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How to Plan an Impromptu Trip to India

1024px-Taj_Mahal,_Agra,_India 

In eight more sleeps Ty and I are going to India. Three months ago I wasn’t planning to go to India. Going to India was never on my main travel list. To be perfectly honest with you, India has always been on my in case of divorce travel list. Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert. I blame you. My comfortably married self who is currently not in need of an ashram, has been considering other destinations though. Germany, for one. And Italy. But not India.

Then, in November, I met Shobha. Shobha lives in Hyderabad, India, and she stayed with my folks for a couple of weeks while learning more about their business and she and I got along really well. Of course, she kept saying you should come and visit us in India and I of course kept thinking if only impromptu trips to India were part of my homeschooling housewife lifestyle.

You know how sometimes you go to your favourite online shopping store and you put a bunch of stuff into the cart before laughing at yourself and then closing the browser? I do that too. But with trips.

So, I thought maybe I should share what happened, because I’m kind of overwhelmed at how it worked out. Travelling is a luxury denied to most. As someone who barely makes ends meet, I must admit sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve this thing that makes my heart soar so high. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a little more doable than we allow ourselves to believe. As soon as you make it a priority, somehow it works itself out.

Play With Flight Apps

Out of curiosity about what kind of costs we were looking at for a trip to India, I decided to play around with a flight app on my phone. I was shockingly surprised to find that flights around the dates that I had randomly chosen were not that bad. Those are now the dates that we will be travelling. If I had chosen other random dates, we literally might not be going right now, because on further inspection, I fiddled around with other dates and the tickets went up by 4 to 6 grand. If those had been the first numbers I had seen I would have put my phone down, so don’t give up if the first numbers you get are bad. Play around a bit and you might come up with something you can afford.

Check Out the Sights

So I knew that the Taj Mahal was in India, but after that my knowledge was limited. Obviously ashramming was not an option (you go to those things solo, otherwise there’s no point as far as I’m concerned) so I had to figure out what the actual options are. Let me tell you, as soon as you start Googling India, you realise that you need to take off at least 6 months to get a proper feel of the place. Figuring out how to spend a mere 3 weeks is hard. I already know that when my kids are grown I’m going back for a proper amount of time.

Chat to a Tour Guide

 So, a lot of websites that I visited offered tour packages and I was curious about them but there were no prices. Finally, at one random site, I put in my details and hit send. The confirmation email arrived in my inbox, and I suddenly sobered up. How ridiculous! I don’t need a tour operator to contact me! I’m not going to India! That’s madness! So I deleted the email without confirming anything.

Well, the next day I received phone calls from three different tour companies. This was a little embarrassing as I wasn’t a serious potential customer, but I was upfront about my simple curiosity and none of my unconfirmed email follow uppers seemed offended by this or ever treated me like I was wasting their time. Soon I had three different quotes for what I wanted. The number was high, but it seemed reasonable.

 800px-A_man_in_traditional_attire,_RishikeshDo Your Own Research

 Not wanting to accept the high quotes on blind faith I started doing my own research. I tried to figure out what things would cost if I set about doing all of it on my own, and also contemplated just rocking up in India and going with the flow. The go-without-a-plan thing was easy enough to do in Thailand. Honestly, I’d happily send my kids to Thailand with a backpack and zero plans and feel pretty confident that they’d manage ok. But it doesn’t work like that for all countries. London and Spain, for instance, are scary as hell and it’s hard to make any sort of decision in those places without fearing that your weakly valued SA Rands are going to disappear way faster than you expected.

Anyway, I did the research and started to understand pretty well what things did and didn’t cost. I am almost 100% sure that just going with the flow and doing things on your own is probably the most cost effective way to go. But for this trip I decided that I’m ok with paying a little extra for a bit of piece of mind. We need a good break, so splurging on a few unnecessary extras seems like a good way to go.

