1) Jonesboro, Georgia, U.S.A
I was born and raised in the United States. Due to my American passport, I had the opportunity to travel the world without having to work much for visas, and though my parents and I fought a lot growing up, I never grew up worrying about money. This gave me the opportunity to live a life of travel, largely by teaching online, for various virtual companies, and during this time, I grew the courage to write.
2) Mysore, Karnataka
Mysore is the place that my grandmother calls home. It has been my gate of entry point to India since 1995. I consider it a second home. It is known for its history as the seat of the capital of the Mysore Empire, the great home of the Wodeyars, and the Mysore Palace, one of the architectural beauties of India. I consider it largely the place my family goes once a year to and chills. Since I’ve started traveling, I’ve started making Mysore more and more of a base.
3) New York, New York
The lights, the actions, the smells, and the sounds. When you think of New York, you most likely think of these things, whereas for me, I tend to think of the time I first lived all alone and by myself. I was a New York University Student from September 2008 to December 2011 (Usually American colleges last for four years, but because I had taken certain AP classes, I was eligible to graduate early).
4) Madrid, Spain
I was an exchange student in Madrid between September 2010 and July 2011. During my time studying at the University of Autonoma Madrid, I was surrounded by people from Spain and Latin America and many other countries of the world. I started to slowly see the world with less nationalized eyes. I saw people less for how French or Turkish or Puerto Rican they acted, and I began to see them more and more for the person whom they were.
5) Lisbon, Portugal
I have ended up trying to live in Portugal three times in my life. The first time was when I was in early 2012, in Coimbra. I had come here immediately after graduating from NYU, with the hopes of finding a place to base myself in a city I had no interest in. Then, I tried to live in Porto, the second biggest city of Portugal, but people made fun of the way I spoke Portuguese, and the pressure I felt after made it hard for me to want to live there longer.
6) Sao Paulo + Florianopolis, Brasil
Finally my father gave me the right to earn a life for myself. As I left my home, I was convinced I could go to Latin America, easily get a job, and without any hard work, become independent.
7) Cuzco, Peru
I would say most of my formative experiences were in Peru. Cuzco was the major center of the Incan empire between the 13th and the 16th century. The Spanish took a lot of the resources and gold from the city during the time of colonialism, and they built their churches and palaces over the stone temples and houses of the Incans. While this may have been a sad era for most of the indigenous world, it at least made Cuzco an architectural delight. I fell in love with the sandy colors of the city, and I felt like I could become good room-mates with my couchsurfers. I ended up calling Cuzco my home for a good three months.
8) New Delhi, India
The sweltering pollution, their tameless clouds… it is the smog which often defines our narrative of contemporary Delhi, which is a shame, because when I have chosen to inhabit the city – for a couple of months in between a couple of weeks of 2012, a couple of weeks of 2013, and a couple of weeks in 2019 – I have found the city equally as breathtaking for its architecture, and for its culture.
8) Tokyo, Japan
In early 2013, I saw more or less most of the major Asian countries. While China, South Korea, and Taiwan each had their own merits, the moment I traveled in Japan, I felt like I needed to live there, and then. It was most likely because when I was little, I really loved Japanese culture, and I coudln’t help imagining the Japan of my animes, where cherry blossoms floated in the air and girls and boys skipped around in black buttoned school uniforms. I stayed in Japan between July and September 2013. I would learn to realize how little the Japan of my imagination matched the Japan of reality.
9) Malindi, Kenya
Most people see Malindi as a small and boring beachside resort town. I think it’s special, but I mostly because I wrote the best draft of we of the forsaken world there… I also discovered its hidden beauty accidentally. I was previously more interested in Lamu, a more secluded and traditional Swahili town, and it was the place I first wanted to go to when I returned to Nairobi. The bus ticket dealer convinced me it was cheaper to go from Nairobi to Malindi and then to buy a ticket from Malindi to Lamu, but he most probably wanted me to use his bus service. I got on the bus, and a random person from outside of the bus realized I was a foreigner and suddenly came on to ask me for money.
10) Istanbul, Turkey
I lived in Istanbul between the months of April and December in 2014. Istanbul is the biggest city of Turkey and is divided into a European and Asian side, and these two sides themselves are a conglomeration of many different neighborhoods. Just like New York, Istanbul is an incredibly cosmopolitan city, but the reasons as to why it is cosmopolitan is different. For many centuries, Istanbul was seiged by various different empires and religions, resulting in each and every neighborhood having the architecture of its own country. You can often feel as though you are traveling inside of the different parts of Asia and Europe itself just by traversing the city.
