Reflections on Month One
Leaving home for this trip of a lifetime was so exciting, and yet also one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Sometimes I think it’s irritating for me to complain about things like this – many people would love to be doing what I’m doing right now – but if I lied and said everything was easy as pie, this blog would not be authentic.
The scared feeling started the weekend before I left. I had convinced myself that I had a bad reaction to Dukoral, and that was why I was nauseous and had no appetite. In hindsight, while I don’t think the Dukoral helped, I’m pretty sure my symptoms were a physical manifestation of stress. I had so many people to say goodbye too, and was realizing how many comforts of home I would be without. I would not sleep in the same place for more than a few nights again until… May. I would not see my family again until… May. I would not see my boyfriend for several months, which is a big deal when the longest you’ve been apart over your 5-year relationship is 3 weeks. I would not have access to my room, to all my stuff in one place, nicely organized until… May. All of a sudden, I felt crazy. What was I doing? Why was I going to India? I know so many people go traveling on long trips and live out of a backpack… But maybe I wasn’t one of those people?
It was hard saying goodbye, but I’m glad I pushed through the fear and the tears. The first morning I woke up in India I still had a fleeting moment of, “what have I done,” but that quickly passed once we hopped in the car and started cruising through the hills. I’ve been homesick a bit, in particular when I have been sick, tired, or sitting in a train station for what felt like a week. But I chalk these up to normal occurrences on a backpacking trip. I’ve already learned so much about myself, having had so much time to sit, think, and reflect. I’ve also had time to think about how good this has been, and will continue to be, for me. I’m often one to do what is comfortable and familiar. It’s good to push beyond that sometimes, as you’ll often find fun, adventure, and excitement.
I’m glad we started in India. We landed and, boom, there I was, way out of my comfort zone. By the time I was leaving, I felt like an expert, and have developed a confidence and learned many lessons that I’m sure will continue to serve me as I travel in Southeast Asia. I was also able to learn so much about a culture that I didn’t know much about, and I learned it all by living it.
India: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
India is an incredible country, that is so large and varying in its people, culture, foods, and customs that I’m reminded of how much varies across the provinces of Canada. There are common threads of course, but in particular we noticed that the people and their treatment of tourists varied the most. We met some wonderful people including our first driver Shafiq, our hosts on the Houseboat, the people who invited us for lunch on the tea plantation, Rignam’s roommates Ronnie and Philip, our new travel buddy Julie, the awesome owners at the Renuka Hotel, our travel agent Om, the guys who ran the camel trek, the Punjabi police, the boat driver in Varanasi, and many more I’m sure I’m forgetting. The schoolchildren and youngsters we would see on our walks or tuk-tuk rides would flash us their beautiful smiles, wave, and offer a jolly, “hello!”
I had a really difficult time getting used to being stared at so much. I was particularly bothered on long train rides in sleeper class, when I felt like every time I woke up someone had their eyes trained on me. Their stares were unrelenting, and I could often feel many eyes on me. Then there are the smells: animal excrement and garbage fires (i.e. burning plastic) are everywhere. We also had some stressful experiences; being taken for a crazy ride in a tuk-tuk halfway around Delhi was one of them. Traveling in India is not for the faint of heart.
India is still very clearly a developing country. There are no safety standards on the roads, construction sites, or really anywhere. The income gap is significant between the haves and the have-nots. India is also a man’s world. Men hold most of the jobs, and women mostly stay in the homes.
I knew India was a struggling developing country, but that did not prepare me for how many destitute people I would see. There are many beggars, yes. But there are so many more beggars with physical deformities that were painful to see, let alone how I’m sure they feel trying to cope with them. Worse, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of social assistance to help these people. Similarly, many of the dogs are incredibly sick, with their insides protruding from their bottoms. The human and animal struggle and disease you see is hard to swallow. It’s also hard to know that by giving them money you aren’t really helping to solve any problems.
I know that every country has their problems, and these are just my observations from spending 5 weeks traveling through India. Some countries are just better at hiding their issues. I talked to a police officer at a train station in India who was under the impression that every Canadian is wealthy and educated. Sadly, this is not the case.
I’ve included photos in this post that have not otherwise made it into the blog, and that I think provide a picture to what it was like simply traveling in India, in between the beautiful scenery and tourist attractions (because there is a LOT in between).
I hope that those who have been reading are enjoying following my adventures, and I thank you for reading. I’m really happy that I’ve been writing lots as I go along, partially for my own purposes as I will be able to look back after my trip and be reminded of what I saw, what I thought, and how I felt. I’m totally hooked on blogging at this point, and find myself composing posts in my head!
That being said, it is getting a little lonely out here in blog-land! I’ve been getting lots of likes (again – thank you!), but would love to hear your comments. What do you like and want to hear more of? What would you like to see less of? Hey, a little constructive criticism couldn’t hurt.
Thanks again for reading!