Adventures In India
Bitten By The Travel Bug!
People often ask me, “When did you first get bitten by the travel bug?”
As a kid I’d fervently glean Nat Geo magazines and pore over maps and globes, memorizing geography and imagining myself exploring those foreign places.
Back in 2001, when asked during my very first day on the job during the Tech boom in Silicon Valley, if I wanted to go to India for a business trip, I literally leapt at the opportunity, “Yes!” That same morning I drove to San Francisco and got a 1-year visa, because my colleagues and I left in just two weeks.
“I am going to India!” I excitedly shared with friends and family. Some were happy for me, whilst many responded in shock or distaste, “Why do you want to go there?” Even though I was traveling for business amongst a rigorous schedule, it felt like a grand adventure.
After an 8-hour layover in Singapore, I arrived at midnight into a steamy hot Mumbai, full of electric energy, colorful saris, and aliveness in the air.
The maze of so many people and loud din at such a late hour surprised me, and I stood outside the airport soaking in the moment, when I felt a man start to grab at my suitcase. Instinctively I pulled my bag back and a little wrestling match began until I had a fist balled and was ready to punch him, “Ma’am, I am your valet!”
Whoops. He helped me transfer my luggage into the car where a driver waited for me, and I giggled inwardly, so relieved I did not hit the guy hired to assist.
There were many crash courses in cultural differences throughout that amazing week, and one of my most memorable shocks was walking amongst the abject poverty. Prior, I’d only seen outskirts of poverty during my two trips to Mexico, but nothing prepares you for the slums of Mumbai. If you’ve seen the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire” that film is a fairly accurate depiction.
When I’d emerge from the trade-show building to come and go for work, a throng of beggar children would swarm me with laughter and curious little hands reaching into my pockets. Often, I would hand them candies or a half-drunk soda can and the recipients would run like crazy, attempting to consume their gifts, before the other children could swipe it away from them. These beggar children all had adult pimps who encouraged their begging for money, and I knew not to give them any because the kids wouldn’t personally benefit.
One of the highlights from this trip was a second-class, top bunk train ride from Mumbai to Delhi, that ended up delayed and took 24 long hours to arrive. I was quite the spectacle in the train car, as second-class is reserved for local men. The train stopped often at tiny villages for passengers to embark or disembark, and when the train left without me as I snapped photos, there was quite the adventurous story that took place, which I’ll leave for another blog.
During the hectic, work-filled days, I enjoyed site-seeing wherever we could fit it in. Although I didn’t make it further south to witness the infamous Taj Mahal, my colleagues did take me to visit India Gate and the Red Fort.
Food is an adventure of its own, and you may not be surprised to learn that Indian food, from all the glorious regions, happens to be #1 on my list of culinary arts. Inspired by this journey, I have taught myself how to cook authentic Indian cuisine and could happily eat it every single day.
During my last day before catching a flight back to San Francisco, I spent the afternoon on my own and toured local markets for sari fabric, trinket gift items and of course, obliged some fresh henna tattoo designs on my arms.
India’s vast nation, incredible people, fascinating customs, ancient history and jaw-dropping scenery could take a lifetime to explore. I would be thrilled to spend 6-12 months, and I was on-course to do so in March of 2020. Just a couple days from boarding a flight to Kathmandu, Nepal, followed by planned months of exploration in India, the world locked down.
You better believe it, when travel resumes globally without our present draconian measures, I shall be one of the first to book a one-way ticket to India, complete with a year-long visa in-hand, and I’ll purposely lose myself in its wonderful lands.
When did I get first get bitten by the travel bug?
You could say I emerged from the womb eager to explore Planet Earth. If I had to name one country that whet my appetite for first-hand discovery, the answer is India.
Enjoy the Photo Gallery below.
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