I turned down two of the quotes I got and then worked with the tour operator who gave me the third. Together we changed a few things and managed to get it down by quite a few thousand Rands. I have to admit that a LOT of work went in to all of it, but I’m happy with the idea of what we’re getting (not sure if the idea and the reality will measure up but here’s hoping!) and I’m glad I put in the extra work because now I know that I have made the choice that I am most comfortable with.

Buy the Tickets

 If you’re comfortable purchasing tickets online then go for it! Personally I was a little weary that I was missing some sort of fine print so I contacted my travel agent. She managed to get me tickets close to the price that I had found online but with less travel time so I was super happy about that.

Get the Vaccinations

There are no compulsory vaccinations needed for India, although there are a couple of recommended ones. If, however, you are travelling to India via Ethiopia like I am, you need to get a yellowfever shot. The shot is valid for 10 years so keep that card they give you in case you need it for your next travel adventure.

Get the Visa

The visa application process seems to be a lengthy one with many forms and hoops, but at least it’s not too expensive. You’re looking at an overall costing of less than R500 per person which is pretty low compared to some costs.

Dream About Packing and Then Get Started

I haven’t started packing yet but I’ve packed in my head a thousand times already. I’m so excited I can barely contain myself any more. The anticipation of this trip, though very spur of the moment, has kind of kept me ticking for the last couple of months, a fact for which I am exceptionally grateful. 

800px-Lotus_Nelumbo_nucifera_Flower_Close_2048pxRemember That Things Are Possible

I feel like an ignorantly privileged jerk making sweeping statements like all things are possible, but I think pulling something like this off (and I assure you – the kind of wangling that had to take place in order to make this happen was a feat of talent!) reminds me that things like this can be pulled off. And it makes me feel hopeful. I pulled off a trip to Thailand in 2013. Then in 2014 I managed to pull off another trip to Thailand, this time with my husband. I spent 2015 feeling like our travels might be behind us for a very long while, and it felt a bit like a stone in my stomach. But we’ve done it, again. And I think I might be figuring it out that we can do this. We can live this way, over and over. We just need to do the wangling thing. We need to prioritise.

 

Image Credit:

By Yann (talk) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11204972

By Photo (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) – Own work (Own Picture), CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1608505

By Ken Wieland from Philadelphia, USA – Rishikesh man, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7317554

 

 

 

 

 

Blog archives

On Going to India

20160119_122445-02Well, a little while ago the Fedex man arrived with our passports complete with our tourist visas to India. This means it’s finally real. It means my husband and I will definitely be going to India in February and I can barely express my relief. I cannot wait to board a plane and lean my head against my husband’s shoulder while we decide which in-flight movie to watch together. I can’t wait to race through the airport in a rush to make our connecting flight in Ethiopia. I can’t wait to land in Mumbai and meet our first tour guide. I can’t wait to arrive at our first hotel and flop down on the bed for a minute before indulging in a shower and getting ready to start our adventure.

It’s silly, perhaps. These trips my husband and I have committed to taking. It’s only our second so far, of course, but we are hoping to make travel a regular occurrence. I always feel the need to justify this though. I always want to explain that yes we are not wealthy people, but travelling is so important to us which is possibly a ridiculous notion since in truth what we decide to do with our lives is irrelevant to anyone but us. Perhaps it is the small town girl in me still tries to steel herself against harsh judgements and gossip. How dare we do such a thing for ourselves! 

But then I realise: we are wealthy. Because we have the option of choosing to travel over choosing to purchase more material things like new cars or fancy toys or working towards owning our own home. We are able to live frugally on one salary while the other admittedly small salary can be saved for travel – albeit budget travel.

So instead of paying mind to judgements and subtle condemnations of my parenting, and instead of allowing my own guilt to berate me for choosing what I can only describe as a balm to soothe the many cracks in this otherwise hard life, I am going to indulge in this happiness. And I am somehow going to teach myself to focus on the happy stuff more often than I do the not-so-happy stuff. Because my God life is long, and the happy stuff at least helps to speed it up a little.

To my husband Ty….I can’t wait to go on this adventure with you. Thank you for being the kind of partner that has helped to make travel a reality. Thank you for being on my side and by my side and thank you for being such an amazing travel partner. I love you so damn much!

 

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Tears At Midnight

12459569_10156465655035094_1840938045_nIt’s only the 2nd but it’s become quite clear that some of the folks in my life are already having a hard time of 2016 and it’s got my head buzzing a little. There seems to be an embarrassed sort of fear that a less-than-positive start to the year might mean a less-than-positive year. It’s kind of a cool idea because that means that a positive attitude in turn would equal a positive year. And that sounds great, doesn’t it?

You see, I really like New Year’s. I like it in the same way that I really like Mondays. And the first of the month. And if the first of the month is a Monday? Oh the joy! Perhaps that in itself gives away parts of my own psychoses. But there’s something about new beginnings that thrills me just a little. Perhaps it is because I am ok at beginnings, it is the middles and the endings that I don’t fare so well with. (more…)

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Dear Daddy

Kind of have tears streaming down my face after watching this. Absolutely beautiful, and so poignant.

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You’re Beautiful

I adore art. I love artists. I love the stories that come through art. I love art that doesn’t look like “art”. I love strange. I love unique. I love looking at a piece of art that makes me feel like I can kind of understand the person who made it.

And this piece of art? I think this piece of art might be my favourite.

This made me smile. This made me tear up. This made me swell with a little hope.

And my favourite part about this piece of art? As soon as they are told that they are beautiful they literally become beautiful. My heart can barely take it in.

This is just too lovely for words.

View the portraits here.

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Spicy Love & Christmas Wishes

20151124_195645In the spirit of trying to not always be too political for the sake of extended family members who are starting to find me terrifying (*giggle*) I thought that I could talk about food today. Yay! Food…

My folks have a lovely lady from India staying with them at the moment. She’s been shadowing my dad and learning a bit more about how the Herbalifers on this side of the world do things at The Rink Street Wellness Club. I have loved having her around here. It’s always so 20151124_193714great having long conversations with people from different countries. There’s something extra special about it.

Of course, as happens to all of us when we find ourselves in foreign lands, our guest is struggling a little with the food that is completely different to what she is accustomed to. I, in turn, convinced my folks to take her to one of my favourite places to eat in Port Elizabeth: Raasoie. I then crashed their party because: Raasoie.

I love the way you get to eat in this place and I can’t help but think that I wish we could skip the whole rah-rah-rubbish of the usual Christmas fanfare which includes tons of work and even more mess and just hang out at Raasoie for the day. We could hang out around a huge table with bowls of korma and tikka masala and paneer and and and…yum… And then they have these awesome little table fire pit thingies that you use to cook your own kebabs on. I love this sort of social style of eating. Little bits and pieces all over the place. No stress just a lot of happiness and flavour. (more…)

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Trying to Understand

12282898_10156325099905094_590776597_nI keep seeing refugee-versus-veteran memes on social media at the moment. It seems like a viable bit of indignation. Surely it is ok to think that we should take care of our own before we take care of others? That doesn’t seem wrong, if you can turn a blind eye to the racism that inspires the observation.

What I don’t understand though, is this: Why are there so many homeless veterans? These are American (or Canadian) people. Where are their families? Where are their friends? I don’t understand how this can be so bad. Why are families and friends not opening their homes to these people who are sleeping on the streets? It doesn’t make sense to me. These people can surely not be all alone in the world. Not all of them. If nothing else they surely have fellow veterans in their lives.

In this situation I can’t stop thinking about possibly my all-time favourite book: How to be Good by Nick Hornby. In it, the protagonist’s husband has a sort of spiritual awakening. He encourages his neighbours to each adopt one homeless teenager as a way to help alleviate the homelessness in his home town. I loved that story so damn much. It was the height of absolute beauty to me. I’ve read that book four times already. It remains one of the most inspiring works I have ever experienced. And I’m not even sure if it was meant to be inspiring! (I’d love to ask Nick Hornby about it sometime)

Maybe, if people feel that their governments are failing them, they could consider taking things into their own hands. Take a veteran home with you. Change someone’s life. Just one. If each person bemoaning the money spent of the refugees at the supposed expense of the veterans were to step up and do something then the veteran problem might be alleviated in no time.

We can change the world without our governments. We can change just one person’s whole world. It’s too easy to point fingers from our couches about how the world should be run. 

Do something.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Take in a veteran.

Take in a refugee.

Be the reason that someone gets back on their feet.

Be the change.

 

Blog archives

Musings on the Media

Photo on 2015-11-17 at 5.22 PMSo I wrote a blog post on Sunday morning that did a little better than my blog posts usually do. That’s not saying particularly much because, well,  better than usual doesn’t mean better than much. I’m just another girl with too much on her mind. Add to my muddled mind a broken filter which allows me to try and articulate what goes on in my head and that’s pretty much the only recipe you need to be just another blogger. But as far as blog posts go, my post on care shaming did relatively well (again…for me) so I sort of feel like I need to do a bit of a follow up. I am honestly struggling to find the right words. I worry greatly that this post will come off as a little bit finger pointy and I hope that it doesn’t. It could very easily be interpreted as being in complete contradiction to my previous post. I hope I articulate myself better than that, but we all know how easy it is to express ourselves badly. Just know that if I sound shouty in your head, that I am not trying to be shouty. I’m trying to be observant specifically without being shouty. I hope I don’t fail… (more…)

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The Weirdness of Care Shaming

12239985_10156308179030094_6870601726091851373_nIt is the morning after the morning after the terrorism in Paris, and I once again find myself observing the ebbs and flows of social media in the wake of tragedy. It always starts out the same. Something happens and we the people start to share with the intent to inform or express condolences.

And then it starts to change. And it usually changes into something where we all start yelling at each other about what it is that we should be caring about. I do it (and often berate myself for it in hindsight). Probably so do you. I’ll probably do it within this post even though I’ll try not to… *hangs head in shame*

In the last 24 hours there has been a lot of “I don’t want to detract from Paris but what about xyz….” followed by much bemoaning of the media in general and why socialmedialites only care about Paris and not Lebanon or Japan or Mexico or – most obscurely – Kenya. Many folks are singing about how they refuse to put up a French flag in solidarity with what the country is going through right now because what about other countries and what they are going through. I even get it. It sounds politically correct, and I imagine that to a large degree it is. (more…)

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Review: Lost Lake

Lost Lake
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen in about 2010 when I discovered The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Her view of the world shifted something in me that I cannot quite express. It was a sort of “oh…there it is…” kind of thing. Like I’d been looking for her this whole time. A little bit like falling in love, I guess. Where you meet your soul’s counterpoint and it’s like they were there all along. I didn’t know I was missing you, and yet now I can’t imagine my life without you.

Every time I read a Sarah Addison Allen book I feel like it’s her best one. Lost Lake is no exception. I imagine that when I pull myself out of the mini depression hole that I got lost in this week that my NaNo efforts will be brushed with the influence of Sarah’s magic once more. I can only hope so.

I may be wrong but Lost Lake seemed even more magical. Like everything was magical. Everyone had this special thread of something beautiful. How could I not fall hopelessly in love?

I will always be grateful to Sarah for her works. They mean so much to me.



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Hugging the Cat

Photo on 2015-11-18 at 10.07 AMDo you ever have one of those days where you’re just nothing? I think I’m having one of those months. Novemberitis I have heard it referred to. Yuck. It’s definitely a real thing around here though. It surely sounds like something that happens to people who are eagerly awaiting Christmas though.

I’m not quite sure what to do with this soul fatigue. Wait it out? Drown it in wine. Bury it with special brownies? Those last two sound good…

The thing is I can’t quite figure out what’s wrong. Has it been a tough year? Definitely. A tough  month? Sure. A tough week?

