Thank You to the Militant Who Stole My Car!

Derek Bangladesh, India, Travel Tales 179 Comments

Truth be told, we human beings often don’t understand the true value of a particular moment in our lives until well after that moment has passed. Yet we often forget this undeniable fact in our quest to immediately categorize every interaction and event that occurs, so that we may quickly embrace the positive and discard the negative.

Lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that every single goal I’ve achieved, hurdle I’ve overcome, step of progress I’ve made and lesson I’ve learned, would not have been possible without the mishaps, pain, disappointments, struggles and ‘mistakes’ I’ve dealt with along the way. In other words, I would not be where I am today without those moments that I was once so quick to label as ‘negative’.

The following true story is an example, albeit an extreme one, of why we should openly accept every moment, both the seemingly positive and the seemingly negative. The truth is, there is ALWAYS hidden value in every moment of life. It just might take us some time to discover it.

Vikram Stole My Car…

In late 2002, I lived in Los Angeles for two months. I really didn’t know too many people there and ended up hanging out with my new friend Vikram most of the time. He was a nice, trustworthy guy, quite humorous and overly generous and always full of positive energy. So, when I decided to leave LA, I was more than happy to sell my car to him for a ‘friend’s price’ of $3000. Vikram paid me $500 up front and promised to send me the rest of the money after receiving his next paycheck.

I left Los Angeles and I never heard from Vikram again.

A Plan is Hatched…

Vikram was from the Indian town of Shillong, the capital of the remote northeastern state of Meghalaya. It was a place he spoke about often, usually when referring to his family or while reminiscing about his four best friends who had formed a popular jazz/reggae band.

So when fifteen days passed without any word from Vikram, and with my anger growing each day at the thought of losing $2500, I began to wonder what his family and friends would think about his actions. I envisioned myself being magically teleported to Shillong and having a little chat with Vikram’s mother.

‘Wouldn’t that be nice,’ I thought. ‘Actually, it would.’

Two weeks later, with the style of a secret agent and the mentality of a bounty hunter, I flew to Bangkok, where I spent one week preparing for my mission. Unlike most agents, whose preparations include intense weapons and martial arts training, I passed the time with visits to Buddhist temples, nightly foot massages, buckets of pad thai, the occasional Singha beer and wandering through local markets.

And then I flew to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The reason I chose Dhaka as my entry point was due to Shillong’s location. The town is a 24-hour train/bus journey from the closest Indian international airport but only a three-hour bus ride from a remote border crossing with Bangladesh. Besides, I had never been to Bangladesh, so the decision was easy.

The Consequences of a Warning Ignored…

I landed in Dhaka at 2:00am and quite frankly, my mission did not get off to a good start. As soon as I walked out of the airport, I was literally kidnapped. Sure, my guide book had warned that “if you arrive in Dhaka after sunset, remain in the airport until sunrise” but guide books are full of so many useless warnings that I simply ignored it.

Here’s what happened. I was approached by a crowd of fifteen taxi drivers, all yelling and tugging at me, wanting me to choose them to be my driver. Eventually, I chose a middle-aged man who knew a handful of English words. He grabbed my backpack and led me through the parking lot to his vehicle.

I jumped in the back seat, welcoming the quiet. Unfortunately, the quiet lasted for two brief seconds, when the doors opened and four more taxi drivers entered the car. And then they locked the doors. There I sat, wedged in between two burly, unsmiling Bangladeshi men, with a driver and two more suspicious looking individuals sitting in the front seat. At first I wasn’t too worried, until I realized that nobody seemed to care where I wanted to go.

Here’s a quick summary of the following two days:

  • I was forced, under the threat of physical pain and having all of my belongings taken from me, to pay out a total of $130 USD to the five men in the taxi.
  • I was taken to an unmarked building located in a hidden alleyway in the middle of a massive slum and locked inside of a small room with a paper-thin mattress, disgusting squat toilet and more cockroaches than I care to share a room with.
  • The following morning I was picked up by two of the taxi drivers and taken by car to an unmarked ‘hotel’ where I was again locked inside a small concrete room.
  • At 10:00am the following day, the man I had originally chosen to be my driver returned with a ‘friend’ and immediately demanded that I pay them each $100.
  • By this time, I realized that these people had no idea what they were doing so I simply refused to pay and we ended up just staring at each other in silence for about thirty minutes.
  • The two men brought me to a bank and demanded I take out $500 USD. I went inside, pretended to talk to the teller and then informed the men that I was unable to access my account.
  • They brought me back to the ‘hotel’, told me to get my backpack and to return immediately to the lobby area.
  • I grabbed my backpack, ran down a side hallway, out a back door and into the streets of Dhaka.
  • I then went for some lunch.


Shillong, Here I Come!

After Dhaka, I moved eastward, spending a most bizarre two and a half weeks making my way towards the border. I encountered a street fight between the male passengers of my bus and the male passengers of another bus, a near-deadly riot in a cinema, not one plate of edible food, police brutality in broad daylight and endless pleas by Bangladeshis for visa-sponsorship to the USA. I also had to deal with elderly prostitutes following me around, swarms of mosquitoes and violent monkeys and nearly killing a small boy by accidentally running over him while riding a bike. To state the obvious, it was a challenge.

When I finally arrived at the remote border crossing, I was of course not at all surprised to discover a gunfight taking place between the Indian and Bangladeshi armies. What I did find surprising was the sudden display of hospitality, as a temporary two-minute cease-fire was declared, allowing me to cross the border without fear of receiving a bullet in my neck.

A few hours later, I arrived by local bus into Shillong. It was time to track down Vikram’s friends and family and kindly ask for their assistance in helping me retrieve my money. The next morning I began my search, a search that ended up taking all of thirty minutes. The first person I asked, a man selling CDs in the market, knew exactly where Vikram’s band member friends lived. Twenty minutes later I was knocking on the door to their house.

