Posted on: Sunday, 3 August 2014

Let's go back in time

I'm going to tell you a story of how I ended up travelling to India and back in the space of three days. This is going to be a long post so if you don't make it through, just know that I did! (Obviously).

I'll start from the beginning...

As the train pulled into London Gatwick I felt my stomach lurch. This was it.

For the entire journey from Bath to London I had this sinking feeling that wasn't going away. I was leaving life as I knew it to venture into the unknown. Alone. 

'I have to try' were the words that resonated in my head. 

This should have been one of the most exhilarating moments of my life but all I wanted to do was buy a ticket for the first train back to Bath. Was this really what I wanted after all?

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Some of the very few photos I took on my journey.

At the end of 2012 I had decided that in 2014 I was going to travel the world. 

I spent countless hours immersed in travel blogs planning where I was going, which visas I'd need, which gear to bring and which vaccinations to take. I declined offers to go here and there so I could save every cent I possibly could to put towards the trip and I felt truly excited about something that I had always dreamed of doing. 

Aside from the scrimping and scraping, 2013 was an amazing year. I was living alone for the first time in my life and learning how to take care of myself. Summer on the rock was a mixture of work, sunshine, beaches and laid back nights at a reggae bar in Marsaskala, not to mention frequent ventures to my local bar with awesome work buddies. It was at my local that I met my yep, it was a pretty perfect time. 

I passed through security with no problems (no reason why I should have had problems but passing through metal detectors always gives me the feeling that I'm carrying a gun in my pocket). In departures I buzzed around like a squirrel searching for nuts. Did I remember to pack this, that and the other? I just couldn't relax. 

My first flight was to Helsinki to catch a connecting flight. As I sat in my window seat flicking through the in flight magazine my thoughts constantly drifted to what I was doing and who I was leaving behind. I had a full on break down on that flight and it was only with thanks to the fact that Norwegian Air had free wifi on board plus Lloyd on the receiving end of my messages that I could stay relatively sane and not let my break down turn into a panic attack of epic proportions. For two and a half hours I sat in my seat with my hair covering my face and cried. I'm not sure what the passenger next to me must have thought but fortunately we had a seat between us so he didn't have to be in complete proximity of my constant sobs. 

I had about eight hours waiting in Helsinki Airport before my next flight which would land me in Amsterdam. This was roughly enough time to get a couple of hours sleep in a quiet corner and pull myself together. I must have looked terrible (I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most attractive of criers - think Rudolf and you'll be on the right track). 

Once I had landed in the enormous Schiphol Airport I navigated my way to my next departure gate. Normally I absolutely love the buzz of airports but I was just going through the motions at this point. I felt numb. 

Fast forward through a peaceful thirteen hour flight to Malaysia and another three hour haul to Mumbai and I had finally landed. I remember flying low over Mumbai, a bustling colourful city and feeling a slight glimmer of excitement however as we hit the runway this feeling quickly faded.

Making my way towards the exit to my prepaid taxi I was targeted by my first scam (of sorts). The welcoming guy who came to greet me was not my taxi driver but a random person who wanted to be paid for walking me to the taxi which was just a few meters away. I gave him two euros and he walked off grateful for my donation (though not before hustling me for more, which I politely declined). About five minutes into the hustle of Mumbai's crazy roads I heard a tap on the window next to me. It was an older lady with a man probably in his twenties who looked extremely malnourished and had lost one of his eyes. I smiled apologetically as the driver shooed them away. I knew that this was something I was going to have to get used to if I was going to stay in India for two months so I was trying not to let it affect me too much. 

The driver eventually found my hotel after stopping a few times to ask for directions. He walked me into the entrance and I gave them my name to check in, relieved to finally be able to have some rest. I had left Bath on a Wednesday (it was now Friday) and had probably slept about three hours in total since then. 

'There is no booking' the man at reception said with a nonchalant expression as he flicked through his bookings. I explained that I had made the reservation through and he made his excuses. 'This happens a lot, they don't send us the booking! No problem, we will find you another hotel'. I tried to remain calm as they made a call to another hotel. I didn't know who was in the wrong here and making a scene wasn't going to help the situation especially when they were working on finding me another place to lay my head. 

