Book Launch – The Transmigrant

You might not know this, but I’m not just a travel blogger. When work and responsibilities keep me stranded at home, I travel through the world by putting words on paper. (Well, a screen, but you get what I mean.)

The-Transmigrant-ebook cover

Many of the places I’ve been to and the people I’ve met have influenced my writing. For example, the Naga Sadhus in India, the fishermen in Puri, and the Buddhist monks in Bodhgaya. As you can tell, India has made a huge impact on me, so no wonder that when I finally published a novel, it was about Jesus in India. Long story short, it’s based on a true story uncovered by Russian adventurer Nicholas Notovitch in 1880, who found scrolls  in Ladakh about Jesus studying Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Pakistan, and Nepal during those so-called “lost years.”

More a spiritual tale than a religious story, I hope you will check it out. It’s been compared to Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha.

Praise for the book includes:

“An inspired narrative and vibrant living tapestry that humanizes Jesus in a sensitive and delicate way”

“A captivating and powerfully related account of Jesus’ early years.”

“[This] vivid narrative deploys the methods of fiction to get at a truth about Jesus that history too often ignores.”

“The Transmigrant will transport you to that ancient cosmos of biblical times with such searing vividness, you will swear the story is unfolding before your very eyes, you will swear that you are witnessing a cinematic event.”

Buy it on Amazon



The Things I Will Not Miss (aka Home Sweet Home)

I love traveling. I enjoy every flight, every bus or train ride, however uncomfortable, because I can’t wait to see the next place. No place is ever the way you imagined it. Every town has its unique flavor, all nationalities their characteristics and each corner of the world its distinct rhythm. However, when you’re on the road for months at the time, some things do get tiring. Sometimes you do miss the ease of your home, where everything works the way you’re used to (not necessarily better) and where you know exactly what to expect.

Now that we are on our way home, I would like to share a list of the things I like the least about traveling, as a deterrent for the next time I start dreaming about going away on a long trip.


Squat toilets

Any country in the third world has them. Basically it’s hole in the floor, and you have to point your butt in the correct position to be able to aim right into the sewer. Not only is in an uncomfortable way to go to the loo, it’s almost impossible not to get pee on your shoes and pants.


Chinese public bathrooms

The Chinese have by far the most disgusting public toilets in the world. Nowhere in Africa, South America or other Asian countries are they quite as bad as here.

a) In one place, the ladies’ room consisted of a cement floor with three holes next to each other. To go to the bathroom, you had drop your pants, squat down and pee, while looking at two other women’s naked behinds while they were doing their own business.

b) Another Chinese toilet had a gutter running the length of the men’s and women’s bathrooms, where everyone’s “private” space was divided only by a low wall. You had to aim for the gutter, while looking at everyone else’s poop and pee flow past beneath you.



Shower over the toilet

Budget hotel rooms usually have some quirks, wherever you are in the world. Often, the bathroom is the strangest place. In the Middle East, Africa and Asia, many bathrooms are so small that the shower head is placed directly over the toilet, so that you can save time by taking a shower while pooping. Clever!



Menus in Strange Scripts

For an omnivore it shouldn’t matter – just point and hope for the best (no pig’s snout, no chicken feet, no live turtle). For a vegetarian, however, it’s a bit more complicated, especially in places where no one speaks English. The first thing you have to learn is how to say “I don’t eat meat,” and look quizzically at the waiter while pointing at the menu. And if you’re lucky, the waiter understands that “meat” includes chicken, ham and hot dogs, not just beef.



Currency Calculations

If you only travel to one or two countries, currencies are fun. But when you reach your eleventh country in five months, you start getting confused. How much does something really cost? In Nepal, a dollar gets you 96 rupees. In India, 60. In Sri Lanka, 130. Everything seems to cost millions in Indonesia, where 100,000 is $10 USD. In Singapore USD 1 equals SGD 1.3, in Thailand 31 Baht.

