Beauty in the breakdowns: we survived the rickshaw run

by Kim on February 10, 2013 · 53 comments

We have made it to the finish line.

There is duct tape holding our spark plug in place and our brake pads gave out thirty minutes ago. We have limped to the finish line, really. But that doesn’t matter because we are here.

We have driven over 3,000 kilometers through the rural villages and roaring cities of India in a rickshaw. And now we have arrived where we intended with all of our limbs still attached to our bodies. We survived! It already seems impossible that we did it. But we did it.

We pull into the grassy lot behind the finish line. There are a few other rickshaw runners loitering about. A man sells chai from the back of his bicycle. We unceremoniously sign the arrivals board. Someone hands us each a certificate to signify our achievement.

Rickshaw run completion certificates

Rickshaw Run finish line chai

Arrivals board

Team photo at rickshaw run finish line

I wander the grounds looking for a place to turn in the rickshaw keys. I don’t want this responsibility anymore. I feel like I have just spent two weeks babysitting the worlds worst child and now her parents have returned to fetch her. “TAKE HER BACK,” I want to scream, “I WILL NEVER WATCH THAT BRAT AGAIN!

Except, I would watch her again. I know this in a heartbeat. Because even when this crazy adventure was bad it was still good. It was frustrating and shocking and exhausting and sad, but it was always also good.

And the best parts were magical. The best parts cracked me open and sprinkled a mystical dust over my life. The best parts reaffirmed for me that people are good, that life is big and beautiful even in its small moments, and that money doesn’t have a thing to do with our capacity to give.

It must be said. The best parts of this journey changed my life.

__________

The Adventurists are throwing a party for the rickshaw runners tonight. There’s a dance floor and a buffet dinner and a bar. There are dozens of round tables with clean, white tablecloths. It’s like a wedding reception filled with hundreds of guests that have black grime caked to their skin and rosy, wind-burned cheeks.

We order Kingfishers and reunite with some of our favorite teams. We see the Cowabunga Dudes, who saved us on day one. It’s like seeing old friends. They were the first in a long line of people who helped us along the way. It’s fun to hear about their journey. 

We hear the tales of the crashes and the breakdowns. Some teams haven’t even made it to Cochin yet. One team is in the hospital in Goa with a raging case of Delhi Belly. So, it could have been worse. Still, I haven’t met another team who broke down as much as we did.

We sit around a table under a humid Indian sky. It is 1 a.m. then 2 a.m. and we are drinking Kingfishers and laughing. I feel giddy with happiness and freedom. All of these people completed the same daunting task but we had such different experiences. One thing, though, we shared: India took care of us all.

__________

Back in my “normal” life, before I chucked it all to come explore the world, I rarely left the comfort of my routine. I woke up, ate breakfast, and went to work. I went to the same gym and the same restaurants and took the same bus. I shopped at the same stores. I met the same people for lunch. It’s nice, that kind of life, because it’s predictable and minimizes stress. But it doesn’t leave much room for the unexpected.

Back in my old life if my rickshaw car broke down I’d call my husband or my friends or AAA. The universe didn’t need to work its magic because I had people to lean on. I sent out a subliminal message: Don’t worry universe, I’ve got this covered.

And so I never let the universe surprise me, and I never let other people surprise me. I’d built my life into a navigable, manageable thing.

But out here in the world, and out there on the Rickshaw Run, I had to trust in the magic of things. I had to hope that the right person would come along at the right time. I had to believe that help would arrive. I had to put my trust in the unexplainable beauty of what? Chance? Coincidence? God? I don’t know what the word is but I know that it is. And so I laid my trust down like an open palm, like an offering. I said, “Take it.” And then I was blown away with kindness.

It is perhaps the biggest lesson that I have learned from traveling and the lesson that I re-learned over and over again during the Rickshaw Run: You have to trust. And you have to give people the room to surprise you.

__________

I agreed to do the Rickshaw Run because it scared me. I agreed to do it because I wasn’t sure that I could do it but I knew that if I did do it the journey would reward me.

And I did it.

And it did reward me.

I was rewarded with a renewed faith in myself and how I handle situations that are hard and stressful and uncertain. I was rewarded with the blessings of the kindness and generosity of the people of India who took us in and welcomed us and helped us when we needed helping. That does something to you, being the receiver of that kind of kindness.

I was rewarded with the sights and sounds of a beautiful, colorful, complicated country that I would not have seen from a plane or a train or a tourist car and that I certainly never would have seen had I never taken a chance on myself and stepped away from the comforts of my home.

I was rewarded by Mother India who held out her arms to me, pulled me to her breast and said “Welcome, child. You are welcomed here.”

And, perhaps best of all, I was rewarded with the chance to do a hard thing: To accept love, to accept kindness, and to say simply, humbly,  “thank you.”

Boy in Jaisalmer

Thank you

A man who helped in Ahmedabad

Thank you

Girls in a tiny village we passed through

Thank you

A woman from Rajasthan

Thank you

Strangers fix our rickshaw

Thank you

School kids in Kerala

Thank you

The men who helped us on our second night

Thank you

A man who blessed us at a palace

Thank you

Cafe Coffee Day mechanic and friends

Thank you

Kids in India

Thank you

__________

And speaking of thank you. I want to thank our Rickshaw Run sponsors Wimdu, Atlas Cruises and Tours, Sykes Cottages, HostelBookers and KEEN who helped make this journey possible.

