It’s hard to believe it’s already June! Having now been on the road for four and half months, time is starting to blend and merge together like Dalí’s ‘Persistence of Memory’ painting. My last few days in Thailand were spent gathering with my fellow Remote Years, celebrating my birthday and saying goodbye to a few of my very closest friends on the trip who were leaving the program for one reason or another. It was also bittersweet for me, as I was leaving the group for a month to take a solo trip to India for five weeks after THE most incredible time in Thailand.
I celebrated my birthday with a bang, checking off my ‘throw myself a party’ bucket list item for the year. My friend Mikey organized a fabulous night at Maggie Choo’s – a speakeasy that takes after an old opium den. My fabulous Remote Year Family and I danced the night away with flowing pink champagne while I wore a peacock gown that I had made back in Hoi An, Vietnam at Yaly Couture because, why not?! You never know when you need a gown!
Hangovers and Heartache
The very next day, hangover in hand, I and several of my fellow Remotes participated in a flash mob marriage proposal of epic proportions for one of our dear travel family members – Will – to his boyfriend, Brandon, whom he had not seen in four months! The surprise took place in front of a mall entrance, where Will had organized a professional dance group to serenade Brandon while a few friends came out carrying ‘Marry Me’ signs. He said yes, and you can see the full recap video here, but it was a sight to behold and participate in!
May 25th was filled with more goodbyes during a memory-filled closing party for Thailand. It reminded me of studying abroad and the tear-filled goodbyes to all the friends I’d made and were now leaving. The hardest part, though, was knowing that so many people were going home to see their families, and I wasn’t. It was the first time during the trip where I really wanted to go home and hug my family more than anything. I would have been thrilled to go home to L.A. and just lay in my own bed, snuggling with my cat, Saffie, eating the world’s best food made by the world’s best mom. Plus, I was leaving Thailand where I had just had the best time of my life, and there was so much more to see and do. Oh, the heartache! There was some of that too (the love kind) – but not my own. In fact, I left with a heart so full and happy it was aching from being filled with joy.
Rethinking My Solo Trip
Instead of going home, I had pre-booked a five-week solo trip to India before I even left for Remote Year. It sounded fabulous when I booked the trip in January but at the end of last week, I must admit, I was dreading the trip. First off, being in Asia has been intense, and India is a pure assault on the senses. I wasn’t sure I was mentally prepared for it. I was also a tad nervous to be traveling alone for five weeks after having spent the past near five months sharing an apartment or, in the case of side trips, rooms with friends. In addition, the last time I came to India in 2013, I went with a group of fellow Haas MBA students and we lived with a local family for three weeks during the trip. I had an incredible time on that trip – primarily because of the group I was with and the family we stayed with. Finally, my Remote Year friends were all heading to Europe – Serbia to be specific. Summer in Europe is my absolute favorite thing in life and, here I was, heading to India, during their hottest time of year – monsoon season. WTF was I thinking?!
Falling in Love with India All Over Again
After six hours of flying from Bangkok, I arrived in Delhi, and my fears were immediately put at ease. The airport is one of the nicest I have ever seen, and my driver, Bhanwar, greeted me upon arrival. I booked my trip through Incredible Real India tours who came highly recommended, and they have been nothing but superb thus far from trip planning on short notice to patience with my requests! I’m still only a few days in, and every day has been action packed. From visiting forts, palaces, and mosques to the most beautiful building in the world (I can attest) – the Taj Mahal, I have been blown away. The sites are incredible, the food is delicious, and the people are kind. You just have to get used to the noise and the smells. Once you learn to zen out and just enjoy everything going on, you start to see how amazing this country is.
Finding Calm Amidst the Chaos
One of my favorite sites to visit thus far was the Ghandi Memorial Park. It is a calm oasis in the middle of Delhi with spectacular grounds. During my visit, I was practically the only one in the park. I spent over an hour reading several quotes from Gandhi, scattered on plaques throughout the park. It was a great reminder of what’s important in life and also what great leadership looks like.
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” – Gandhi
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” – Gandhi
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Gandhi
Romantic Getaway for One
So how has it been traveling on my own, as a female, in India? Well, thus far, I haven’t felt lonely at all despite traveling on my own. And, I haven’t really been alone at all. I met up with a friend and former Haas classmate of mine, Paroma, for dinner one evening in Delhi where she now lives. I’m also making new friends every day in the form of selfie-friends. I’m apparently a big hit in India, and have now participated in hundreds of ‘selfies’ with families, groups of teenagers, babies, and servers. Everyone has been incredibly polite – though sometimes running and screaming ‘Selfie’ at me can be a bit jarring when you’re trying to enjoy the peace and quiet within a mosque.
I have not felt unsafe either, at least during this first part of my trip. Practicing safety is key. For instance, I don’t go out alone at night. If I do go out, it’s typically with a guide or my driver – who carries my bag. No one has tried to grab me. The biggest annoyance has been people trying to get me to pay for guide services at all of the monuments. Despite my best efforts of saying no, I have the hardest time with kids. Their English is excellent, they’re incredibly knowledgeable, and it usually costs $4-6 for a guide who can also double as a bodygaurd of sorts. I also cover my legs and shoulders when walking through bazaars, which tend to be full of mostly men.
I’ve typically spent the mornings and evenings at my hotel, wherever I might be. My routine usually includes journaling, exercising, working on INA +ILIA, writing/editing, or catching up with family. I usually get a table for one at the hotel restaurant, where I bring my Kindle or create social media posts. I’m cherishing this alone time since I know it won’t last, and I really do enjoy just being with myself:)
Rather than write about my daily list of activities, I’ll leave you with a photo gallery of all the things I’ve done up through Agra. Enjoy and reach out with questions!