Paradoxically, I leave India not because I’m tired of travelling but because I could stay in India for a long time!
Having started off being afraid of travelling in India, I’ve become comfortable here. Over time, I’ve found a way to move around with relative ease and comfort, whether it’s by air, train, coach, local bus or cabs.
My initial return flight was booked, somewhat arbitrarily, for the end of February, three months after arriving. I knew I could change my flight. As my return flight day approached, I had to decide: do I return to London or continue this amazing adventure in India?
If you’ve followed my journey, you’ll know that it has exceeded all my expectations – not only what I have done but the care-free spontaneity of my journey. I have had such a wonderful time, seen so many things that I’d never dreamed of, and met some lovely people, both Indian and fellow travellers. The kindness of friends, relatives and strangers never ceased to amaze me.
I have been to most of the places on my initial list, which was largely a collection of recommendations for India in books and websites. I added some places after meeting fellow travellers.
There has been a logic to my journey based on advice from Jasbir, who has been one of my advisors throughout the trip. I thank him again for his incredible kindness and generosity. The plan, which I broadly followed with a few aberrations, was to start in Goa and move southwards, primarily to avoid the lethal pollution in the North, especially Delhi. Then around mid-January to start heading North as the pollution abated. The path I actually took is detailed on a map. I have recorded (via GPS) every step of my trip and will post this later.
So, should I stay or should I go? If I stay to visit the few places still on my list, why not extend the list to include places I’d excluded for this trip, such as Kolkata and others on the East coast? These places had been excluded not because I didn’t want to see them but because I wanted to keep the initial list manageable. After all, it was probably too ambitious in the first place!
My appetite for traveling was still there. Travelling light suited me. There were many places left to discover! In a chat with Jasbir, when I finally visited him in Chandigarh, he said I’d have to return to India at least twice: in winter to see the rest of the South and in spring/autumn to hike in the mountains of the North!
If I extended my trip for the few places still on my list, there would be nothing stopping me extending further until spring to hike in the mountains and possibly until next winter too to go to unvisited places in the South!
I was mindful of becoming too greedy, of wanting to swallow the whole of India in one go!
Of course, there was also the minor detail that the people I love, my family and friends, were in the UK!
Having mentioned food so often (how can you not: this is India!), I liken the journey to a meal: it started slowly in Gujarat, followed by a more interesting main course in the South, and finished with a triple dessert of Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple! That takes some beating!
If you throw into the mix that Helene had come over for the last two weeks of February, her departure would roughly coincide with my booked departure date. Sharing my final two weeks with Helene would be a good way to finish and remember the trip.
Taking everything mentioned above into account, with much umming and ahhing, it was with a heavy heart that I decided to count my blessings and return home. Having made the decision, I felt a sense of accomplishment and completeness about the improvised journey I had taken and closure for what was my first time in India.
The rest of India will have to wait for another day. I will reflect further on this trip and about how I want to travel the next time. Returning at a later date will let me see a newer India, which is rapidly changing. It’s good to have things to look forward to 😊