The Yellowest House in Goa

I should have taken a picture of our homestay in Goa. It took so long to get there from the airport and our taxi got stuck in the sand on the beach. And then when we arrived at our destination, in the middle of the night, our new home was so brightly yellow it might have glowed in the dark.

In the last instalment of my insufferable reminiscence, I will admit that we were lazy fish in Goa. (as an aside: the fish curry they make there is heaven oh my god) We spent a lot of time just ambling around, took a few boat rides, and mostly  took things super easy. Our adventuring spirits were in recharge mode and we took full advantage of the easy slow life.

I imagine that it was all this relaxing that lead to the mad decision to rent a scooter while we were there. Luckily we didn’t die but I have yet to figure out what stopped that from happening…

My favourite thing about Goa is without a doubt the mystery of why there are so many single shoes on the beach. Like… where did all these shoes come from? Clearly they were washed up on the beach by the tides, but from where? Is there a shoe dumpster somewhere in the area?

If you’re wondering what this post is about, don’t worry… I have no idea either…

It also occurs to me that I should have called this post The Greenest House In Goa because actually it looks more green than yellow and green makes for better alliteration which I have a thing for.

Oh well…

Give Me Back the Greens of Kerala

As I have noted several times this month, my Facebook memories feed is filled with memories of our trip to India two years ago. I must admit: that was the year I kind of caught feelings for Instagram and I do owe anyone unfortunate enough who was following my Facebook and Instagram at the time an apology. Guys – I posted SO MANY PICTURES. I’m sorry. A bit. In my defence posting all those pics made me really happy at the time, even though it’s made me go wtf in the present. I do, however, admit that it is likely I will do it again in the future. I can’t help it. I’ve always been a bit naturally extra…

Those damn pics make the travel bug bite though. God we had such a good time. After spending Valentine’s Week around The Golden Triangle, we moved on to the Kerala district. This district is so green and beautiful. A stark contrast, of course, to the drought that our part of the world is currently struggling with.

This decidedly slower-paced experience was one I would have loved to extend, even though the mountains of Munnar made it so difficult for me to breathe! This sea-level girl can’t deal with altitude at all!! Cochi with it’s fisherman and crazy markets. Munnar with all that tea. Kumarakom… Oh Kumarakom, how I loved you the most. So many birds. So much life everywhere.

I am spoiled and grateful. And at the same time so hopelessly unsatiated in my lust to explore more. How glorious for me to be able to say I have been there and to be able to coddle my own wanderlust with you’ve made it work before you can do it again.

A friend told me yesterday that she is so glad she doesn’t have travel lusts. And I must admit I agree with her: she is lucky. Because I find myself at a point where I miss everywhere. I miss the Kerala district. I miss The Golden Triangle. I miss Mumbai and the crazy traffic there. I miss the hustle and bustle. I miss the quiet.

Travel can be a heartbreaking thing. But what more can be expected when your life’s goal is to leave tiny pieces of your heart all over the world?

Dear Friends, You’re Always Welcome Here

For the last couple of weeks India has been on my timeline, and so of course I’ve been thinking about how while I was in India I met the most fantastic couple: Ella & Jack. Silly, I know. In reality we only spent a couple of hours together, exploring the Taj Mahal on Valentine’s Day, but I love those two so much! One of my absolute favourite things about traveling is that there is always something so special about the people I meet while doing it. As someone who spends a lot of time feeling a bit out of place no matter where she is, it’s a big deal for me to ever be in the sort of space where I feel like I (*gasp*) fit in. I do recognize that this is no more or less true within travel circles than it is outside of those circles, but feelings are feelings and the good ones should not be denied.

Of course I have met people from all over, not just in India. Many of you have a special place in my heart and I appreciate the small amount of time that I shared with you out there in the big wide world. I think of you often and wonder after your wellbeing. I find my mind drifts towards a number of you as I get nostalgic about past travels or start making plans towards the next adventure. I find myself wondering if your next adventure is on the horizon, or if you know just how wonderful my little part of the world is. And if you do know, would you considering visiting it? (more…)

Valentine’s Day at the Taj Mahal

My husband and I have agreed that we won’t be faffing with Valentine’s Day. No, it’s not a trap. The suggestion to give it a skip was a genuine one. It’s Wednesday. We’re broke. We’re busy. We’re broke. Yes, broke times two. Actually make that times three. It’s all good.

