I guess one way to tell that your trip to India is over is that you stop having to take malaria pills, and for me that happened over a month ago. But in fact my trip did not feel “over” until I finished writing about it. And now that I have done that too, I long to call the whole experience back to the present, but I am also eager to start thinking about my next writing projects, and my next adventures.
This post is a summary of some lingering thoughts I’ve had while reflecting on my three weeks in India, which was also my first major solo trip abroad – thoughts that I didn’t really cover in the previous posts, but ones that are too brief and transitory to merit their own posts.
The Best Part
A few people have asked me what was the “best part” of my trip to India, and I honestly can’t give an answer to that question. Instead of disparate memories of different locations – Delhi, the Taj Mahal, Pushkar, the wildlife reserve in the Arivalli Hills – it all merges together in my head to become one big wonderful thing called “India.” Or, more specifically, “Some of Northwestern India.” It’s a feeling. And a good one. I want to go back.
A few people have also asked me where I’m going next – now that clearly I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. For a while I was thinking “Spain,” because I’ve been longing to go to Spain (and France, and Germany, and Italy, and Greece) since I was in university, or even before that. I studied French and Spanish In school and keep trying to brush up on those languages in case I get a chance to use them.
But now I’m thinking that if I’m going to be more flexible (mentally as well as physically) in the next thirty years than I will be in the thirty years after that, and since travelling through Europe (and Australia and New Zealand) is likely to be easier on an older person than travelling through other parts of the world, maybe I should go to the more challenging places first. So I think Peru is my answer at the moment. Or Cambodia.
I didn’t have jet lag on the way to India: when I got to Delhi, I was ready to hit the pavement. That may have been because I was in a new place and was full of curiosity, excitement, and a bit of fear. Or maybe it was because after travelling for 36 hours, I arrived just in time to go to bed. I just got up the next morning and started going. And kept going. And going.
On the way back, I arrived in Toronto at noon after about the same number of hours of travel time – and in the same direction, by the way: I’d gone to India via Hong Kong but I came back via Brussels. I tried to stay awake until night arrived when I got home but it was impossible. I fell asleep against my will at about 4 p.m. and I was totally messed up for about a week.
I have since read that jet lag may be as much related to digestion as to sleeping patterns. That makes some sense to me because when I’d wake up in the middle of the night during that week after my return, I was ravenous.
The pundits with the food-and-jet-lag theory suggest eating nothing while in transit. That would certainly be a variation on this trip, where I felt as though I were eating constantly while I was getting to India and getting home again. As soon as I’d board a plane I’d get dinner, and then four hours later I’d get breakfast: two planes each way. And on the layovers between flights (seven hours in Hong Kong and four in Brussels), I ate. What else was there to do?
I guess it couldn’t hurt to try to fast while flying. Consuming lots of water also seems to be a good idea.
Of course, if I go to Peru next time, jet lag won’t be a problem: Peru is in the same time zone as Toronto. And I think I can use some of my Spanish there.
How long should a trip to one country be?
Three week feels like about the minimum amount of time it takes to start to get a sense of a new place – longer would be better, but may not be possible if you have a real life underway back home and aren’t able to just become permanently itinerant.
I think you need to stay in a new place for long enough that what looks really strange when you arrive starts to look normal: for me, in India, this included the sight of cattle wandering the roadways, and of women in saris riding side-saddle on the backs of motorcycles with their arms wrapped around the drivers (I saw this everywhere, from the centre of the city to the middle of the desert). I got so used to these things that I barely noticed them by the time we left.
Ongoing effects of my trip to India
I could go on for pages on this subject, but I can also summarize fairly briefly my sense of what has changed in me as a result of my visit to India.
I have always been attracted to the multifaceted “idea” of India but now I feel as though the country is a part of me. Granted, it’s a small part; in three short weeks I was only able to nibble at the edges of that vast empire. But India is with me now in a way it never was before, and as long as my brain is still functional, I will never have to let it go. When someone says the word “Mumbai” to me, it has a personal meaning now. When they say “chai-wallah,” I can see one in my mind’s eye. The word “ghat” has a physical representation in my mind that no photograph can give me – I’ve seen several, including one reserved for a family of elephants, and walked down one in Pushkar in bare feet. I know how to pronounce “Udaipur” properly, and I know what really great fish vindaloo tastes like at an outside table in Baga.
I also find myself far more interested in Indian news than I was before. I have followed with interest an excellent series on caste and women in India in the Globe and Mail. I was intrigued by the story of a man named Anna Hazare who went on a hunger strike to protest corruption in India’s government. I reflected on how similar were the frustration of speakers of the Konkani language in Goa at the increasing influence of English to the dismay expressed by aboriginals and Quebecois in Canada. When I see the word “India” in the news, I read.
Yes, did name this blog to echo the title of Eat. Pray. Love. I wanted to stress that I was not going to India to try to find anything inside myself — I was going there to learn about India. And I did.
Here are links to the earlier posts on my India travel blog, in case you missed them:
- Delhi, pop. 11 million (22 in greater metro area_: where I sort of got into a street fight
- Agra, pop. 1.5 million: Taj Mahal and a wonderful Red Fort
- Jaipur, 3.1 million, a wrong turn, and a lot of fabulous scenery
- Pushkar, pop. 14,000 except during the annual camel fair, when it can rise to 150,000
- Udaipur 609,000: The City of Lakes
- Ranakpur, a village in close proximity to a wildlife reserve and a magnificent Jain temple
- Mumbai 12,5 million (extended pop 22 million). Mumbai is Mumbai. Although it used to be Bombay
- Goa, an Indian state with Portuguese roots
Then there were the posts about
- Stomach problems
- The night train
- Travelling with people half your age and less
- Shopping and Shipping
This is only the first, I hope, of many travel blogs. When I’m not travelling (which is, obviously, most of the time), I do write about other things that catch my interest here at I’m All Write, so subscribe if you think you might be interested. And I write about writing-related things at The Militant Writer.
Until the next post, नमस्ते (namaste).
* * * * *