In a modern-day international Kerouacian adventure, Oklahoma City resident Clark Taylor recently returned to town after a yearlong stint as a globe-trotting traveler.
Fate revealed itself on a summer day in 2008 when he met a girl at a music festival. After a lengthy conversation and an exchange of phone numbers, he decided to join her on her trip across half the globe. The two are now dating.
Taylor bought a round-the-world air ticket and jetted off to Switzerland in mid-January 2009 to meet an old neighbor from home.
Through CouchSurfing, an international nonprofit travel network, he spent nothing on accommodations throughout his trip. “Surfers,” as the guests are called, stay in a host’s home for free for a mutually agreed-upon time period.
After spending about a month in Switzerland, he continued on to India.
“India was a lot better than people would expect going over there,” Taylor said. “Everyone I met was really hospitable. When you meet one Indian, you’re friends with them all.”
Among other things, he worked at a call center in Mumbai, an experience he describes as being “incredibly eye-opening”; toured temples and ruins; went on a camel safari; and heard the Dalai Lama speak.
One day, while beach-bumming in Goa, an oceanside Indian city known for its frenzy of burned-out hippies, Taylor was presented with the unique opportunity of being an extra in a Bollywood movie.
Along with around 30 other travelers, he and his girlfriend were paid $100 a day to be in the film. By comparison, the Indian extras were paid only $10 a day.
“They were just looking for random white people on the beach. They gave us free hotels, free train tickets and tons of free food,” Taylor said. “We got up at 5 o’clock every morning, got dressed and basically just sat around all day.”
While still working on the film, Taylor and a group of extras stayed at a guest house in Pushkar, a haven for religious pilgrims, for a couple of weeks. From there, he and his girlfriend left for Kashmir, the disputed region split between northwest India and Pakistan.
“I’m a big skier and heard that the slopes were still open in Kashmir, so I had to go,” he said.
What he didn’t count on encountering in the beautiful mountain landscape was the hostility and military influence throughout the region.
“There were Indian military on every street corner. We were riding on the bus one day, and we looked out the window to see a Kashmiri man getting beat up by the military,” Taylor said. “We didn’t realize how bad the violence was until our host showed us a video on his cell phone. Bombings and tear gas are everyday occurrences.”
Departing India, the travelers trekked across more than five other Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The rest of Asia proved to be somewhat disastrous, however. Taylor’s passport was stolen and his girlfriend was robbed on an overnight bus while in Vietnam. After getting a new passport just before his visa was up, the two flew down to Australia to meet up with another friend.
“We went from spending $5 or $10 a day in India to spending a ton of money in Australia. It was more expensive there than it is in the U.S.,” Taylor said.
The entire trip cost more than $3,000, a relatively small amount for a year’s worth of travel.
Although he returned home in February, Taylor is already planning his next international trip, this time to South America.
“I plan to go back to (Oklahoma State University) in the fall. I’m going to work and save some money and hopefully go on my big trip as soon as I graduate,” he said. “Emily Hopkins