We’re not that big on Valentine’s Day usually. Not enough to actually go out of our way to make a big deal of it at least. The celebration kind of either happens by accident or not at all. I’m good with this. Mostly because I’m not a particularly romantic human being, at least not about Valentine’s Day.

We did have one really good Valentine’s Day in India though. We managed to spend Valentine’s 2016 at the Taj Mahal, which I thought was poetically romantic when you consider that the Taj Mahal is a symbol of some dude’s love for his woman. I forget which dude of course. I’m even worse at history than I am at romance.

This is where I truly fail though: I’ve gotten to a point where stuff just doesn’t feel like a special occasion if I’m not away from home. And it’s not that I hate my home – I love my home! I’m very much a homebody, and being home snuggled with my cats and husband is its own special occasion in a way. But tomorrow we’ll just be here doing our here things and living our here life. Nothing extraordinary.

I like that I can say I once spent Valentine’s Day at the Taj Mahal though.

And why even am I telling you all of this? Because my On This Day feature on Facebook keeps reminding me that I was in India two years ago. The reminder is lovely. But boy oh boy the travelbug is biting holes in my feet…

Also I need to go back to the Taj Mahal because my pics of the place are all terrible! Someone needs to give me travel photography lessons… *sigh*

Feed Me in New Delhi

The best food I’ve ever eaten was in New Delhi. I’m thinking of it now with a twinge of nostalgia. There is something impossibly titillating about discovering new foods that you love, with a person that you love. Is it weird that I find making yummy sounds  with my husband to be one of my favourite pastimes? It makes me so happy. Oh my god you have to try this! 

Of course there is also the other feeling that plagues me now. The feeling of oh my gosh all that food was so good but I don’t remember what any of it was called feeling. Such a tragic loss of words.

I’m definitely getting to a point where I am longing for slower, more immersive travel. I know this is a tall order because unless you travel full time it’s kind of difficult to  pull off immersive travel. For now we go somewhere and experience as much as possible in a short space of time. But I long for the kind of uninhibited experiences where you are just in a place as a temporary citizen of that place. New Delhi especially inspires this longing. I would love to amble through her streets. Observing and meeting her people without the limitations of a tour schedule. Eating food from the streets or in little side street cafes. Visiting temple after temple. I could happily visit them all without ever being bored. Their peace would sustain me.

I wonder if my husband would happily amble through the whole of India for a year. Imagine it: Yoga retreats. Temples. Curries and naan bread galore. So many mangoes! A seemingly endless collection of caves all over the place. Intricate carvings. Beautiful fabrics. Everything that glitters…

I am ready, perhaps, for a different way of life to start, though I remain loyal to this one while it needs me. Children grow up though, and once they have their own lives I cannot help but wonder if it would be unreasonable for me to figure out how to live just about everywhere…

Monkeys Outside of Kanheri Caves

I’m busy having a grump with myself because in the name of stabbing nostalgia I am busy looking through my photographs from Mumbai and I see that I took zero pictures while at the Kanheri Caves. At least I didn’t take any with my camera. My google photos backup has a couple of blurry pics with too much HDR on them (oh Lordy I loved that filter for a while…) but beautiful pics taken with my camera?

Nada.

WHY WOULD I DO THAT?!

Oh yes… Because there was a “No Photographs” sign at the ticketing office and uhm…probably I shouldn’t have those pics on my cellphone either… How did we pull that off anyway? Did we go into stealth ninja mode? Is calling it “Stealth Ninja Mode” superfluous?

Luckily there were all these gorgeous monkeys hanging out outside of the entrance to the caves so I totally got to photograph them with all their little old man babies. How cute are they? So cute…

Oh my God so cute.

