Lately, I’ve noticed how much I’ve changed. For the better – I hope! Being solo for the past 2 months has left me in a sea of people with my senses heightened and the mentality that I must always be prepared. That’s just for starters.
I’d say that backpacking and traveling are two different stories, despite how they both coincide with each other. Your budget may be a bit different. You may look and dress differently. The mentality is also very different. I think that last point has hit the spot for me. Unlike previous family vacations where “mum” organized absolutely everything, this time, I planned, coordinated, and organized the entire trip myself! Throw budgeting in there as well!
Two continents, 5 countries, and more than a dozen cities later, I can say that I’ve survived and I’m damn proud of it! I’ll bet my parents never saw this proposal coming at them. Mind you, being the responsible daughter I am (haha!), I created a 10-page document outlining every detail of my trip you could possibly think of – emergency contacts, important document details, contact numbers of agencies/airlines, personal contacts in every country, a day-by-week-month itinerary of where I’d be in the world. After all that, I concluded that I would never be a travel agent.
So this backpacker’s mentality, you say… Let’s say I was a bit of both – a backpacker and a traveler. The first four weeks of India were hellish, the last two heaven, and Europe was just f@!#ing awesome! I transitioned from being a backpacker >> traveler >>> mix of both. (If you consider each on a spectrum, I’d happily be in the middle right now.)
The trip wasn’t a luxurious vacation, but I had the ultimate best of both lives. I roughed it out in India, doing 2 treks over 2 weeks, sleeping on the floor of a restobar one night, not showering for 8 days, eating the same meals for weeks on end, taking every form of transportation possible in India (non-AC busses in 40’C were the worst – especially when 3 men tried to fit themselves on the 2 seats next to me for 15 hours), and the list goes on.
It wasn’t a hard decision to skip the Taj Mahal (for disorientation with the organization) when the state of Gujarat had so many alluring memories. That, and the fact that the Indian way of doing business – whether in the government or organizations – tend to make the best in trying to “screw” you over. It’s like they take pride in sending tourists in circles – to hell with it! (Jet Airways requires its own blog post and the Railway system…) Let’s all be merry and say that money and/or connections will make your life much easier in this country. Been there, done that!
From hell to heaven?! After walking for 4-9 hours each day, living in sub-average conditions (even by Indian standards, according to my friends who live there), and being lead around cities in a large group of 13, staying in one place (one state, would be more correct) for 2 weeks was ideal.
Although most of the first 4 weeks with Operation Groundswell may have been extremely physically challenging and “rough,” the life skills and experiences it taught me were tremendous. I had a peek into different cultures, learned about women’s issues and problems in the education system, and had the opportunity to interact with local people and students. I learned to be more patient with the blind and deaf children, and realized the importance of communication within a team, as different personalities and different goals of each person meshed together.
The greatest lessons I learned, by far, were to be adaptable, flexible, open-minded, and highly alert. Each region in India is a bit different and when you are traveling in a group without a concrete day-to-day plan, you need to be flexible. Sometimes you could be walking around at 11pm at night finding accommodations because your jeep ride took a full 24 hours due to traffic jams, and there is no set ETA (estimated time of arrival). Hence, be adaptable. Being adaptable could mean different things: with the environment, people, culture, lifestyle, etc. This is where open-mindedness comes in. Whatever the topic may be, don’t be afraid to listen, learn, or engage. But know yourself and know the people you are with. Take caution or maybe live a little. Just know your comfort zone and do what is appropriate. (The term “appropriate” being highly subjective. Basis: Values, priorities, decision making… oh yea… it’s life, man, you’re going to encounter a lot of that!)
Enough talk and lecturing, I think it’s time I head out. I’ll end with my list of things I’ve noticed so far… There’s a bigger list somewhere in my journal and smartphone, but enjoy this list for now 🙂 Before I forget, I’d like to end by saying that at this point of my trip, I can truly say that it was a vacation (not just a personal trip) – and a hell of one too! I love how refreshing it was to go to Europe after toughing it out in India.
To read more about my trip to India, visit my tyw Goes Bollywood Blog! (Photos are now up!) To continue reading about London, here are 2 posts: 1) London: A Sample Travel Itinerary 2) A Day in London – Minus the Olympics.
A few things I’ve noticed about myself / learned:
- I’ve become a tea, chocolate, and meat addict.
- Growing passion for lounge music. (Apparently at this stage in life, I also like rock music.)
- I need at least half a day to see one museum. I love museums & galleries! (I should probably take some art history courses for fun. Online, of course!)
- I’m starting to really love healthy snacks (Mueseli, yogurt, dried fruits, nutrition bars, etc.)
- Breakfast has become one of my biggest meals of the day (Apparently small lunches, coupled with small snacks in the afternoon are much better for you anyways. Talk about food coma after a large meal… leads to un-productivity and fatigue. Hm… after work drinks vs. company lunches…which one?)
- I don’t really need Facebook, Twitter, Skype, GTalk to survive. Most of my “real” friends will contact me directly if they need me – via BBM, email, or FB Message, it seems. (FYI)
- You don’t have to read/reply to a FB message right away. (There’s something called email, people. haha. Let’s take our communication up a notch higher, kids!)
- Shit, I was just a little cocky. My apologies.
- Swearing is OK. You can’t be perfect 24/7. LOL! (“It makes you more real…[not less professional]” – friend) Just don’t make a habit, ok?
- I crave for walking and fresh air
- I actually miss walking and physical exercise when I’m at home. It feels good to have your muscles ache! Wow – what is happening to me… (“No pain. No gain.”)
- I will always pack for more than I need (When you’re budget conscious, you don’t really think about wanting to buy more, but DO weigh your pros/cons) – I bought a bunch of food in India to bring to Europe as healthy snacks or quick meals; however, I also mainly packed athletic wear for India, then did some shopping in Mumbai/Amsterdam/London to look more “normal” afterwards. There were sales, really! 50-75% off at Mango.
- “You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back.” – Steve Jobs (Continues to hold true…very true.)
- Much less worrying. What’s the worst that could happen each day? Death? Illness? There is SO MUCH in this HUGE world… how can you not CRAVE to learn more about it and all it’s INTERESTING people?
- Attentive and alert. There’s no other way.
- Generosity. I don’t even know where to begin. As such, I will save this for its own blog post.
- One beer I am willing drink: Radler. (No Weiss or anything else… Rose is ok)
- Rose wine is a mix of red and white. It’s quite nice.
- Salad with some goat cheese is delicious. (+wine is perfect)
- It doesn’t cost a lot to be happy. It’s all about your environment, lifestyle, and mindset. (+expectations)
- If you want it, GO FOR IT! (“Mind over matter.” FTW!)