And thank you to the 83 wonderful people who donated to FRANK Water in support of Team Namaste Outta My Way. You raised over $4,500 for FRANK Water. Your donations help them continue to set up sustainable, community-owned clean water projects in some of the poorest villages in India.

Thank you.

Read my other posts about the Rickshaw Run here.

 

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Candace February 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

What a beautiful final post about your epic run…and not gonna lie – I totally teared up at all the photos saying “Thank you” to the people you met along the way. What a brilliant idea – I just wish I’d thought to do the same :)

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hey, you can steal it ;) Glad you liked the post Candace.

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Patti February 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

And thank you Kim, for sharing your journey. One of my most favorite things about traveling is the freedom. A sense of not having to answer to anyone other than yourself (and your partner). A sense of no obligations, no phones, no messages, no stress other than OMG I just got left behind on the Paris Metro and it’s scary. I cannot wait to make that sense of freedom a permanent part of our lives. You’ve already embraced that freedom in your new life and what a wonderful gift you gave yourself. Good for you for taking a leap of faith!

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 7:47 pm

The freedom is truly an amazing thing. Honestly, what will I do when/if I have to give it up? I worry about that sometimes but then I’m like ‘Doh! Kim, just enjoy it. The future doesn’t concern you now!’ But, yes, it is such a blessing

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Sarah Somewhere February 10, 2013 at 3:29 pm

And thank YOU Kim! For not killing us and for taking me on the journey all over again with this GORGEOUS post. Truly stunning! I have to agree, my world is bigger now. Onwards and upwards!!

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Onwards and upwards! Such an adventure…

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) February 10, 2013 at 5:15 pm

It’s so amazing to see what shaking up your life will bring you once you allow all the pieces to (marginally) settle once again. Of course there’s going to be some dust as a result, but all the fundamental pieces are still there, just in different positions, and you so you are different as a result.

On this trip so far, I have not had anything as dramatic as India or the RR come my way, but it’s true that wherever you are, there will always be bad moments, and good ones too. Tony & I have had our share on the road, and I think the key now is that while a year ago, I likely would have fixated on the bad, now I am able to prioritize the good and realize that if the bad made those moments possible, then it was a fair trade!

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm

That is such a beautiful visual Steph –> It’s so amazing to see what shaking up your life will bring you once you allow all the pieces to (marginally) settle once again. Of course there’s going to be some dust as a result, but all the fundamental pieces are still there, just in different positions, and you so you are different as a result.

Can’t agree more. I always hear this quote about how people learn and grow the most from the ages 1-5 and then again in college. Well, I feel like the same was for me but that it is happening AGAIN. And this time I am an adult so I am seeing and learning things with adult eyes. I’m growing, wiser, I think. Like, the change is taking place on the inside. The change is taking place on how I handle situations and other people and myself. You know what I mean?

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Cheryl Dinan February 10, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Kim, I almost feel that I rode across India
with you. I know it was a great experience for you and I am glad that you are more settled now. Love, Mom

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Thanks Mom!

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Tracy February 10, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Kim, this is such a great post, I feel like I experience the race with you all, thanks for taking me there :)

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Thanks Tracy. I’m glad you could come along for the ride ;)

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TammyOnTheMove February 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Well done for completing this crazy ride. You are three very brave women. I don’t know if I had the guts to do it! I will be in India next month and cannot wait now that I have followed your adventure. So what’s next for you?

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Kim February 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Tammy, enjoy India!!! We are here through March (in south Goa). If you come this way get in touch, maybe we can meet for a drink! After India we’re heading to Nepal.

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Hannah February 11, 2013 at 12:31 am

This was beautiful Kim, and the perfect tribute to our many guardian angels. And I must take a moment to thank YOU for embarking on this epic journey with me in the first place; for your fearless driving, your shared love of feeding skinny dogs, your patient ear and your continued friendship. Thank you for everything xxx

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 9:02 am

And thank YOU for being the crazy woman who dreamed it up! XO India would NOT be the same without you.

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Pauline February 11, 2013 at 7:34 am

Hi Kim,

Just wanted to say that was VERY beautifully written! I read your other posts for the rickshaw run and it’s brought a smile to my face when I saw how India took care of you and your team mates. Truly an amazing experience! Thanks for being so sincere, honest, and not sugar-coating the experience.

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

Thanks Pauline! It was a grand adventure filled with ups and downs… but in the end it was so wonderful. I’m glad I did it and I’d do it again!

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Tyrhone February 11, 2013 at 7:49 am

Great wrap up Kim, I really like the thank you photos at the end. Congrats on a journey well written.

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

“journey well written” I like that!

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Carmel February 11, 2013 at 10:01 am

You already know how I feel about this post. So glad you’re willing to share so many intimate moments.

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 10:30 pm

XOXO. Thinking of you this week and always.