You can find more pics on my Instagram.

Meet Me in Mumbai

Facebook’s On This Day feature tells me that today two years ago I was waiting patiently (ha!) for a plane to take us to Mumbai.  Our trip to India was truly one of the craziest things I have ever pulled off. In fact, the reason we were able to go was because we were able to cash in all the medical aid savings that we hadn’t used for a couple of years. We got lucky. And that trip was the reward for our luck.

Man I wish I could go back… But I suppose that is the curse of travel. We live forever doomed to miss places that we may or may not ever return to. It’s an ache that is bitter as it is sweet.

We didn’t spend enough time in Mumbai though. In fact: I could easily see myself spending as much as a year touring the whole of India and never getting bored. I’d love to lose myself there for a while. Taking in the sights and smells and sounds. India is truly a kaleidoscopic carnival for the senses. We never did get to see the Elephante caves, on account of us getting there a little late. And we opted to miss out on a Bollywood tour for financial reasons, which I definitely regret.

We did get to go to the Kanheri Caves though, and those were so freaking cool I’d love to go again. The architectural tricks used to make sound and light carry throughout those giant rooms is just remarkable. And the echoing chambers are eerily beautiful.

And then there are the temples. So many temples! I wish I could do a temple tour of the whole of India but I imagine that would probably take six years.

I think for love and joy I might start sharing some of my pics on Instagram because sometimes nostalgia can act like soul food, right? And if I can’t have Indian food well then soul food will just have to do…

(hopefully my worse-than-now photography skills won’t depress me too hard!)

Selfies in India

12670061_10153728745466117_2390198794477463461_nWe’re halfway through April already and I barely remember March happening at all. What a strange year this is turning out to be. New things falling into place. Old things falling away. Sanity a thing of the past. You know how it goes.

Anyway:

I promised my friend Tammy that I’d give her the details of our itinerary when we were in India and, once again, figured I might as well blog it instead of just emailing it. Here I can add pictures and things and go all memory laney on myself if I want. Right?

Honestly though, I can’t stop thinking that what we did doesn’t really matter. It’s what you choose to do on your travels that matters. (more…)

A South African in India

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I’ve been back home for well over a month now after our somewhat impromptu trip to India in Feb, and I have been so overwhelmed by the happenings of life that I actually haven’t gotten around to blogging a single thing about any of it. Of course now it seems kind of pointless and a bit back-tracky which I hate, but I did promise a friend that I would put together some tips for her so I thought maybe I could do that in the form of a blog post and then I can pretend to myself that I do actually write about nice things as well as things that are…well…less nice.

Of course one of the biggest factors in us choosing to go to India was the fact that our Rand stretches a little further there than it does in other parts of the world. I will, however, admit that this particular trip cost well over twice as much as the next trip I have planned. So, I’m learning. I’m learning how to work things out in a more cost-effective way, and all the while feeling exceptionally grateful to have somehow managed to wangle one of my favourite yet seemingly unattainable things into this life of mine.

Travel. Is there anything better? (more…)

Post Indian Blues

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Folkies I am bluesing so badly since getting back from India almost two weeks ago! I have my next trip brewing in my head already which is probably not good. How do I even fix this? How do I find balance between my love for exploring the world and the rest of my life? Do other travellers experience this angst? I was looking forward to being home but I gotta admit it’s been one overwhelming trial followed by another ever since I got home. If it wasn’t for shared glasses of wine with a good friend (and a happy-I-met-her new friend!) I would probably be a lot battier at this point.

Will it help to actually start planning the next trip? Despite the financial limitations? This real life crap is a bummer. Thank God Tim Burton is bringing out Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and that Alice Through the Looking Glass is about to hit the big screen soon. Colour to look forward to.

I might need to hide under my duvet with a pile of books this weekend. I need to get this damn reset button to work.

Maybe that’s the problem though… Maybe I need to stop expecting that it will…

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

 

 

 

 

 

On Going to India

Well, 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.

They’re silly, perhaps. These trips my husband and I have committed to taking. This one is 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!