A year ago today my daughter, then 17, and I left for Mumbai and spent five weeks traveling on our own in Southern India. Even though the trip was preceded by months of onerous travel preparations, serious concerns about getting sick, and worries about whether such a costly trip would be worth it, my memories are even sweeter with time. This trip ranks very high in my good decisions book. A once-in-a-lifetime trip with my daughter was worth every penny.
It was a trip born of grief. I had spent the previous year taking care of my parents, who died within six months of one another. My dying mother was afraid of sleep and afraid of death. She lay awake each night, tense, and in great discomfort. Each narcotic patch and pill brought unkind side effects. For months non-stop, it was a war on two fronts: unrelenting pain from cancer and endless side effects from medications. It was my father who unexpectedly died first. Suffering from shortness of breath, swollen feet, distended stomach and nausea, he died of heart failure in a hospital bed. After that year of being a daily witness to chronic pain and anxiety, and having two people in their eighties totally reliant on me, I was exhausted.
But a month of travel in India (and then Amsterdam) had me smiling on the inside as we visited Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. I was in exceptionally high spirits.
In India you can't avoid the smell and sight of burning plastics in public spaces; the daily power cuts and lack of water; the endless piles of garbage and cast-off construction materials; the roads congested with people, bikes, mopeds, rickshaws, taxis and trucks. The honking is non-stop and the drivers excessively fast.
But there is another side to India, and it is far from token. I hugely enjoyed the stone temples and the fabulous deities carved into ancient rocks; the spice plantations and tea estates; the rain forest hikes and the sunset beaches of Goa. I enjoyed even more the interactions with the locals, meeting other travellers, and having my daughter with me.
In a big way, it’s the women of South India, with their long black hair, shining from coconut oil and wrapped in saris of glorious colours and patterns, that are the real beauty of this country. But, such hard lives they have.
I have simplified below a conversation that helped me accept the initial worries and concerns that plagued me about my trip.
Q: What if I don’t like India, or my daughter doesn’t like it or, we don’t have a good time after spending so much money?
A: The worse that can happen is you don’t like it!
So it is with this wonderful memory still fresh in my mind that I tell you what this trip taught me about living life more fully: When you have a whim to do something, do it, and don't worry too much about the risks.
Have a happy and healthy holiday season. Thank you readers for sending encouraging notes about the blogs. And thank you for all the comments. I'll be back in 2014!
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