You may remember that last April I finally got my nose pierced for my birthday. My husband and I were both thinking that if this is what I do on my 39th birthday, God only knows what’s going to happen on my 40th. I’m starting to think I know.
I want to go to India. By myself. WTF???
Well, the by myself part is kind of just how it would happen, as my husband doesn’t really get much vacation time and everyone else I know thinks this is crazy and wouldn’t or couldn’t drop everything for a week in India. Plus, he would hate it there. He doesn’t do much walking anymore because his back/knees/feet bother him and hates crowds. The everyday frustrations of international travel would make the trip miserable for him. Really, he is a recliner man these days because he works hard and just wants to rest – not run through terminals and deal with language barriers and foreign currency. I respect that, but it means I am going to have to tackle this solo.
It’s a daunting idea. Every time I start researching things to think about, what to know, what to do ahead of time, all the options, all the cautions, I just get overwhelmed and have to stop. Then I start thinking about it all over again. What the hell do I know about India? Pretty much nothing except that I want to go there. I know a student employee from India and I asked him where I should go there if I can only go once in my life. Without hesitation he said Mumbai. So Mumbai (Bombay) it is.
I’m currently in the overwhelmed stage so I thought I would take these few minutes in between work and more work to think about what all I need to figure out. I’m sure I’ll be updating this as I figure out more (or come up with more questions). If anyone out there has traveled to India (specifically Mumbai), feel free to comment.
When: If I want to go around my actual birthday, I’ve got about 4 months and time is running out fast as far as things like visa applications and reasonable airplane tickets are concerned. It will be stinkin’ hot and humid at that time, but sounds about like summer in the south here. Any further into the spring/summer and you risk running into monsoon season which I do NOT want to do.
Visas: I need a tourist visa which I think costs @$75 (depending on the accuracy of the web site I saw that on). I found the company that processes them and the application(s) through the US State Department website. That was the first thing that overwhelmed me – the application process AND all the dire government warnings. I’m a pretty paranoid traveler to begin with since I do so much of it solo but that site really ratcheted up the panic. Basically, if you are an American woman travelling alone, they don’t want you going to India. But if you do, you are pretty much supposed to cower in your hotel room the whole time. Don’t even look out the window so you can’t accidentally make eye contact. Seriously – the State Dept. site is a downer.
Health Issues: As in, what shots (if any) should I get? Out of those, which ones CAN I get with an auto-immune illness (no live viruses)? How far before the trip should I get them? Should I take some antibiotics with me? What kind of things should I pack to combat the dreaded “Delhi Belly”? Does my health insurance cover anything happening out of the country (they barely cover anything out of the state)? What kind of travel insurance do I get? Where is the best medical facility to go to? If I want to call home, do I have to get a new phone or can Verizon unlock mine to work overseas?
Clothing: I feel pretty good about this one. I read a lot of things on Journeywoman.com specific to India. Many said to pack very little clothing and buy some traditional clothing there like a salwar kameez in cotton or silk or a saree (sari) so you blend a little better and don’t get as much unwanted male attention. Also wearing sunglasses to avoid sending the wrong messages to men with accidental eye contact. Like I need an excuse to shop!
Assertiveness: Believe it or not, this concerns me. I can be perfectly assertive in this country because I know culturally what I can push and how. I don’t know that in other places but I have heard that in India I will need to be very pushy (literally) to be seen and heard when I need something. Part of that comes from being a female and part comes from being someplace so incredibly crowded. When I’m someplace completely new to me and I can remember this, I try to make myself stand back, be patient, and observe to find out how things are done by locals. Mumbai sounds like the kind of place where there’s not much space to stand back and what I observe may not be something I’m willing to do. Stories about the train system make me think I’ll never be forceful enough to buy a ticket or even get on or off the train successfully! I’m also terrible at haggling but I just really have to make myself get better at it since so much of the world operates this way. I love getting a deal, but for me it’s not fun to argue over prices.
Culture Shock: There’s really no way to prepare for this, even when you know what’s coming. I just mention it because I know it will be huge. HUGE.
So what the hell am I doing??? I don’t know, but I’ve lived long enough to realize that when I get an idea in my head like this, it’s not going away. Eventually it’s going to happen.