Time to Meet and Then Say Goodbye to the Family…

They were a most welcoming and friendly group of guys, immediately inviting me in and even asking me to join them on a short trip across town. Oddly enough, they were headed to the home of Vikram’s family to drop something off for his brother. And so, as luck would have it, I soon found myself sitting on a sofa speaking with Vikram’s mother.

Unfortunately though, I never got a chance to bring up Vikram’s $2500 debt. I did have a chance to take a peek in Vikram’s room, where I chose not to steal as much as I could stuff my pockets with, despite my strong desire to do so.

Ten minutes after our arrival, the local news station issued a warning. A two-day strike had been called by a local student union group. Although this might not seem alarming at first glance, an Indian ‘strike’ requires that all businesses close down and that nobody be allowed to go outside. If you are seen on the streets, chances are you would be shot by the groups of student union members marching around demanding better treatment by the government.

The band members quickly devised a plan and without hesitation invited me to join them yet again. I said goodbye to Vikram’s mother, telling her I would visit again once the strike was over. I was not about to give up on my money that quickly.

After a quick stop at the mayor’s house, where we drank beer and smoked Afghani hashish on the rooftop while the shirtless and highly intoxicated mayor rambled incoherently about the lack of cheese in Shillong, we left the town and drove out into the middle of nowhere.

The plan was to spend two days camping at a remote lake some 5 hours away from Shillong until the strike ended. And that’s exactly what we did, along with swimming, canoeing, playing pickup games of cricket with local Khasi tribal villagers and spending a lot of time sitting around the campfire, talking and playing music. And it was around the campfire that I learned some more about Vikram.

Vikram? Prison?

It turned out that my good old pal Vikram had spent time in a Calcutta prison for smuggling weapons into India. He also joined a powerful and violent militant group during his incarceration before managing to escape from prison altogether. He briefly visited friends and family after breaking free and then fled the country. He hadn’t been seen in over 3 years.

All I kept thinking was, ‘I had seen him, every day right there in LA. And the bastard owes me $2500.’

As I heard more tales of Vikram’s suspicious behavior and links to organizations known for bombings and indiscriminate killings, I was shocked that I had failed to notice anything out of the ordinary during our friendship. In fact, shouldn’t it have seemed odd to me that Vikram often wore black jeans, a black jacket and black military boots, in the middle of the Los Angeles summer? In fact, now that I thought about it, there was nothing else that Vikram resembled more than a convicted militant prison escapee. Damn. That doesn’t say much about my ability to choose friends wisely.

During the five-hour drive back to Shillong after the strike had ended, I was furious with myself for not having read the signs and for allowing myself to be tricked into trusting Vikram. ‘Just look where that friendship has led me,’ I kept repeating over and over.

Where Did My ‘Friendship’ With Vikram Lead Me?

I certainly would have been $2500 richer without him. I also wouldn’t have had to trek around the world, spend a week in Bangkok, bravely escape from my inexperienced kidnappers in Dhaka, explore the beautiful tea plantations and jungles of eastern Bangladesh, cross a remote border crossing during a gunfight, meet and become friends with a popular and wonderfully talented Indian band, smoke hashish with the mayor of an Indian state capital, spend two days camping at a breathtaking lake where local tribal people had never seen a foreigner before…and I wouldn’t have decided to spend an additional six months exploring India.

You see where I’m going with this…

What was the better deal? Having the $2500 in my bank account or embarking on an unforgettable, life-changing journey across the Indian-subcontinent?

To me, there is no decision to make. The answer is all too clear.

In Conclusion…

We cannot afford to view the disappointing moments of life as wholly negative. We should embrace them, sure, as difficult moments, but also as potentially positive life-altering experiences. Had Vikram not stolen my car, I would never have ended up in India at that point in my life. And if you’ve read my “Why Every Traveler Must Visit India” post, you’ll understand how important a role that first trip to India played in shaping who I am.

Opportunities present themselves to us all the time, but if we automatically discard our disappointing and regretful moments as useless impediments to our progress, we just might miss out on a great deal of what life has to offer us.

By the way, I never did bring up Vikram’s debt to his mother. Actually, I decided it wise for me to leave Shillong the morning after returning from the lake. I didn’t need a powerful militant organization after me. I could barely handle a group of five taxi drivers.


Let me know if you agree with this perspective. Have you lived through a difficult period of time or extreme moment of disappointment that you were eventually thankful for and which had a lasting positive impact on your life?

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Comments 179

  1. Linda

    Omg I died laughing at your dismissal of warnings. Great post, this and your don’t be overly paranoid about belongings = new favorite blogger. Thanks!

  2. Dawn Macaulay

    I love this story. I have long held the belief that all of our experiences, good and bad are leading us to where we are supposed to be. There are so many situations and instances in my past that seemed so distressing at the time yet that I can now look back upon and see the purpose they had in giving me a stronger trait needed in my life for an eventual purpose or the change of direction they gave to lead me on an important course to where I was destined to go. Life is worth living, fully getting put and exploring and embracing the good and bad that comes with it.

  3. rui

    This story is hilarious and inspiring at the same time. Love your blog. Imagine an office girl in her pantry, having her hour lunch break in another part of the world, Singapore and enjoying this story.

  4. Ray

    That is a crazy story, but the moral of it makes complete sense. I have similar situations, as well, where something negative in my life did eventually lead to something far more positive than I could ever image. Every day presents a new opportunity. You just have to keep your senses aware of when those happen!

