Since returning from Kerala, I’ve been deep into several projects — yes, the Muse has been active — so I haven’t yet completed my India blog. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these few entries from my month-long solo adventure. I promise more soon!
My Notebook Entry #1: BOOM, BABY!
It started when I had a bad fall in 2015 that left me with a head injury. During my (nearly 2 years) of healing, my swirling brain kept seeing colorful scarves, silks of magenta and scarlet and persimmon. India, my mind told me as if it was reminding me of something I’d forgotten. When you're better, go to India. It sounded like a beautiful idea, not the least bit far-fetched, and I'd fall back into that fuzzy, concussed sleep, dreaming of the Arabian Sea and monkeys and ashrams.
Now, I’m actually going! They say whoever travels in India comes back transformed. So I'm letting go. No planned outcomes. No social mission. No tour, no overdoing it, no trying to see all the vastness of India in one trip. Nope, just being in the place that’s right for me now--soaking, noticing, appreciating, keeping my five senses alive to the experience.
I'll hold tight to my passport, phone and money. I'll stick to my plan of lots of slow train travel to homestays in the south, in Kerala, surrounded by tea plantations, and wild animal reserves. I’ll plan to breathe, get massages, write, watch the monkeys and birds, and learn a few new ideas that may inspire me on my continued journey. My trip ends with two weeks at a meditation center with yoga and Ayurvedic study.
My travel companion can’t make it…so I decided to start this blog. That way you guys—you readers—can be my travel buddies along the way. I did so much solitary traveling (mostly in Europe) when I was young, now I’d rather have someone to share my experiences. In advance, I thank you for listening. I'll be leaving on November 19, so keep me company!
My Notebook Entry #2 - ADVENTURES IN PACKING
I’m packing for my India trip. Or rather, I’ve got stuff scattered all over the living room that I will soon be cramming, jamming, and compacting into one carry-on bag and one teeny-tiny 14” x 22” suitcase that United is making me check through to Mumbai. Damn. What is it with all these annoying luggage rules and charges? Back in the 70’s when I was a flight attendant for TWA, we gave travelers and their baggage r-e-s-p-e-c-t and plenty of room on board. For free. (Excuse me, so sorry, that was me being cranky. I’ll now get back on point.)
What to bring is easy: everything. Pillow, sheet, mosquito net, mosquito spray, mosquito repel towelettes, yoga mat, yoga clothes, clothes for mountain mornings, clothes for 95° days by the Arabian Sea, my whole medicine cabinet, just in case of itches, rashes, pink eye, allergies, stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, scrapes, deep wounds, hideous gashes, bites from any of the 87 venomous snakes found in India, Bengal tiger attacks…
OK, stop. I’ve done tons of international travel--often alone--throughout my life, including when I lugged a backpack the size of a baby elephant across Europe for a year—me and half the entire North American 60’s generation. How did we decide what to pack back then? Did we think other travelers would share stuff if they had something we forgot to bring? So why is this trip different? The packing such an ordeal?
Is it because I’ve lost confidence in my brain power or body strength from these past few years of recuperating? Is it simply because I’m older? By 65 or 70 we ought to be considerably more cautious, right? We ought to be taking proper group tours, not venturing off solo, arriving alone in the Mumbai airport at midnight, speeding through the Indian dark on an overnight train to Kozhikode, sharing a sleeping car with strangers.
And then Zing! I remember—I was scared then, too. About being young and naïve. About forgetting stuff. About getting stuff stolen. About being lonely. I had that scared/thrilled anticipation of stepping out of my comfort zone that makes life exciting and keeps life exciting. Yes, I’m older and slower now, but also wiser: not so naïve; well-prepared for all the screaming red itches and nasty stomach rumbles that come with adventure travel. As for people, I’ve always found generous, trustworthy folks who shared my journeys along the way. There are thieves and con artists and rapists, too--I know that, I’ve been there, and I turn my back on them. Nothing I pack will keep away the boogieman. Pack too much, and it creates heavy lifting, confusion, and just more stuff to keep an eye on.
So, at this point it’s not so much about packing—it’s more a matter of unpacking. I’ll buy clothes at the markets. Helps the global economy and delights me. I’ll leave the yoga mat. It’s India--of course they will have yoga mats! And yes, they’ll also have doctors and pharmacies and ayurvedic healers.
I’m so glad my hunger for adventure has not diminished. I still want to experience extraordinary places in the world (my world, my earth) and diverse people of the world (my sisters, my brothers). If that’s unconventional after 65, then I figure this is a fine time in my life to be unconventional.
Here are some of the items I’ve packed that are specific to this trip:
Mosquito repel cloths, bracelets, net, and spray
A 1961 copy of the Bhagavad Gita
Mini water purification kit
Small antiseptic towel
Extension cord and surge protector
Roll of toilet paper
Antiseptic gel (6 small)
Pocket-sized notebook, pens, colored pencils, eraser
Mini-chocolate bars (for me + spontaneous gifts)
And, yes, half my medicine chest (including Pepto + Imodium)
My Notebook Entry #3 - Leaving
On Sunday November 19th, I left for India. I plan to spend a month submerged in writing, yoga, adventure, and contemplation. The timing might seem peculiar--Thanksgiving in India--but my trip fell into place naturally, so I’m going with the flow. Besides, I’ve always liked quiet spots (a monastery, a cabin in the Rockies) for sanctuary from the holiday season shopping mess.
It’s not as if I’m escaping a trauma at home or running away with a guru or undergoing a clandestine surgical procedure (although any of those would make for a good story, no?) After recently healing from a head injury, I’m simply moving into a new chapter in my personal evolution, and India seems to be calling. I’m letting my heart lead the way. That said, my head is clear enough to keep me far away from Delhi’s toxic smog--I’ll be in the south.
I hope to share my discoveries and revelations with you on this solo journey. I haven’t exactly worked out all the quirks of using social media technology (not the boomer generation’s strongest suit), so I’m being an irresponsible jerk and putting that on my husband Rick’s to-do list while I’m gone, along with…let’s see…unbox and set up Christmas, string twinkle lights, fix that crawling nest of front room extension cords, and oh, maybe find a bigger house for us to expand into. Do you think he’ll still be here when I get back?
I wish you all a very beautiful and Happy Thanksgiving, and hope you’ll keep me company on my travels!