For 5 1/2 months, I traveled through Costa Rica and Southeast Asia. I came home and hurdled through a Door County summer without finding time to write a single blog post. Now, after another 5 1/2 months, I’m back on the road…to southeast India.
I didn’t think I would be leaving again so soon. I intended to be home through the holidays and jet off someplace warm in January, skipping February and March. Glimpse changed my plans in early August by naming me one of 10 “correspondents” or travel writers, for their fall program. This includes a small stipend and publication of two essays on their website – an affiliate of travel website giant Matador.
To apply, I pitched a trip to India. If chosen, I wanted to volunteer at a relatively established, large organization that does work in local and sustainable agriculture, reforestation and water conservation called Sadhana Forest Community. So here I am, sitting at Abu Dhabi international airport, contemplating past, present and future.
“Aren’t you excited?”
Yes, of course. Excited for a mind-blowing adventure! But knowing that any expectations are fruitless and the reality of where I am going will only set in when the plane lands and I exit those automatic doors into the already hot Indian morning – with taxi drivers yelling, waving, approaching, shoving. Excitement is sometimes hard to muster amidst every thing else: planning, goodbyes, tying up loose ends with work and life in the USA.
1. Wooo! I booked my ticket! I’m leaving the country!
2. I should order a travel guide and do some research.
3. OH MY GOD I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO.
4. Have I heard about which immunization that costs $800? Do I really need Malaria pills?
5. Why isn’t everyone I love coming with me?
6. India’s really far away from northern Wisconsin.
7. WHY IS MY BACKPACK STILL SO HEAVY?
8.Wait…I get to eat authentic curry and drink delicious chai? Back to being excited.
“You don’t know anybody there? That’s scary. I couldn’t do it.”
You do it because you have to. You do it because no one else will do it for you, and as terrifying as that can be, it’s also invigorating. It’s a powerful feeling to have navigated your way across a country that, largely, doesn’t speak your language. I’m prepared for frustrations and to be thrilled with little triumphs.
God, it’s hard! The goal is always: reduce, reduce, reduce. What do you really need? For clothing, you probably don’t need that extra dress, or more than 3 shirts, 2 skirts (that extend below the knee, at least for more conservative counties) and one pair of shorts. Always think about climate – what’s the weather like where you’re going, but also – what’s the weather like across the county? In northern India, it can get quite wintry up in the Himalayas. For shoes, I generally go with one pair of sandals, one pair of hiking boots, one pair of small, slip on shoes. Then there are the obvious things like sunscreen and sunglasses.
10 Things A Woman Really Needs:
1. Mosquito Net
2. Flash Light: I like to bring one hand-held, one head lamp.
3. Medications: depending on where you go, these will differ. For India, I am bringing Malaria Pills, Ant-Diarrhea pillsand Probiotics (non-refrigerated)
4. Bug Spray:I like to have one with at least 30% DEET, and one natural, for my face and other sensitive areas. I also pack essential oils: lavender works for warding off bed bugs and applied like a perfume makes you smell fresh & clean and adds natural bug deterrent. Tea Tree Oil has many uses, including relief from itchy bug bites.
5. Hand Sanitizer: Dr. Bronner’s makes a great, all organic and natural sanitizer. This is a must!
6. Wet wipes and your own toilet paper (best to buy something biodegradable) for general cleanliness. Buy wet wipes in an easy to use, resealable bag (easy to refill). This way you can carry some with you at all times.
7. An all-purpose, biodegradable soap: again, Dr. Bronner’s makes great stuff. You can use this for body wash, face wash, must-have-clean-underwear wash, etc. This way you aren’t burdening yourself with many different products.
8. A secure travel wallet: some people use a money belt, or money-necklace. I recently purchased a wrist-wallet that looks like a wide bracelet and has a zip pocket for cash, ID, and key. This reduces the likelihood of being a pick-pocket victim. Always carry a copy of your passport, leaving the real thing locked up where ever you’re staying.
9. Socks! Even if you’re traveling to a warm country, you’ll want them. I use socks in transit, on planes, buses, trains. I use socks at night if it gets cool, or like slippers, instead of being barefoot. You’ll also want socks if you do intend on doing any hiking, or a long day of walking (it’s nice to have the option to switch out of sandals).
10. A scarf: In Asia especially, I always carry a small scarf that I can wrap around my shoulders if I decide to visit a holy place, or a conservative restaurant, or feel uncomfortable for any reason. A small scarf takes up very little space, and it will save you embarrassment, maybe a rental fee, and possibly having to return home for more appropriate clothing.
***Diva Cup: this will save you a lot of trouble (time & money) trust me. It’s easy, small, you only need 1 of them. Also, in a country racked by poverty and covered in pollution, it’s environmentally friendly.