There are limitless options to consider with the creation of such an adventure.
What I’ve designed for this stint is a mixed bag of tricks consisting of planes, trains, automobiles, havellis, hotels, hostels and homestays. Portions have been booked in advance but a large chunk of this ride will involve winging it. The good news is I am traveling off-season, making the winging, much less disconcerting. The reason it’s off? It’s bloody hot. Temperatures hover in the high ninety to hundred plus degree range, and oh yes…it also runs into monsoon season. The hidden gem is that tourism is ridiculously low, which for someone who works in the travel industry with a sincere aversion to people, is a blessing. The downside? As a Western female traveling alone I might as well announce my presence by strolling into town riding atop Ganesha’s back.
The Thought Process:
Last year I made the pivotal decision to leave my career and for the first time, explore a part of the world I'd never experienced. Because of the short lead-time life took its toll and my five-month trip to Southeast Asia developed into a raving shit-storm. I had no time to research my destinations and was pitifully under-prepared for the warm welcome I received. I made a ton of mistakes. Pollution and poverty were abundant; I was heavily manipulated in every country visited. My senses were completely overloaded. Propelled down the tracks of a third world roller coaster, I was yanked and twisted at every turn and ready to hurl at any moment. When the ride was finally over, upon regaining footing on American soil, the only thought in my head was, “I have got to do that again!” It was far too much fun.
This trip will be different.
Admittedly, I’m a terrible tourist. I rarely travel with a guidebook (or umbrella); my strategy is to show up (tah-dah!) and hope for the best. Few expectations are typically projected upon my destinations and I am therefore, rarely disappointed.
Last year I employed a small travel company plan my India leg. The company turned out to be a twenty-something guy out of Bombay that quit his engineering job to do something he really enjoyed. Respecting his choice and the fact that he took the obligation off of my hands, he was hired. He [mostly] made pretty solid decisions with the month I handed over to him. As predicted, when the month was over, left to my own devices I spent a week finding a comfortable hang out and then spent three weeks contemplating how long it would take a pile of cow shit to dissipate under the torrid rain. I didn’t leave until it was time to board a flight.
This time around, feeling well equipped to handle what the backpacking circuit has to throw at me and a fairly solid understanding of the navigational process, I’m risking walking this puppy solo.
I’m a creature of habit, perhaps because of the stability it gives me in my crafted world of everything but. So, for every couple weeks of Boogie-time I’ve got about two weeks of Chill-time built into my itinerary. It's designed to settle back, make friends and observe life passing. This pleases me. As does a bit of the unknown.
One of my obscure skills is a knack for building spreadsheets and my itinerary is an anal-retentive display of said talent. I’ve got the destinations plotted and the major flights and trains booked. The choices in between may be pulled from a dyslexic bag of tricks as the situation dictates.
My sister Abby possesses a copy of my plans. Just in case my primary objective to stay out of prison goes terribly awry she can reasonably pinpoint where I am and quickly rally a Save my Sister campaign. Just to be safe, a collection should probably be started now, or at the very least begin a Peg the Date pool.
My mother has an interesting relationship with plants. She forgets about them for stretches on end and then furtively overwaters in an attempt to compensate. Like mother, like daughter. While I’ve got a remarkably green thumb, this is however, the relationship I have with my body.
Oscillating between heavy partying and meditative juice cleanses I’ve attempted to prepare myself physically as best as I can. The flip-flopping between the epitome of health and rendering my body uninhabitable is the closest thing to balance I am capable of achieving. After decades of practice, the regime is second nature.
Five months on the road is pretty intense. Access to organic produce is limited and for health reasons it’s best to eat primarily cooked food. This is a departure from my mainly raw food diet. Pollution is another factor that impacts health on the road. These are developing countries and there isn’t a whole lot of regulation when it comes to emissions; in certain cities it can be stifling at best. To battle the elements I’ve got a killer multi-vitamin and digestive enzymes. Oh yes, and VERY good mosquito repellant and sun-screen. Immunizations are in check and I’ve got travel health insurance; if necessary I can be air lifted to the land of modern medicine.
Last year, because of the short-term nature of the decision to leave my job it was everything I could do just to catch my flight. I didn’t have time to prepare and was far too busy to even get excited.
This journey is the completely opposite; I own it. The itinerary is mine. The destinations are solid and my confidence high. I’ve got a general idea of what to expect from a cultural perspective and I’ve even made space to re-connect with a few friends I met during my last spin around this merry-go-round.
I don’t think anything can truly prepare someone for the poverty that exists in the parts of the world I’ll be visiting. The depravation is devastating and the begging can be fierce. Internal arrangements must be made to deal with the sadness one feels at the tragedy of it all. There is a very harsh reality playing out on the other side of this planet. Even if it is uncomfortable, facing it is necessary and understanding it is even more so. While it may sound strange, there is beauty in the suffering and the experience cannot possibly leave one unchanged. I’m as mentally prepared as I can be.
Zen -> Boogie -> Chill -> Boogie -> Chill -> Boogie -> Chill -> Unplanned --->