11) Jogjakarta, Indonesia
In 2015, after spending time between January and April in my grandmother’s house in Mysore I decided to go to Indonesia. While I was traveling through Indonesia, I was enamored by its green rice paddies, the shadow puppetry, the batik, and above all, the mixture of Indian, Islamic, and Pacific culture embedded in its spirit. Out of all of the cities I had seen in Indonesia, I felt most like returning to Jogjakarta, the cultural and educational capital of the island of Java. It only took me a week of staying there to feel like I could live there a year. I lasted from April until about September of that year.
12) Bangalore, India
In order to brush up on my Kannada, and spend time with my family, I spent some months in Bangalore in 2016. Bangalore is one of India’s most coveted big cities, due to its temperate weather and base of Indian IT operations. It wasn’t the easiest time of my life. Beyond Bangalore’s insane traffic (which has gotten better over the last few years thanks to the metro), spread-out distances, and lack of aesthetically interesting neighbourhoods (save for JP Nagar, Indira Nagar, and the area around MG Road, it tends to be all suburbs), I found Bangalore not particularly inspiring. Me and my relatives also tended to have a lot of difference in mentality, and this caused a lot of problems between us. I did find myself learning a lot of Kannada, and this ended up being the reason why I came back to Bangalore in early 2019, to work on my Kannada-language travelogue Tirugaatha. I think Bangalore has been very kind to me when it comes to the sharing of its resources, and I think it has been a wonderful place to improve my language skills, but there are plenty of other places in the world I prefer.
13) Shanghai, China
Shanghai is not only China’s biggest city, it is one of the biggest cities in the world. The population is over 30 million, and so one commonly sees people everywhere. Shanghai is also extremely developed, with a metro that can take you anywhere and everyhere, and people crammed into the most modern and posh of apartment buildings. Shanghai seemed so wonderful on the surface that for the first few weeks I was extremely satisfied with my decision to live there.
14) Moscow, Russia
Moscow is Russia’s capital, a city of twelve million people, one of the biggest cities in the world. The architecture is a mix of Soviet and European structures, and great intellectuals such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, or Bulgakov had called it home. To see their houses will fill any artist with inspiration. A lot of students from all over the world come to Moscow, giving the city an international touch. I came from Shanghai between the months of July and December 2017. Being a hub of both business and thought, Moscow had a lot to offer. It was of the centres of one of the world’s biggest countries, and as a result had people from all over the world, and all over Russia. I made friends of countless inter-Russian nationalities. I also felt deep in the heart of an empire that for some has been forgotten. I am proud to say that Mother Russia is one of my favourite countries. And, had I not lived in Moscow, I might have the opportunity to get to know a subcontinent that is extremely diverse, and rarely thought of by the outside world as such.
15) Mumbai, India
It wasn’t an easy decision for me to move from Moscow to Mumbai in 2018. For several years since I started traveling, I had the feeling that India would be the place I would finally settle, but I wanted to go to Cairo and Paris beforehand in order to learn French and Arabic, as well as travel the world for the sake of promoting my first novel. However, since 2015, after a handful of months in another country, I would miss the colors and feelings of India.
16) Paris, France
Paris, one of the world’s eternal cities. I came there for two months during Mumbai’s monsoon season, and was blown away by the peerless architecture, and the neverending options for the artistic mind. This largely ranged from free art museums, to a lot of outside performances, to libraries and cemeteries which helped spark the creativity of some of literature’s greatest minds. I think Paris is a city for anyone who is an apprentice to their writing. I found myself waking up every morning inspired and creative, just because of the residue of the artists who had once lived there filling my own lungs.
17) Cairo, Egypt
Very few countries can match Egypt in terms of chaos and contrast (I assure India is usually the one that is probably most likely to come up to others from a Western background, but anyways). In the middle-class suburbs of Cairo, it is common to share the street space with herds goats, stray dogs, and piles of trash. The air has so many grains of pollution in it that it is rare to see a clear sky. And, there are few green spaces, for walking or jogging. I had a lot of fights with people, from my landlord to the random people who tried to cheat me, and these conflicts, which seemed to come out of nowhere, wore at my patience, and my self-esteem Nevertheless, for the three months that I worked on the Arabic language, I found Cairo the aptest place to do so, and over time, I found many things about it to like.
18) Melbourne, Australia
In 2018, I started seriously considering going back to school. I largely applied to schools in the UK, but when I got accepted to the University of Melbourne, I thought, I liked Melbourne when I visited it in 2012, and it’s a rising arts hub. I liked the idea of living in Melbourne more than I did some of the other cities which housed the schools I had gotten into. So, I decided to sign up for their Masters in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing.