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“It is when you leave everything that is familiar, and venture into the unfamiliar. This is when you find your truth”. -OneNomadWoman Like this:Like Loading…
The taste in my mouth was dry and sour, and a powerful surge of energy was building up inside of my chest. Now was the time I thought as I silently scratched my name across the papers that would make my divorce final. Coming back from Central America after a four month backpack trek, I was feeling rejuvenated and alive. I was feeling free. The amount of personal power gained from the experience, I hoped, would carry me through this process. Just then a lump began to form in the back of my throat when I looked at my soon to be ex husband sitting next to me waiting for his turn to sign. We exchanged glances that appeared to read, “I have always cared deeply for you, but we both know our journey together has ended” followed by defeated smiles to try and keep the sadness at bay.
Driving away from that cramped, dim office that smelled oddly enough like my grandmothers house, I knew my life would never be the same. Central America had lit a spark in me that was steadily growing inside. A seed of hope, of curiosity, of adventure, and of challenge was forming, but this seed came attached to ancient roots buried in the depths of my past. Hidden shadows that danced in the background of my daydreams would begin haunting me as I drove east from California. “Your mad” they told me. “Backpack around the world? Throw away all that you have worked for? And then what? How will you survive? Are you insane?” As this relentless onslaught of doubt bombarded me, I continued on, my eyes growing heavy as the day gave way to the night. The flat plains and emptiness of New Mexico seemed to understand me and my loneliness, as it also appeared empty and void of anything substantially colorful. Looking in the side view mirror, I watched as my past disappeared with the sunset, as the miles began to separate me and all that had become so familiar.
Three long days later I reached the sunshine state and into the warmth of my mothers arms. Happy to be in a place that I knew was safe, my first instinct was to have a fight with those manic shadows that rode all those miles across the country with me. A tightening in my chest and throat began to form just from the thought of these little demons, so for the day I decided to change tactics. Picking up my magical daydreaming hammock, I was off again into nature to find my answers. As the gentle breeze blew, and the hammock rocked me slowly from side to side, I looked through the trees looming above me and into the sky. Small and large puffs of clouds slowly traveled by in many different forms and as I was being hypnotized by their ease in passing, my mind drifted off…
I dreamt that I was soaring up through the sky, having sprouted large wings from my back that shimmered as if they were made of the finest silk, and I was dancing as I flew amongst the clouds. My hair appeared to float as if I were underwater and I felt weightless. This dream led to another where I was swimming through the most beautiful, crystal clear waters, but not with the awkwardness of a human, no. It was graceful and effortless, the clean, refreshing water spilling over my skin, and I wondered if this is how dolphins felt as they played. Then the dream switched yet again and I was standing on top of a mountain, surrounded by the worlds cleanest, freshest powder. Noticing the board attached to my feet, I then jumped. Sailing down the mountain, the wind nipping at my face, I flew so quietly, so precise, so fast, and again I felt free.
Returning from this daydream I opened my eyes back to the sky to see that the clouds had gone their way. All that remained was an ocean of clear blue that seemed endless and limitless. As I stared into this boundless space, feelings of excitement began to arise with the thought of the upcoming adventure that would begin again, this time starting in Europe. The sun cut through the trees and mottled bits of my hammock as I rocked and twinkled in and out of my eyes. Taking in a huge breath, and releasing it with a smile, I climbed out of my hammock knowing that this adventure was for me.
The belief that it was possible was just within my reach, and I needed to grasp it and keep it with me forever. Semi-consciously I got into my car and started driving, not really knowing where I was going until I got there – which turned out to be a tattoo parlor. Walking inside, I started running my fingers down the walls which were covered in thousands of possibilities in permanence, and was greeted by two of the towns finest inking artists within seconds. They asked me what I was in the mood for today, and I sat down in the only chair available outside of the stations and closed my eyes.
Immediately the image came to mind, the one that would end up being the symbol of the trust I would need to sustain my faith during this trip. It was simple, it was clean, it was only one word. Opening my eyes, I looked at the men and said “Believe”. This one word would end up sustaining me through so many doubts, and become a mantra of sorts as I traveled onward in search of something beautiful, something fresh and new, something…
The first lesson in this something search was found in Betzigau Germany, on a large farm in the middle of just a whole bunch of other large farms… and cows, and forests, and one very accommodating family who changed my course for the better….
Each place and it’s people on this wonderful planet have things that make it special and unique which is why I love to travel so much. India in particular has to be quite possibly the most diverse and humorous place I have been to yet with it’s great contrasts and colorful messages. Below is a list of things that so far, I have only found here…
1- You don’t have to be homeless to sleep on the streets.
It is quite common to see Indian people sleeping everywhere, and at any time of the day. From the man who runs the little shop down the road who catches cat naps onto of his ice cream cooler to another man who is perched up on the ledge outside of a building, Indian people can and will sleep anywhere as you can see.
2- You can find skin whitening cream and salons that apply it for you.
For the first time in my life, while shopping in a local grocery store, I found a huge shelf dedicated to – you guessed it – skin whitening cream. My first thought was, is that how Michael Jackson did it? Second thought was, why in the world would you want to change your skin color?? And finally my third thought was- ok so you lighten your face- that means when your naked, you have a white face and brown body? How unique!