  5. Towhid Zaman

    I had no idea you visited Bangladesh. We could’ve hangout and probably show you a different side of my country. It’s a beautiful country for travelers but you just need to have a plan before you visit. Most of the places that’s worth visiting are only known to people loves traveling. Anybody know wants to visit Bangladesh in future please join this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mail.tob/ (Not mine but I’m a member there too)

    It’s one of the few places you’ll only find fellow travelers and they will have all the info you need and probably they are already traveling to a place you wanna go. You’ll find everything there is to know about a place from there which probably cut your cost as well.

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  8. Wynne

    How terrifying, yet hilarious! I love that you simply grabbed some lunch after your ordeal. Too funny.

    I come to you via Georgette (Girl in Florence) and look forward to reading through your blog.

    Safe(er) travels!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Wynne – Welcome to the site and glad you enjoyed the post! I look forward to communicating with you some more on here!

  9. Carla

    This post is hilarious. I read it a while ago and remembered it because it was so funny. But I misremembered Dhaka as Doha. When I got to the Doha airport in Qatar for a layover last year I was all nervous thinking about how you got kidnapped. Then I was like, “Really? He got kidnapped here? This place looks pretty fancy…” Now I see it was Dhaka, not Doha. 🙂

  10. Sawyer

    And yes Earl a lot of times bad things happened to me with priceless consequences I wouldn’t Change for anything a misconveniance is sometimes an Adventure wrongly considered.

  11. Sawyer

    Lol Earl this is epic!! Wow!! I also smiled like an idiot the whole time here’s a quote I like that reminds me of you .
    You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough. Stay awesome Earl!

  12. amor

    is it wrong that I’m smiling like an idiot after this article? what an adventure! so glad you’re safe though. wow. just wow. you’re awesome.

  13. Rob

    Hey Earl,

    Three years ago I left a 750i BMW with a “friend” who sold it within three months to a wrecker. He had promised to pay $4000 for it but never did. I came to the conclusion that trying to extract the money out of him would do more harm to me than him, and let it go.

    At the time I was homeless and had traveled north (in Australia) looking for work. Eventually my need for somewhere to live resulted in my buying a 35′ ferro-cement yacht, which I’m restoring with a view to seeing the world. If I’d become involved with court cases I would have been trapped into staying in Melbourne this never would have happened.

    I’ve saved far more than $4000 in rent since that happened, and in December was invited to go to NZ with a new-found yachtie friend on his 40′ steel cutter. The experience was amazing.

    Stuff happens. How we deal with it determines our future. Yes, to an unemployed and homeless guy $4000 was a lot of money, but at 61yo my time is worth far more than that. Love your blog man, keep up the good work!

    Rob

  14. Karthik

    How can anyone escape a kidnapping and then calmy have a meal> u had no apprehensions/fear that the taxi drivers may choose the same spot as you for lunch and then stalk and kidnap you again. ?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Karthik – If you’ve been to Dhaka, you’d know that wouldn’t happen. It is by far the most densely populated, crowded city I have ever been to and the chances of running into those guys again was extremely slim.

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  16. Near

    Is this for real? I hope it is. When I was 10, I went to Bangladesh to meet my family. While I was a boat traveling to a rural village, I foolishly left my laptop open in an unlocked room to do my business. I came back to see someone get out of my room. I screamed, ran just as another 10 year old would do and got my parents. They returned to find my laptop missing. Coincidentally, once we got to my grandparents house, I noticed the same man milling around the house. Then, my grandfather introduced him to us as a generous neighbor who often offered mangoes to his neighbors much to my shock. Immediately, I shouted “He’s a thief.” My parents then conversed with the man who apologized and gave us back the laptop. Your story Earl certainly bring back memories. Great share!

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  19. Sara W

    Wow! What a simply amazing experience! I love how you can take what could have been an emotionally scarring event and see the positivity in it. Thankfully the taxi drivers weren’t too dangerous! And also, it’s great that brought you to India for your first time! Sometimes bad events give us good things in return.

  20. Vincent Vanzetti

    I love this post. Aside from being an engrossing and darkly humorous account of highly dangerous situations, it offers an extremely important lesson. Amazing job reframing the loss of $2500 as the price of the adventure of a lifetime.

    So many times while traveling, I’ve been cursed my bad luck, bad decisions, or bad planning. Yet while life is inevitably composed of ups and downs, sometimes the downs lead directly into the ups, as you point out here.

    I cursed myself for missing a bus in Thailand and throwing my plans out of whack, only to be seated next to a beautiful woman on the next bus with whom I spent the next several days. I arrived late in a small town in Turkey to find the lone hotel full, only to end up at one of the best homestays of my life. I cursed getting ripped off by an Egyptian horse guide, until we crested a desert hill and I saw the Pyramids in all their glory for the first breathtaking time.

    Some situations are more difficult than others, but there is nearly always at least one possible positive spin.

    The last line of Alexander Pushkin’s short story “The Stationmaster” touches on this idea:

    http://www1.umn.edu/lol-russ/hpgary/Russ1304/Readings/STATION.HTM

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Vincent – I often believe that there is always a positive spin to every negative situation and usually, it just depends on our own attitude towards life and our ability to avoid letting one tough moment have a long-lasting effect on us.

  21. Chelsea

    “I then went for some lunch.” … ha ha! Earl, you crack me up. Wow, I was absolutely glued to my computer screen reading this blog post. Incredible story. This is the kind of stuff that happens in movies!

  22. Jeremy Branham

    Wow Earl, this is a fantastic story with an awesome message. One of the best travel stories I have read.