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Steve C February 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Your finish line chapter makes me want to go buy a six pack of Kingfisher and celebrate with you! You’ll have no problem writing your book, as all you’ll need to do is package up all your blogs in one file and presto, done!

Next? Enjoy your “recharge” time on the beach in Goa. Life on the road is a series of time-outs. Now that you’ve experienced India, I can’t wait ’till I read your posts when you get to Nepal. It’s also a magical place.

Stay well and make sure the fish you eat is fresh!

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Thanks Steve! If I ever write that book I will drink a Kingfisher with everyone who buys it!

I love this: “life on the road is a series of time-outs.” So true. I am very much enjoying our time-out in Goa. (But also looking forward to Nepal!)

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Manda February 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Kim, thank you for your honest posts about the ricksahw run, its the honesty in your written word that keeps me coming back to your blog.
Im glad that thru all the ups and downs you were able to find the beauty in all that you experienced. Its what life truly is all about!!

You have inspired me to deffinately want to take part in this event at some point in the near future!!

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Thanks Manda :) You should ABSOLUTELY do the Rickshaw Run. I can’t recommend it enough. And if you have any questions about it feel free to pick my brain.

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Jen Ryder February 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Kim, I have loved reading your posts on the Rickshaw Run! I had never heard of it before, and it’s such a cool idea! This post especially inspired me. I love what you said: “You have to trust. And you have to give people the room to surprise you.” That is so true in travel and in life, and something I need to remember. Can’t wait to read about what comes next for you!

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Kim February 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Thanks Jen! I have to remind myself to give people the room to surprise me every day. It’s especially true with people you have known for a long time.

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Mari February 11, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Thank you, Kim. Truly a beautiful post to sum up your journey. Love it and share the wisdom although it is so hard to forget even while away and especially at home. Hope to bring a piece of it back though once I return from this trip. ( Just arived to the U.S. couple of days ago, nine days left in Hawaii before heading to the mainland, yay :)

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Kim February 12, 2013 at 3:19 am

Enjoy home! Home can be just another stop on our travels, you know? It’s good to look at old things with new eyes. Thanks for your kind words!

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Lize-Mare Le Roux February 12, 2013 at 7:25 am

Love this post Kim! :)

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Kim February 12, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Lize-Mare!

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Fran February 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

I love this post, esp. this one line:
´´The best parts cracked me open and sprinkled a mystical dust over my life.´´
So well said about travel — and esp. India.
Enjoy Cochin!
F

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Kim February 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Thanks Fran. Cochin was nice! How is life back in NY?

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Amanda February 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

BEAUTIFUL! Totally weepy from the photo thank you’s! What an amazing adventure. YOU! DID! IT!!!!

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Kim February 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I did it!!! XOXO

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Rajib Aditya February 13, 2013 at 10:20 am

Congratulations! You may want to take it easy for the rest of your stay in the country. I enjoyed being on the journey with you- your posts were absolutely “live”.

Cheers!

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Kim February 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Thanks Rajib! We’ve got a few blissful months of taking it easy, then a few more weeks of traveling through.

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Amanda February 14, 2013 at 9:38 pm

So awesome that you guys completed this journey. And even more awesome to read about how the experience touched and changed you.

The world sure is an amazing place.

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Kim February 14, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Yes, it is. Glad you enjoyed the stories Amanda.

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Paul (globalhelpswap) February 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Wow, what a beautiful post! You really summed up travel in it. We felt and feel exactly the same about leaving the comfort zone and letting the universe do it’s thing. That sense of freedom is what we strive for.

Congratulations on completing the journey!

Paul x

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Kim February 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Thanks Paul!

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Ali February 21, 2013 at 4:59 am

Beautiful post, Kim! I’m glad you survived, and I’m so glad you got so much out of this experience. I’m so glad the universe came in and helped you out when you needed it.

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Kim February 21, 2013 at 8:30 am

Thanks Ali. It was such a great experience (and a wonderful way to be introduced to India)

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Vicki - Way Out Far February 24, 2013 at 5:45 am

Great pictures! We did the Cochin – Shillong run in 2012 for our honeymoon. Best trip ever!

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Kim February 24, 2013 at 6:46 am

Wow- BEST HONEYMOON EVER! So cool. Someone who did our run got engaged in the rickshaw. Cute.

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Pratibha July 24, 2013 at 8:52 am

This sounds crazy but well done you!

PS: sorry for the late comment but I recently came across your blog and truly enjoyed reading this series.

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Kim July 24, 2013 at 9:23 am

It was crazy and also amazing. I love the experience more with each passing day (as I mull over the memories). Thank you for reading!

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Jignesh April 21, 2014 at 7:23 am

Thank you for expressing your gratitude to my country. It’s people like you who should be ambassadors to India. It’s people like you who should take lead in developing cross cultural understanding between nations, only to make people realize that we are all united in our differences. I am so glad that you are able to see past the abject poverty, filth and the terrible infrastructure. Great post and good luck for your future endeavors.

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:33 am

Hi Jignesh, I think you have a wonderful country. I love India and I know I will be back to visit.

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