It didn't take long before I was being guided to a near-by hotel and checking in. Laying my backpack on the bed I stood in my room not quite sure what to do with myself. I had made it...but I wasn't happy or even relieved.

I tried to convince myself that I was just tired but I couldn't shake off the feeling that I just didn't want to be there. The wifi was an ordeal in itself but it worked long enough for me to communicate with Lloyd and my mum to tell them that I was having strong doubts. They were both undeniably supportive and tried to encourage me to rest and see how I felt later. I hung up my mosquito net and tried to get some sleep but I just couldn't relax. Mum had suggested finding a nicer hostel in the morning but between our communication I found myself booking the next flight to London. My heart just wasn't in it anymore. In fact I don't think my heart ever left that train journey two days ago. 

I made a quick getaway with my belongings on a tuk tuk and headed for the airport with at least five hours before my flight would leave. The airport was rammed with people (and that was just outside!). I've never seen anything like the queues I saw that night. One of the airport workers advised me that I couldn't go in until three hours before my flight so I had no choice but to find a little corner and wait outside for two hours watching Indian families, couples and singles make their way to their next destination. I was kindly given a cup of tea from one of the workers - probably the best tea I've ever had! I was asked many questions like whether I was married (I said yes to make things easier) and offered to go to a restaurant "over the road". I declined the offer which apparently was the right decision as there were signs inside the airport stating that if you were offered to go somewhere, say no! In hindsight these signs would have probably been more useful plastered on the pillars on the outside of the airport...

It was when I made it into the airport that chaos ensued. When I finally found my check in area, my booking couldn't be found in the system. They sat me behind the check in counter (you know where the conveyor belt for the baggage is?) whilst they tried to find out what was going on. I was stared at curiously by each passenger lined up at the desk. Time ticked by. Sixty minutes...ninety minutes, I was feeling very anxious, what was taking so long? Finally after investigating the issue the staff found out that the booking was not officially placed because the website thought that my debit card had been used fraudulently! I can understand their thoughts but it didn't make me less furious. I was advised that there was still space on the flight and I could book a seat but I would have to go back outside to the ticket office. That meant queuing up again to get back inside! 
I ran outside and found the ticket office and booked my flight. A one way ticket was costing me over 800 euros but I didn't care. I just had to get out of there. I had about 40 minutes left until my flight departed and my heart was determined to catch that flight. There was no way I was being stranded there. I paid one of the security guys at the airport to get me inside quicker and I ran to security...the queue...I was going to cry. It was worse inside here than outside. I'm talking thousands. As I waited, extremely anxious to get to my flight, a security guard noticed me (being probably the only white girl in the queue) and asked me when my flight was. I told him it leaves in twenty minutes and he quickly geared up and moved me to the front of the queue! I thanked him profusely, he asked for nothing in return and I made my way through x-ray. 

I made my way to the departure gate and I was in time! People were just boarding the flight. I handed them my ticket and they noticed that my backpack wasn't tagged correctly. They couldn't let me on. They told me to run back up to security for a tag which was 5 minutes if I ran. I dashed to security and advised them. After it was sorted a lady at security asked me when my flight was, she then panicked and told me she would take me. We both ran down departures, everything was a blur! I made it to the plane...I was the last passenger.

It was time to relax. Finally. What I had wanted with all my heart a year ago wasn't what I wanted anymore.

My life had changed. I had changed. There was a person in my life who was important to me even though I had only known him for six months.

I was welcomed by Lloyd at Heathrow Airport. I've never been so happy to see someone! After living off of plane food and sleeping on airport benches for three days I was ready for a comfy bed.

One day I will go back, but it will be on different terms. In the end I kind of felt like I was doing it to follow through and not because it was really what I wanted which is a tough realisation but one that I needed to make nonetheless. Learning to follow your heart is not always easy.

That's the story of how I went to India and back in three days. Maybe one day my future kids will read this and realise what a crazy mum they have (if they haven't figured that out already!).

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