    You could have told this awesome story and ended it and that would have been enough. However, there was a lesson you discovered in your trip to Bangladesh and India. I am not sure many people could have done that. You saw something bigger than this story. Maybe you are another Paulo Coelho 🙂

  23. [email protected]

    Way to stay positive and calm in a crazy situation! Have you seen Hotel Transylvania? That’s kind of what this reminds me of, sometimes when you’re traveling you don’t realize how much danger you’re in so you’re not as scared. Glad you stayed safe and calm throughout this.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Chambrey – I actually watched Hotel Transylvania when I just flew to the US from South Africa a couple of weeks ago. I like how you put it…I certainly had no idea how dangerous the situation could have been (I assumed it was not so dangerous at the time) and as a result, even I am surprised at how calm I was able to remain.

  24. Rockyra

    I really enjoyed that story Earl and couldn’t stop smiling at each new turn of events. I have no strong desire to travel to Bangladesh in the near future but if I do end up in Dhaka after dark I’ll remember to wait for the sun to peak over the horizon before venture out. 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Rockyra – Good call…and it might be a better idea to organize an airport pickup before you arrive as an extra level of security 🙂

  25. Simon

    I love this story! So determined to get your money back or just tell his mum haha! I’m sure at the actual time of happening it was the worst thing to ever happen. But those kind of stories make the best ones.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Simon – I still have no idea why I was so intent on showing up there but I certainly am glad I did in the end!

  26. Olivia

    I am 22 now but when I was 19 I had cancer. When I was first diagnosed I felt like it was possibly the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. I don’t think much comes close to a possible death sentence. I cried for four hours straight and couldn’t believe that I had ever let little things ever get me down in life. Why did I care so much about this or that before I was sick? When I was perfectly healthy. Health is one of the biggest blessings a person can have. I have been in remission for almost three years now. There are millions of things I learned from that experience. However, the most important was taking advantage of life when it is in front of you. I am blessed because from a young age I have learned never to sweat the little things and to go after what I want with no fear. Because I was sick I have taken more risks in my life then I would have before and I find joy in the most simplest of things.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Olivia – Thank you for sharing your story and there is certainly an important lesson, if not the most important lesson in life, in your words. I can only imagine what your journey must have been like so far but I am happy to hear about your current situation of being in remission. Let all who read your comment stop for a moment and remind ourselves that living life to the fullest is not something that we should put off for even another day!

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  29. Katie @ Domestiphobia.net

    1. I spent about 30 minutes searching for the full kidnapping story on your site since I first saw it reference when I stumbled here from… somewhere… Twitter?

    2. I am sitting here with the silliest grin on my face upon discovering that your kidnapping story was a blip – a blip! – in a much larger and even more bizarre tale.

    3. You traveled from LA to a remote town in India (probably costing you over $2500 when all was said and done) just to tattle on someone?

    Consider me a new fan. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a better example of living in the moment. 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Katie – I am happy to have you as a fan of the site! And I’m actually back in India right now, contemplating paying another visit to Vikram’s family in order to try once again to retrieve my $2500!!

  30. George

    Hi Earl,

    I’m the kind of usual citizen working and wasting his time (Money) by not travelling. One of the main reasons are the insecurities out there, I know it can fasten our learning curve but can you open my eyes on what’s motivating you going everywhere ?

    I’m just having a hard time accepting that I can feel safe when not being in a Socially Stable society (Who really has one after all …). All the drama I hear at the news does not make me wanting to travel to a lot of places 🙁

    Have a great day,

    George

    1. Earl

      Hey George – My main motivation is the people…it’s the fact that I can meet and interact and learn from new people all over this planet that I would never have met had I not traveled. And to me, that makes all of this traveling completely worth it. I don’t even really care which country I visit these days as there are people to be met everywhere and even a simple conversation with a stranger is more rewarding to me than seeing one of the wonders of the world!

  31. anna

    My difficult experience was the catalyst to put me on the path to traveling. It was something I never thought I would get through and then my husband suggested a trip to Denali. I’d traveled before but finding such joy after that period in my life, I knew it was time to make the change and make travel my focus. What a great post. So glad my friend suggested your site!

    1. Earl

      Hey Anna – One trip can certainly change everything! And welcome to the site by the way, I’m glad you’re friend suggested it as well!

  32. Jessica Shaw

    🙂 This story really made me smile!! Not only that, but I’ve had a crappy time recently and it’s hard to look for the positive sometimes, so it’s kind of relevant (and I chose this post randomly, glad I did). Not only is this encouraging and a positive message that applies to my life right now, but it also puts things in perspective – AT LEAST I’VE NOT BEEN KIDNAPPED!!

    You’re life is incredible.. Your story-telling is inspiring, I just want to be like you! I’m so glad I’ve discovered this website, really inspiring and helpful. And funny 🙂 Won’t be telling my Mum about this though, she’d chain me to the radiator

    1. Earl

      Hey Jessica – Haha…now you can imagine how I feel every time I come back to the US to visit my family. I always fear they will tie me up and never let me leave again after reading about my adventures 🙂

  33. Erin Walton

    Wow. Wow. Wow. I don’t know if I’d be so calm under the pressure of spending the night with a roomful of cockroaches and some pissed off taxi drivers. Whenever I find myself in an unusual travel situation (mine have so far *and touch wood* been more surprising than potentially life-threatening), I do tend to pinch myself mentally and think “HOW did we get here again?” You have to embrace the surprise…and play the game. But maybe stay out of border-crossing gun fights! Thanks for a great read!

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  35. Kanja

    You just gave away a Hindi movie plot.lol. Drop this in a producers office when you are in Mumbai after your “welcome to India tour”. And good luck with the tour!

  36. Chelsea

    Have you ever read the alchemist? You’re the boy, only living in real life. You’re inspiring because not many people think this way, thank you.

  37. Will

    Wow. Crazy story. The Alchemist is a great book – sounds a lot like your journeys in distant lands. Glad you made it out alright after being kidnapped!

    1. Earl

      Hey Will – It’s amazing that it worked out the way it did…could have been a lot worse I guess. And The Alchemist, great book indeed.

