the first Australian guys I met in 2010 during my first trip to Melbourne -- where I'll be spending two days between Sydney and Bangkok, beginning Sunday -- and someone with whom I reconnected last December due to one of those unexpected but always-welcome coincidences), Berlin is back at the top of my to-do list and unlikely of being replaced. Five text messages into our chat today, Ben revealed that in 29 days he's leaving for one year in Europe. (I love that he's counting them down.)

Where in Europe? Drumroll: Berlin!

Could I have asked for a brighter sign? Now I can stretch out and wait for the next one.
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