Karma Is Travel-Savvy

by Eena

I miss the magic of foreign lands.  The scents, tastes, and sights of my recent vacation were as much a pleasure as its daily lesson in karma.

Scenes from Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Riga, and our cruise ship

Karma was a close companion at my recent cruise in the Baltic region. I denied her presence and she made me pay for her fare, anyway.

In Stockholm, a McDonald’s cashier made a Krona-to-Euro conversion error (are you surprised?) and I unwittingly walked away 600 PHP richer.  I realized his mistake only many hours later and couldn’t find the time to return the excess change.

Karma’s damage: a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers, 100USD, and 20EU separately and mysteriously disappeared from my pockets. Fuck.

I hope the setback falls under total karmic payback for those seven days of nautical indulgence, nay, wastefulness.  If not, at least I won’t be surprised the next time I grow hungry.

I am just thankful that Dad sponsored my vacation.  Even if I had to hang out with his senior buddies.

The age of the average cruise passenger was 54 years old (I was told I was a rare specie).  The middle-aged and senior were aplenty, with many a child and teen to spare, and practically no one in the range between.

With a sigh, I chose to acquaint myself with the younger generation at the arcade over rounds of Guitar Hero.  At this pleasant turn, however, I heard an echo of my younger days in ignorance.

I made friends with a mature-looking seventeen-year-old Mexican. Who beat me half the time on Expert mode. And who, as karma would have it, was an annoying homophobe.

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“omg rofl your only friend on board is the official photogapher? He’s gay.”
“Huh? What makes you say that?”
“Photography. Is same category as dancing. And painting.”

Shortly after a nostalgic dialogue with my younger self, the supervisor kicked me out of the teens-only hub. Embarrassed, I said it’s no big deal, thank you, and made my exit. Briefly I recalled how much I disliked the omnipresent adult chaperone of my younger days, and shrugged the incident off as fair karma. Touché.

My unusual decision to be sociable for one day apparently planted good karmic seeds.  On board the ship I made friends with Italians, Americans (from Tennessee, bless them), a Jamaican, and handfuls of Filipino employees. Our sous chef, Dennis, was only too excited to prepare sinigang na sugpo and lechon for us on our last day.  Yes, we tipped heavily.

"You might say pounding is my job."

“I mint coins for tourists.  You might say pounding is my job.”

Ashore, I enjoyed meeting more new people, who were eye candy to rival Northern Europe’s bright flowers and intricate architecture.  Among them a shy coin minter, and a historic waiter.

The Estonian waiter who looked like a chubby Edward Norton (more like Russell Crowe, he argued) was dashing in his medieval tunic and tights. I could listen to his Finnish-English accent forever.  One more pint of mead and I would have professed my undying love.

But my favorite person was on board the ship–the aforementioned (EDIT: heterosexual) photographer: a tall, pale, dark blue-eyed Serbian skinhead just a couple years my senior. I wouldn’t have looked at him twice (I’m drawn to facial hair, just ask my fiancé), except that he was overly insistent in helping me figure out the map.

He had a habit of staring intently at me, as though expecting a disappearing act. His dark blue gaze, intelligent and not a little bit adoring, held mine. It was surreal.

My single friends would be happy to know he is a teacher in philosophy and theology, an artist, a Sandman fan, a nomadic citizen of the world, and has nose and tongue piercings. In my world, he’d fit right in.

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“Did you just call me ‘interesting’ or ‘interested’?”
(true story, and quite valid)

Three things I learned from our refreshing conversation:

  1. Live for the now. All experiences, good and bad, deserve your attention. Devour them all.
  2. It’s not your job to effect change in the world, but you can change yourself, then observe the difference around you.
  3. As you grow older (wiser), you become less affected by the environment, more accepting of others, because you also become more accepting of yourself.

How two strangers came to chat like old friends escapes me.  And like old friends, we parted with renewed spirit and an easy ‘goodbye.’

Even now his intense blue gaze fades from memory, as does the deep azure of the distant Baltic Sea.  But the karmic experience is tattooed on my mind forever.

Yoga taught me that all I see, hear, perceive in the world around me is coming from me, not at me.  In other words, I see my own reflection. I hear echoes of my own thoughts. The only way I can even understand anything is because I have caused or effected the same in the past.

Like a spreading fungus, I’m finally growing self-awareness, and karma is pouring down on me a torrent of important life lessons I’ve missed.

Karma is as real as Newton’s Third Law of Motion (action-reaction). When we repeatedly think, say, and/or act on ideas, the subconscious mind builds a habit. All of these instances (“seeds”) are planted for later surveillance. We can never say when these seeds will ripen, but the universe guarantees there will be repercussions. The reaction will come around to you, one way or another.

I know I will continue to struggle with this idea. I’m a rational person (given, yes, to strong bursts of emotion) and so cannot completely swallow the concept of karma. I would greatly prefer if I could measure it (with a timer, a thermometer, and a weather vane).

But it’s obvious to me now that I can’t deny you, Karma. And so the best I can do is live in the now, and right now plant good seeds in my garden.

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