  38. Adam

    wow – incredible story. Im leaving for India and then onto Bangladesh next week oddly enough. Thanks for the tip about the cab drivers!

    1. Earl

      Hey Adam – Enjoy your trip! And you’ll be fine over there…as long as you don’t walk out of any airports in the middle of the night 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Nate – I agree fully. When I think back to that experience, the money part doesn’t even cross my mind.

  39. George

    You may be the only person that can break being kidnapped down into bulletpoints, and still see the whole thing as a positive experience. An absolutely amazing story that everyone should read. Some of me wants these experiences but most of me is just terrified. Very inspiring.

    1. Earl

      Hey George – Haha…after so many years of travel I’ve learned to just accept and deal with any type of situation, no matter how crazy be! And as interesting as I found this kidnapping experience to be, I certainly don’t wish it on other people…so I’m happy that you’ve yet to experience something similar 🙂

  40. Sergio Felix

    Hey Earl,

    I don’t know if you get this a lot but have you seen that “Hangover 2” movie in which a group of guys make a mess in Thailand prior to some wedding?

    I thought those were incredible funny and entertaining stories but those are MOVIES and after reading YOUR story in India well… let’s just say I think your adventure was even better than that movie haha wow!

    I’m pretty shocked you still remain in one piece after so many adventures man, I think you seriously have some Jedi mind powers.

    Simply beyond AWESOME.

    Sergio

    1. Earl

      Hey Sergio – I definitely don’t get that a lot, but I’m glad you found this story to be as entertaining as a movie! And I wish I had some Jedi mind powers. I think it’s really just my calm nature and the fact that nothing surprises me anymore that gets me through all these situations and enables me to see them in a positive light (usually).

      Thanks for reading Sergio!

  41. Someday I'll Be There - Mina

    Have you read the Alchemist? Your last paragraph reminded me of the last couple of pages of the story! It’s not about whether you found your ‘money’ where you wished you’d find it or not, it’s about the journey on how you got there (makes any sense?:P)

    1. Earl

      Hey Mina – I have read the Alchemist, a few times. And that is one thing I firmly believe in…making sure that we enjoy that journey because it is on the journey that we experience the life-changing moments and when we meet all of those wonderful people out there in the world 🙂

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    1. Earl

      Thanks Nicole…I think after several years on the road you learn to take things as they come and try to stay relaxed at all times, even during the craziest of times!

  43. jan

    An exciting read, like a fiction thriller. I agree it is good movie material. People will still be commenting on this blog in ten years time!

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    1. Earl

      Thanks for that Chris! And I was wondering where you were reading my story for a moment when you mentioned having my own site. Good to know it really was my site that you found!

  45. Chris

    Hey Earl. your story was amazing why don’t you have your own website with all kinds of amazing tales and adventures. i’d read. the smoking hash part i’m jealous of haha.

  46. Terry

    Perfect timing to have this new comment show up in my e-mail. Was on a (28-hour) train from Varanasi to Mumbai last night, having a good time with everyone, letting some of the guys look through my photos and listen to my ipod. Wake up at my stop when my little baggie I was sleeping with (ipod, camera, and phone) was yoinked while I was dreaming. Only been about 9 hours since it happened. Still very upset as I had lots of good/sentimental pictures on my camera and phone =( Trying hard not to let this ruin my entire trip to India as I leave in a couple days…Advice anyone??

    1. Earl

      Hey Terry – Those kind of things do happen over there and I guess it’s easy to become a little relaxed when things seem so safe sometimes. But don’t let it get to you as in the end, those are simply material things that simply cannot provide you with the same value as the experiences you’ve had in India (hopefully).

  47. Adam Pervez

    Wow, what an amazing story. I just got robbed last week in Guatemala City but was saved from giving away my stuff by my bad Spanish. Getting kidnapped is a whole other story!

    1. Earl

      Hey Adam – Well, getting robbed is quite a story as well I’m sure but I’m glad you didn’t end up losing too much. If the guys in Bangladesh were smart they would have just taken my stuff and left me alone!

  48. Linda, I'd rather be traveling

    When something goes missing, I do shrug it off and hope the person has a better use for the item then I do, turn the event to tithing!!!

    Greeat story, I envisioned each event!

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  50. Terry

    Hey Earl, it’s me again!

    I’ll start by saying I read this blog a week or two ago and loved it! For some reason I felt the need to come back to it just now and ask you a few questions. First, I noticed you spent a week or so (maybe?) in Bangladesh but didn’t talk much about it besides (obviously) the insane start to your trip. So, how did you enjoy Bangladesh, what did you do there and what did it offer you, and how was the general feeling you got from your time there? I commented on your “Why you should go to India” blog telling you I would be going there for 2 months at the end of August. I fly into Mumbai. I want to spend some time in Goa, and mainly just take busses and trains around India and visit some temples (and meditate a lot), couchsurf a little, eat great food, etc, etc. I also would like to spend a week or more in Bangladesh and a week or more in Nepal. Do you think 2 months is enough time to traverse parts of India (don’t plan on going much south) and circling up to Bangladesh and Nepal and making my way back to Mumbai for my flight back? Obviously anything is possible and I can make anything work =) But you seem very knowledgeable and I would like your opinion on this matter. Honestly, it’s been my dream to visit India for years, but for some odd reason after I started reading all about Bangladesh I seem to be getting even more excited about that little side-trip than being in India! (perhaps because it’s like an adventure within an adventure) 😀 Also, considering you travel frequently, how do you feel about all these vaccination recommendations? Do you get your boosters and what not and keep all those up to date? All of things I read online recommend taking malaria pills to Bangladesh. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond Earl! I really dig your philosophy on life and of course love how open you are to experiencing everything this little damn rock we’re all living on has to offer. Have a great day! Peace.

