When I first turned up in Greece a few months ago, I had the idea that after spending some weeks there, I would be flying back to Africa to continue the trip that Daniel and I had originally planned. But months passed in Greece and I started to get my bearings as a solo traveler when I learned that Daniel was definitely not rejoining me (he was off chasing love in Italy – but that is his story to tell some day). So I spent some time reflecting on what I would most like to do with my remaining travel months, given the new situation.
And I was surprised to find that I heard Asia calling, not Africa.
Sunset on Goa beach
I so enjoyed the years I spent living in Africa, and I would love to go back and see more countries at some point, but at this time, I decided that I wanted to go somewhere new.
For me, I realized that returning to Africa would be going backwards in a way, retracing steps I’ve already taken (especially because I know I wouldn’t be able to travel in Africa without making a stop in Benin to visit old friends, whom I miss dearly). I would have loved to do it, because that time in my life was so important to me and it also seemed familiar, as opposed to Asia which is completely new to me. But ultimately, I want to move forward, to experience new things, venture to the unknown instead of dwelling in what is familiar and comfortable.
And sometimes you just have to leave the past in the past.
Already five years ago
So I chose to continue east instead of going back west. And I set my sights on India.
I’ve always wanted to visit India – I was captivated by the photos and stories from this diverse country for years. It seems like a place that is very real. A place where one can see clearly what it means to be human. And, of course, Indian food is pretty incredible. I always say that at least half of the point of traveling is to eat new and delicious food in different places.
I flew from Greece to Goa, India in a 24-hour journey consisting of 4 flights (Greece –> Romania –> Dubai –> Goa). It was long, but the price was less than what you can pay to fly across the US, so it seemed worth the extra time
The plane dropped below the clouds and I saw India come into a hazy focus. Dark green forests alternating with water, and light brown dirt roads and houses of varying sizes. Pollution is bad in India and the day I flew in, it had rained and the smog seemed to be trapped beneath the clouds, so I couldn’t see the ground very clearly. When I finally stepped off the plane in Goa, I had the familiar feeling of walking into a wall of thick, humid, hot air.
Ah, back in the tropics.
I was already sweating as I carried my backpack through the airport, got my 60-day visa for India and my passport stamped, withdrew some rupees from the airport ATM, and pulled out the directions for getting to the AirBnB that I had reserved for that night.
Leaving the airport, there was a rush of taxi and rickshaw drivers trying to feast on the fresh blood of new visitors to their country. They know that foreigners exiting the airport are the most likely to drastically overpay for transportation. You’re exhausted, you have luggage, and maybe you’ve never been to the country (like me) and you don’t know how much things usually cost. Some travelers are offended that people try to take advantage of them in this way, but I don’t begrudge the drivers seizing the opportunity to make some extra money for their families. I’m sure I would do the same, were I in their position.
It was a bit overwhelming, the rush of people, the heat, humidity, and so many new things, but I had some information from my AirBnB host that helped me get the right price to her place in a trustworthy taxi. The fifteen minute ride reminded me of what it’s like to be in the developing world – old cars, bumpy and dusty roads, traffic laws that are more like guidelines, and lots of horns blaring.
Out the window, I watched as we bounced past small shops with packets of useful items hanging from corrugated metal roofs, women in brightly colored clothing, full-sized cows that were strolling along the road nonchalantly, small dirt roads that darted off from the main road, old men hanging out in front of the shops and groups of kids playing barefoot in the streets. My eyes took it all in hungrily, and I felt part of myself relax in recognition of something familiar.
I’ve missed this kind of world.
India is of course quite different from the African countries I’ve visited, but there are some similarities. And in a strange way, being here feels a bit like being home. India feels so much less different from Benin or Uganda than Morocco did, even though India is thousands of miles away and Morocco shares a continent with those countries.
My five days in Goa were spent almost exclusively at the beach. After somewhat accidentally spending the majority of winter in Europe, I was so excited for warm weather and swimming in the ocean, which was gloriously warm and so pleasant for swimming.
Since then, I’ve been to three different cities and I am quickly falling in love with India. I only planned to spend one month here when I arrived – I was hoping to also visit Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam – but I have a feeling I will stay here for the full two months that my visa allows.
There is so much to explore here, I feel like I could spend years traveling India and still not experience everything.
Short post today but here are a few pictures:
Climbing 900 stairs to see a sunrise above the town
So much amazing food here
Mumbai has amazing architecture
Monkeys watching the sunset
Coconut water straight from the coconut:)
Sunset scene by Pushkar Lake