In Cambodia, it’s easy because the prices are in USD, except for the small change in Riel: If USD 1 is worth 4,000 Riel, how many Riel should you get in change if something costs $3.65?




It is fun to bargain, especially when you feel you are getting a great deal. But sometimes you just want to buy something without having to guess the price. When arriving in a new country, it’s almost impossible to figure out the cost of a taxi ride to your hotel. You always end up paying a lot more than you should, especially during the first few days.


Greasy Food

No matter how well you try to eat and how many times you ask the waiter to use oil sparingly, almost all the food you are served is swimming in grease. Even in the places that label themselves “healthy”.



Constant Planning

Again, if you’re travelling to a couple of countries, planning is fun. But reading up on another town, again, trying to figure out where to go, which area to stay in, how much a taxi should cost and where you can get decent vegetarian food ‒ it gets tiring after a while. And often, you find the coolest areas of town just before you’re about to leave.



But who am I kidding? In the end, I know none of these things will stop me from travelling in the future. When you have the travel bug, nothing will stop you from wanting to look around the next corner. Even if you have to pee in a stinking hole.

Varanasi: The Beauty and the Beast

As the early morning mist clears, it gradually reveals ancient domes and temples rising from the stone steps over the Ganges River. The sun has barely made its appearance over the horizon, and already the bells are ringing and hundreds of holy men are up to their waist in the water; reciting the Vedic verses and chanting. The hour of the day makes all the difference. It is at dawn that the gods take their bath, and that’s when entering the river allows you to become one with the divine spirit.

Forever covered by a pink haze, Varanasi looks more like a water color painting than the real thing. Its dreamlike essence attracts visitors from all over the world – tourists and photographers alike flock here to capture a drop of this illusion. But it is for the Hindus that this town really matters. Benares, as they call it, is the door to Nirvana; a release from the eternal cycle of reincarnation. If you die here and your body is burned in one of the cremation ghats, your ashes will be spilled into the river so that you become reunited with the Brahman. Luckily, there’s an alternative option for those who are still young and healthy: if you shave your head completely here, you will be handed your own personal guaranteed ticket to Paradise.


However, as you move away from the waterfront the sublime image quickly fades; Varanasi is seriously filthy. The streets are littered with garbage and excrement from the hundreds of cows, dogs and goats. With no rubbish bins, the dark alleyways become their trash receptacle. You slip and slide in the mud, trying to jump to the side as the speeding motorbikes narrowly misses you. And everywhere you look, someone is urinating against a wall or squatting down to relieve themselves. Your lungs fill with the smoke of incense, bonfires and burning bodies. The stench can be overwhelming.

It seems like everyone you meet has something to sell, often mumbled with a mouth full of red, teeth-staining tobacco. “Boat, Sir?” is the most frequent way to address foreigners, followed by “Hello Boat, very cheap.” One of Varanasi’s most popular activities is drifting along the waves of the Ganga at sunrise, watching the city waking up. Other things on sale are chai, blessings with red tika powder on your forehead, massages (men on men only, please), rickshaw rides and a bowl-shaped leaf filled with orange carnations, yellow and red tints and a candle, which can be sent out on the river as an offering to the gods.

Unfortunately, it is this greed that may slowly ruin what is still one of the most mind-blowing places in the world. Who can tell if any of the dozens of sadhus offering morning blessings are real holy men? Anyone could set up shop by the river with a blanket, the right set of accessories and a painted forehead, cashing in on the fools who are willing to part with their hard-earned money in exchange for a benediction.

But all is forgiven once you sit down to rest in the shade and just focus on the real-life spectacle playing out before you. The vibrant colors, the glittering Ganges, the absolute conviction of those who bathe in the polluted river, drink its water and never get sick.

In the end it’s the ethereal beauty of this place that triumphs over the beast that shares its magnificent abode. And you know with certainty that you will be back one day. Again and again and again.