    1. Earl

      Hey Terry – Thank you for reading the blog and I’d be more than happy to answer your questions.

      As for my time in Bangladesh, despite it being one of the most intense countries I’ve ever been to, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. There are not many countries left that have virtually no tourism infrastructure at all and Bangladesh is one of them. I spent some time wandering the streets of Dhaka (every day I just walked outside and wandered around and this always led to an interesting adventure – I recommend hiring a local boatman to paddle you around the river in Dhaka so that you can explore the insane ship-breaking yards) and then I went into the countryside, to places such as the town of Srimangal located in the tea plantation region and Syllhet, a larger town closer to the India border. As for what Bangladesh offers travelers, it is the experience of learning about a culture so different from our own. Most of what you see, hear, taste and do will be things you have never seen, heard of tasted before and so as a result, you will be forced to reevaluate everything you’ve learned about life up until that point.

      With your trip, 2 months is difficult to explore such a large region. It’s manageable but you’ll have to move quite quickly and I personally feel that slow travel is the way to approach this part of the world. You need time to soak it all in and that can only happen by staying more than a couple of days in each place. It’s tough because every traveler is different but I’m not a Goa person at all. I would much rather travel from Mumbai through Rajasthan to Delhi, and then visit a couple of places in the Himalayas, followed by a trip across Nepal (entering at the western border of Nepal) to Kathmandu, down to Varanasi in India and over to Calcutta. Then, you could pop into Bangladesh for a short visit and perhaps fly back to Mumbai from Calcutta. You can find very cheap airfares on India’s long list of budget airlines which are sometimes as cheap as taking the train! That would be my 2 month itinerary but again, everyone is different 🙂

      In terms of vaccinations, I just got the standard lot before I began traveling 12 years ago. I think it was Hepatitis, Yellow Fever and Typhoid. I’ve never taken malaria tablets on any of my travels…some people like to take them and others don’t and I just don’t particular care for them. But it doesn’t hurt to take them of course.

      I hope this info helps you out but please feel free to send me an email if you have any further questions! I could literally talk about India all day long!

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  53. Garreth

    Wow. That is a great story and thankfully you got away to tell it.

    I particuarly liked that the gun fight stopped to let you cross the border. Much better than the sterile border crossings into the US or European countries.

  54. Odysseus

    Wow, this is absolutely fabulous, Earl. Thievery, kidnapping, gunfights, and optimism all spun into one exciting narrative. Interestingly enough, I also had a guy steal my car in a somewhat similar manner. While I do mind being taken advantage of, I also kinda like being without a car.

    1. Earl

      Hey Odysseus – Sorry to hear about your car but it seems like you weren’t too devastated. Hopefully you did not end up being kidnapped as well as a result 🙂

      1. Odysseus

        Haha, Earl. My own car stealing drama was the most ridiculous thing in the world. My car didn’t even work! The guy who stole it towed it from my driveway while I was out of town. (I’d given him the keys just before leaving so he could check out whether he could fix the engine and then buy it from me.) It was the strangest thing. Really, he couldn’t have found a better car to steal?

        1. Earl

          Hey Odysseus – Ridiculous? That is beyond ridiculous (and quite hilarious at the same time I must admit). Some people you can only shake your heads at and wonder what on earth they were thinking. Seems like we each found one of those people!

  55. Caz Makepeace

    Earl!!! How did I miss this story!! This is exactly why you are my favourite travel blogger or blogger period.

    Not only can you tell a story and have these absolutely amazing adventures, but your positive outlook on life is so inspiring.

    I just love how you have taken what happened “The Militant” and turned it into such a fortunate occurrence. It is so wonderful when we can look at those seemingly nasty things that happen to us as true gifts.
    I have a few of those in my life right now that I can’t wait to finally see just why they were essential for me to experience.
    Pleasure knowing you!

    1. Earl

      Hey Caz – You have no idea how great it is to see your comments appear on my posts!

      I will say that it can be difficult sometimes to remember the importance of looking for the positive in every situation but like anything, it becomes easier the more we practice it. And of course, it becomes even easier once we connect with other like-minded people who also seek out those gifts no matter what happens.

      I really do hope that your current challenges quickly turn into positive steps for you guys. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help out.

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  57. Bob

    Great story Earl,
    Been to India a couple of times, Madras and Cochin. Some Sikhs invited us for a meal and convinced us to sing them songs afterwards. We were given certificates in Madras to allow us to buy alcohol!

    ‘We may not have everything we want, but we have everything we need in order to complete that which we incarnated here to do’. HH

    1. Earl

      Thanks for the comment Bob! That’s the appeal of India…a simple meal usually turns into a memorable moment.

      And thank you for sharing that quote. Very true words indeed.

  58. Vishal

    Hahaha. Nooo! My brother just came to the States to study! Anyways, if you’re ever in the tri-state area, let me know. I’d love to meet you and know more face to face.

    Vishal

    1. Earl

      Absolutely Vishal. I do head up to that area every now and then to visit family so the next time I’m headed that way, I shall let you know. It would be great to meet up (and with your brother as well now that I know he’s a different Vikram!

  59. sujata

    I find reading blogs a very strenuous thing to do and believe me I get bored spending time on the internet. I accidentally discovered yours while checking out about the Mother Teresa’s house and started reading your blogs. Boy, have i become crazy?! Because I am reading your blogs. I haven’t read every article but with time I will. My favorite part of this movie? You guys staring at each other for close to 30 minutes. That’s hilarious. Okay, it is a tense situation and maybe I should not be saying this but it is so funny. I’d have loved to see that particular scene LIVE.

    1. Earl

      Hey Sujata – Wow. That’s quite a compliment! I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found my posts interesting, and at times funny 🙂 I do agree, the 30 minutes of staring at each other was a bit ridiculous and I certainly laugh about it myself these days. Perhaps I really should start looking for a way to turn this into a movie, especially after your comments.

      Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing more from you!

  60. Vishal

    Earl, I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now. Your life adventures will make for a crazy adventurous movie. Much better than the traditional one that everybody seems to follow. Since I’m from Nepal, my question is: do you have piece of writing on Nepal?

    Vishal (btw, Vikram is my brother’s name!)

    1. Earl

      Hey Vishal – Thanks so much for reading along! I actually don’t have anything written about Nepal because my travels to Nepal all happened before I started this blog. It was a wonderful couple of weeks I spent in Nepal, despite the landslides that kept me stuck in a small town for 3 days 🙂 Hopefully once I have some time I’ll go back and start to write some posts about my experiences.

      And hopefully it wasn’t your brother who stole my car!!

  61. Neelima

    That kidnapping story is freaking crazy! And of course so is Vikram’s story.
    We all have learnt things the hard way. But it gets so much easier if people realized everything falls into place in the end, we just have to let the story unfold.
    Keep having more adventures and keep entertaining us. Absolute pleasure it is, going through your posts! 🙂

    1. Earl

      I appreciate the comment Neelima! I couldn’t agree with you more about just letting the story unfold. What we take from a situation all depends on our attitude!

      And I’ll definitely do my best to keep the adventures coming, although hopefully it won’t involve having another car stolen from me 🙂

  62. Kim

    That story is insane! I love reading about all of these crazy situations you find yourself in. Yep, every action has some sort of reaction out in the world. We could sit our our couches, watch tv, and completely control our environments or we can get out into the world as you do and have a wild ride.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kim – A wild ride. That’s exactly what it’s like and I wouldn’t choose any other way live (I’m sure you agree!). It’s all about heading into the unknown and being excited to see what awaits!

  63. Michael

    I don’t know how I missed this one a few months back — glad I linked over to it from your airline tip post (which, needless to say, is a lot more tame). Great story. Can’t want to catch up in a few months in Europe, hopefully!

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  66. Roy

    Wow Earl, this is one amazing story. Rather than feel sorry for yourself, you found a way to make an unfortunately event become an adventure.

    I’ve always said to people that if you are happy with where you are in the present, then there’s no regretting the past because everything in your past led you up to this point.

  67. omono

    i just discovered your blog today actually, and i have to say you’re life seems wildly entertaining. sheesh i seriously envy you right now. im trying to figure out what i want to do career wise and im going through what ive deemed a quarter life crisis (18 years old). hopefully ill figure it out soon, keep blogging and cant wait to hear more of your ridiculous stories!

    i have to agree with everyone, you should just write a screenplay based on your adventures.

    1. Earl

      Thank you for the comment Omono! And honestly, I wouldn’t get too worked up about not being able to figure out your life right now. The one thing I always repeat is that it only takes one quick second for everything to change and for new opportunities to come your way. The key is to make sure you are constantly challenging yourself and putting yourself outside of your comfort zone as this will lead to those opportunities that will help you make sense of which direction you want to head in.

      And the screenplay is on my long list of things to do. Hopefully I’ll get to it this year 🙂

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  69. Justin

    This is hands down the most amazing post I’ve ever read on a travel blog.. apparently I’m only 8 months late to the party.

    1. Earl

      Hey Justin – Thank you for the very kind comment! And don’t worry about being late, I’m just happy you found it and enjoyed the tale.

    1. Earl

      The threat of being gored by buffalo is perhaps more serious than being kidnapped by inexperienced kidnappers! Either way, at least we both survived our experiences…thanks so much for the comment!

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    1. Earl

      Hey Matt – I appreciate your comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the story. To me, as long as I get a chance to have such adventures, I can only think of them in a positive light!

  72. Financial Samurai

    Early, this is one of the most entertaining reads I’ve had in a LONG while! Sweet! I’m visiting from JetSetCitizen.

    It’s amazing… as we are quite similar, yet so different. What an amazing adventure. I’m excited to read more of your stories.

    I write from “the other side” of the matrix over on my site. And don’t worry, my latest post is somewhat a devil’s advocate post, but I may have done too strong of a job convincing.

    Best,

    Sam
    .-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..The Dark Side Of Early Retirement =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Financial Samurai – Thanks so much for the comment and I appreciate your visit here! It appears that we do have quite a bit in common after exploring your site, although I noticed you labeled a trip to Kabul as a ‘fakecation’ in the comments while my trip to Kabul was my ideal adventure!! But your last post definitely brings up some excellent points that I think quite a lot of ‘lifestyle designers’ should think about before they take off into the unknown…

        1. Earl

          Hey Sam – Thanks so much for your support and spreading the word about this post. And I’ll definitely be looking out for that Rio story. I’m curious to hear what kind of adventures you were caught up in…hopefully it was worth the story in the end!

  73. Christopher Kabamba

    Earl,
    Drama all around!
    Where have i been? I thought that such things only happen in movies. I was wrong!!
    Thanks man. I have been inspired.
    .-= Christopher Kabamba´s last blog ..Why Commandments are NOT for Conscious and Intelligent Beings =-.

    1. Earl

      Welcome Christopher! I appreciate you stopping by my site and trust me, I still find it difficult to believe this crazy tale myself sometimes (but it is 100% true). And I’m happy to hear you’ve been inspired…although I don’t recommend heading off to get yourself kidnapped anytime soon!

  74. Brian Wadman

    Good to see Buddhist philosophy applied to the perceived negative experiences of our lives…. Looking forward to the Mr. Whiskey in Chiang Mai being put into writing at some point as well. Good post as always. B

  75. Derek

    “Also, at this point, I absolutely knew that these guys had no idea what they were doing and I started to find the ordeal to be exciting, so I was a bit curious as to how it was going to play out.”