Last weekend my husband and I met our new neighbours down the road. They were mother and daughter who decided to move into the city from a farm somewhere I think. They seemed really sweet and a little awkward but I don’t mind awkward. I’m awkward. We had a lovely chat for a while, covering all the basics – career, children, pets – when the mother asked if I ever swim in the St. George’s Prep pool and I told her that I didn’t but that I didn’t know if it was an option or not. I was just about to mention how nice the St. George’s public pools are when her daughter piped up “Oh I could never swim in that pool without thinking about how many blacks have peed in it.” Nadine goes into a catatonic state of shock. The mother then says, “No not the public pool, the school pool.” The daughter goes, “black people also go to school. You know mos it’s a fact that a black person can’t touch water without peeing.” (more…)

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Review: Love Tastes Like Strawberries

Love Tastes Like Strawberries
Love Tastes Like Strawberries by Rosamund Haden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve reviewed this book twice. Both times the review disappeared into the netherworlds of cyberspace, so I give up. I can’t write a long one again. This book was lovely. That’s all you need to know anyway. And it was written by a South African, which excites me. So yay!



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David Tennant Wants to Bottle Catherine Tate

So….apparently we’re getting a Tenth Doctor & Donna spin off…. I actually can’t breathe….

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Bird Brained

DSCN0748One of the many reasons that I love social media is that it often keeps me informed of what is happening both directly and indirectly around me. Yesterday someone posted a few photographs of nets that had been secured over some of the trees inside the Aeropark grounds next to the airport. These trees have recently become home to  probably hundreds of egrets in the area. I imagine it was done because the birds were considered a hazard to the planes. Unfortunately no one seems to give much thought to how much of a hazard we humans might be to the birds. It in currently springtime in South Africa. It’s nesting season. And suddenly hundreds of mommy and daddy birds were unable to get to their babies. Barbara Giddy was having none of this so she took to Facebook and quickly found herself at the head of a volunteer rescue mission. (Just a side note: we love the Barbaras of the world. What a treasure!) (more…)

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Broken Nostalgia & Bloody Adele

* Kate Hudson having a bit of a sniffle after listening to the new Adele song* 

 

I have begun to notice lately that I seem to be void of nostalgia. As a person who is quite intense when it comes to “feelings” I must admit it strikes me as a little odd that I am incapable of tying present importance to the past. Whenever friends chat about music from our school days, or get all gooey-eyed because someone played Nirvana/Offspring/Smashing Pumpkins I must admit (with the exception of one single artist who is the only one who manages a sort of guilt driven nostalgia) it does almost nothing except remind me that I’m glad I don’t have to listen to that stuff anymore. Ooooh the blasphemy! Sorry folks….but they’re quite terrible…and noisy…I’m old now. I have no desire to listen to any of that music that we all used to sit around loving together anymore. I loved it as a kid but honestly find it quite not-something-I-want-to-listen-to-even-a-little today. Even music from the past that I do still like doesn’t quite work. I still love K’s Choice and Sheryl Crow and Tori and Fiona and and and….but they don’t bring back memories so much as just remind me that hey, I like this song. 

But every now and then a song like this one will come along and tumble me into a strange nostalgic-like funk that I can’t get out of, despite the fact that the song itself has no ties to the past at all. I can’t help but wonder why that is. I wonder if it isn’t like every now and then something comes along that resonates really hard with who I am as a whole. It’s like it tickles the entirety of it all. Past, present, future. It’s all there. And when it hits the whole then the feeling of nostalgia just kind of tumbles down. It’s incredible then to once again acknowledge the inarguable power of art in all of its forms to affect and change and inspire and revive our very souls.

This song here, which I ignored for days partly because I hardly care for music anymore and partly because I have been passionately occupied by the politics of our country, managed to be just such a song. I love it when you hear  or see or read something for the first time and you feel like you’ve always known it, even if what it means to you is something completely different to what it means to the artist. I reckon that’s pretty damn special.