3- Cows have the right of way and make the rules on the road.
It is said that if you hit a child with your scooter you will get a small fine and be on your way, but if you hit a cow, expect a fine, some jail time, and a bamboo massage. Cows run this place- literally. If they decide to camp out in the middle of the road – guess what? You get an unexpected break from driving and getting anywhere until they decide that you can go. It’s either that or you find a new route or off road around them!
4- Cheeseburgers come without a burger patty.
The picture on the left is a cheeseburger right? True story – just the other night some vegetarian friends and I went out to dinner. Everyone was ordering curry this and curry that, and I saw on the menu they had cheeseburgers! So naturally I ordered one as it’s been quite some time… when my “burger” arrived, it had all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo (I think it was that anyway), a burger bun… and no beef patty burger. It was explained to me that in Goa, what made it a burger was the bun. Say whaaaaaaa?!?!!
5- A head wobble can mean yes, no or maybe or something else entirely?
This one is so confusing still. It goes like this – you say to an Indian person – “Ok so I will see you tomorrow at 4pm right?” And what you get in return is a side to side head wobble which quite literally could mean anything – yes, no, maybe, I don’t know, We will see, etc.. I have resorted to asking people to please, for the love of god, say yes or no and maybe is ok too. I have since noticed that there are more than one way to wobble or bobble your head which quite honestly only adds to my confusion…
6- Everyone in India is on burner time.
If an Indian person tells you “I will be there in 10 minutes” that could mean 45 minutes, 1.5 hours, or the next day. It seems the concept of time mostly does not exist here which is fine- I am just hoping that if there is a life or death situation happening, that this rule no longer applies! This no concept of time rule is also applicable when shopping.. for example, please see only in India number 7. Personally, I never really know what time it is.. (or day/date it is for that matter) so this one is not that unusual for me…
7- You are not more important than the next person.
So many times I have been in a shop (cellphone, hardware, grocery – it doesn’t matter) and am greeted and being helped with whatever request I have, when in the middle of helping me, the attendant will start helping someone else, and then another, and possibly another until the return to finish with me. At first I thought that it was that they were just not that interested in helping me in particular until it happened again and again everywhere I went. Basically the queue rule does not exist here – which is cool, just plan your trips a little longer
8- The standing only limit signs in the buses are just there for laughs.
Every bus I have been on so far in India (and that has been soooo many) has a standing limit number painted inside at the front that usually ranges from 8-18 people. The funny thing is, I have never seen less than 30 people crammed into the aisle between the seats of every bus, and every time this happens, I just have to laugh.
9- You can walk out of a pharmacy with a fatal medication without a prescription.
The school I volunteer at right now in Goa India has a dog that wanders its yard. I have affectionately named her “Lady”, and started feeding her breakfast and dinner everyday. She is not like other dogs in this village as she has a massive maggot infested tumor on her rear end the size of a softball. I vowed to get her treatment and took pictures of her to the local shelter and was told what medications she needed. Traveling up north, I found a pharmacy that carried the medications, and was given it over the counter without a prescription. Both medications (a horse sedative and cancer injections) can be fatal yet were given to me without the pharmacist even blinking an eye.
10- The bus signs say no smoking / no spitting.
Why do the buses need a sign like this? The no smoking – ok that one is obvious and it’s found almost everywhere in the world. But no spitting? Is there a spitting epidemic on buses here? And why? I’m still curious about this one…
11- You can see people riding on the OUTSIDE of the train.
Totally true! Sometimes it appears there are more people on the outside of the train than there are inside of it!! Is it because they need fresh air? The train has too many people? Or it’s just more fun to travel that way… you decide- or try it yourself!
12- Your shopping list of 10 items requires 10 different shops.
I’m not talking about finding a hammer, a can of tuna fish, and cotton balls in one store here although that was part of my list once. But it is quite the adventure to go shopping as you would expect to find tuna in the supermarket right? Wrong! You can find that down the street in some tiny side store. And the cotton balls at the pharmacy right? Wrong again! The upside to this is that you get to meet EVERY shop owner after two trips with your shopping list.
13- The cost of an item if your skin is pale is 3 times the normal amount.
OK maybe this is not only in India, but it sure is more common here than anywhere else and they raise the price quite high. Example: You want to buy a t-shirt and ask how much is it. They say – 700 rupees (roughly 11US) and you shake your head noooooo and start to walk away and hear them shouting at your back- “How much? How much you give me?” I don’t know why some people here assume that if your European or American that you are loaded with cash. Any ideas?
14- Your feet are never clean – ever.
Never in my life have my feet been soooo dirty – and all the time. No matter what I do, everyday when I look down, my feet are black. And every night I have to use a scrub brush to get them to look like my feet once again.. and this is a never ending process. If I wasn’t so concerned about keeping my bed sheets clean (because laundry machines are hard to come by) I would simply just give up.
This is my list of what makes India special and unlike any other place I have been to yet. Are there any places that you have been that had unusual things that surprised you? Do share using the comment section below!