    OK, so it’s official – you are crazy.

    I see this as a Wes Anderson movie. Get on it Andrew, let’s make this happen.
    .-= Derek´s last blog ..2009 Review, 2010 Goals & Dreams =-.

  76. Derek

    Holy crap that’s awesome. Write about the kidnapping more. How scared were you? Did you think they might kill you? Why didn’t you tell the people in the bank what was happening? What were the kidnappers like?

    1. Earl

      Hey Derek –

      Here’s some answers to the questions you asked…I honestly could write another year’s worth of posts from my time in Bangladesh (maybe I will)…

      Apart from the drive from the airport to the place where I spent the first night, I surprisingly wasn’t too scared. I figured that if these guys were planning on killing me or causing me great bodily harm, they probably would have taken all of my possessions and money from the start and not put me in a room that had a bed (although a crappy one) and a toilet. I considered it a good sign that I wasn’t standing naked on the side of the road without a penny to my name and so I convinced myself there wasn’t too much to be scared about.

      The reason I never told the people in the bank what was happening was because it was a small bank and the teller didn’t speak English. When I walked in, the handful of people that worked there all pointed to one particular lady, saying “english, english”. But when I approached her she said, “no english” and so I just mumbled some words so that the guys outside thought I was trying to get the money. Also, at this point, I absolutely knew that these guys had no idea what they were doing and I started to find the ordeal to be exciting, so I was a bit curious as to how it was going to play out.

      Two of the kidnappers were large, angry guys that never uttered a word the entire time but were the ones that generally escorted me in and out of the buildings. The driver was the only one that really tried to communicate with me and he seemed like he was probably a nice guy when not kidnapping people. I never saw a gun, only one knife that one man kept on his lap during the drive from the airport. The absolute inability to communicate with me seemed to frustrate them as I would often play dumb when they tried to make a demand or tell me what to do through body language, bangla or broken english. I don’t think they were expecting such a difficult time with that.

      Overall, it ended up being a somewhat expensive “meet and greet” package, transportation from the airport and two nights accommodation included!

      I see you’re enjoying Puerto Vallarta, keep me updated as to where you end up exactly…and my only recommendation is a local restaurant called “Tacon Marlin”. It’s near the airport and you won’t regret it, as long as you eat fish…just ask anyone where it is and they’ll lead you there…it’s 5.5 pesos to get there on any bus that says “Aeropuerto”…

  77. Lisis

    As long as you’re keeping it real, I’ll never be disappointed. Keep having adventures, knowing some will be greater than others. Keep looking on the bright side, knowing sometimes even the bright side may not look all that great. And keep sharing what you’re discovering along the way… about the world, about yourself, and about life. With just that, I’ll be hooked. 🙂

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  79. Lisis

    Brilliantly entertaining, with a wonderful life lesson (as usual). I don’t even know what to say, except: THANK YOU. This was a fantastic read, and totally deserves a stumble and any other way I can think of to share it.

    I’m growing rather fond of your blog, Earl… as if I needed yet another thing to be addicted to! 😉
    .-= Lisis´s last blog ..An Anniversary, a Thank You, and a Promise =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Lisis – I would be more than happy to occupy even the tiniest corner of your addiction list, even though that would result in tremendous pressure on me as I wouldn’t want to disappoint! Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday…

  80. Sam

    Earl, that was a great story not to mention all your other blogs. You’re a crazy dude.

    I still think you should have took something from Vikram’s room!

    Take care

    1. Earl

      Thanks Sam. You have no idea how hard it was for me to avoid taking something from his room. Maybe next time I go to India I’ll visit his family again!

    1. Earl

      Welcome Robyn! I appreciate your visit. Yeah, the kidnapping certainly got me off to a shaky start and I thought about whether or not to continue, but in the end I decided not to give up so quickly, thinking it couldn’t possibly get worse than that!

      And I’ll be heading over to your site right now to check it out…

  81. Gordie

    I had an Indian orthodontist “friend” for a while in New Zealand. He wanted to be my flatmate, but his current flatmate told me living with him wouldn’t be wise as there were things the guy did that would get on my nerves.

    Eventually, he had a falling out with his orthodontic partner and moved to a different city. A few months later he was arrested and extradited back to the States to stand trial for being involved in a massive pedophile ring in New York. He was on the F.B.I’s most wanted list!

    1. Earl

      Hey Gordie – it looks like you’re better at choosing your friends and flatmates than I am! That’s a crazy story indeed, and more proof that you really never know who someone is, even a friend. At least that guy was finally arrested. I’m still trying to track down Vikram (just for the fun of it now) and the last thing I’ve been able to determine is that he’s still on the loose and was recently working in Iraq.

      Thanks for sharing the story!

  82. Nate

    Wonderful story Earl. I really like hearing about your travel adventures. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s your attitude towards life that I like. You have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to share!

    This story epitomizes this quote by Steve Jobs, which I love:

    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..Why Are We So Miserable With Our Jobs? =-.

    1. Earl

      Nate – you’re right, that quote is spot on with my story. I’m happy to turn around every now and then and glance back at the past, reflecting in awe at how the most unexpected moments and situations ended up being the ones that have shaped my life.

  83. Andrew

    What!? Dude… If you had posted this a week ago, it would be on every Top 10 Blog Posts of 2009 list.

    Can I be your agent? When will your screenplay be finished?

    I usually try to put some thought into blog comments, but this post has made me into just some average sycophant.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Reaching Escape Velocity (Hanging Out With Steve Roberts) =-.

    1. Earl

      Andrew, the agent gig is yours. And believe me, there is probably a trilogy’s worth of material that didn’t even make it into this post. If it works out you’ll be on that new catamaran before you know it!

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