I was reluctant to agree to India. I think Billy has always wanted to visit India, but it’s never really been on my list, so he had to talk me into it. I didn’t take much convincing, however, because even though I never planned on going to India, I knew it was a place that I would never regret saying I visited.
For all this time that we’ve been traveling India has always been in the back of my mind. Not in a fearful way, just in a mindful awareness. Each day would bring us closer to touching down in India, a place that changes western travelers and possibly gives them diarrhea. On the three plane rides over I began mentally preparing to be shocked. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t bring myself to comprehend what I was about to experience because even my conceptualization of India, as bad or as good as I made it, wouldn’t be enough to prepare me. So with an open mind but fearing the worst we landed in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) at two o’clock in the morning, needing to somehow take public transportation from the airport to the remote village of Ravandur, where our Workaway host is located.
We were both exhausted at that time, but I remember each step feeling cautious, like at any moment we could walk into the wrong place at the wrong time. The security guards walking around with machine guns didn’t alleviate this feeling, but somehow we found the bus station, paid, and were on our way to Mysuru, where would have to get a taxi to Ravandur. I was so tired that much of this process was a blur. The bus ride was long (four hours) and thankfully I slept through most of it, despite the fact that the bus driver honked the horn practically every five seconds.
A word about honking. Honking culture here is much different from honking culture in the US in that here nobody stops laying on the horn. Billy noted that all this honking makes it lose its meaning. A honk in the US is guaranteed to startle, but here it is so frequent that it is just another part of driving communication.
I did wake up around five in the morning, just outside of Bangalore, where the bus was going through a toll. Outside hanging around the toll booth were crowds of people, squatting, begging, and doing everything in between. I knew that if I looked more in my exhausted state what I saw would overwhelm me, so in moments I was back asleep.
It was light outside when I woke again, around seven o’clock, so I again took a look out the window. We were far outside of Bangalore at that point, so everything was rural, and the buildings we passed were in various stages of ruin, yet still people congregated outside of them to eat or just sit around. The country side is green and beautiful, but it is at all times at odds with the filth from humans. Trash is strewn all along the sides of the road, and meandering alongside the garbage are herds of cows. Cows, being sacred here, are everywhere. They have no leash it seems, and are free to just roam wherever.
The longer I looked, though, the more I realized that nothing I was seeing particularly shocked me. Here, like in Thailand, there are tuk tuks and buildings in disrepair, family-run restaurants and food stalls at frequent intervals. It all became normal so quickly that I was slightly alarmed. I voiced this observation to Billy and he concurred. India, like Japan and Thailand before it, was just another place on the map. We have become so used to traveling and suddenly being outside of our comfort zones that, in a way, we were totally prepared for India.
Getting a taxi in Mysuru was absurdly easy. We just stepped off the bus and were immediately greeted by a taxi driver who set us up for a ride to Ravandur. I’m sure his price was high by Indian standards, but we didn’t care, we just wanted to get settled in our new place.
Once we did arrive and meet our generous and friendly host, the realization really sunk in. Somehow, we navigated ourselves from a major city to a rural village in India. There were no tears, complaints, or major complications to speak of. When did we become adjusted to this single backpack life on the road lifestyle? And how come it happened so fast? I thought it would take us much longer to become comfortable bouncing from place to place. This is not to say there still isn’t difficulty involved, but it’s a difficulty we have become acclimated to.
With all this in mind, I feel prepared for whatever India throws at me. Though it may still challenge me, I know that I’ll get through it before I know it. So I feel prepared, yes, even for the diarrhea, because I have traveler’s diarrhea pills.