Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hey, Bombay!

As I go through my day, I think about what I want to share on this thing, then I get to wherever I'm staying and I am just so tired.

Tonight is no exception, so for now, I'll just leave you with a drive by photo from today, my last full day in India.

Scooting around the streets of Mumbai

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gypsy Collisions



I was at Mehtab Bagh, on the opposite side of the Yamuna River across from the Taj Mahal. That's where they bring tourists to watch the sunset, and as I walked through the gardens towards that incredible marble building, it took my breath away. Even from a distance, it was breathtakingly beautiful. I think I literally held my breath in awe of its beauty and in disbelief that I was actually there.

I walked to the end of the gardens, as close to the edge as possible. There, I asked some (other) Asian tourists if they could take my photo. The selfie stick just wasn't cutting it.

On a side note, Indians get really confused when I tell them I'm American. They say, "Oh, you look Japanese or Chinese." I try to tell them that I'm Filipino American; that my family is Filipino but I was born in America, but initially the concept seems to baffle them. I had to explain to my driver that many cultures exist in America. Okay, getting off topic, so back to the story...

I walked to the right side of the gardens (facing the Taj) because that's where the sun sets; the light is better on that side. As meandered in that direction, I struck a conversation with a young guy from England. His name is Josh. He's doing a full on Southeast Asia tour, which, when he's all done, will have been 2 years long. After that, he'll be going to Australia on a work visa as a civil engineer.

We talked about how traveling alone sometimes makes us each nervous: me, because I'm a girl and extremely little; him, because he's blonde and well, white.

I told him how I schedule my returns from my trips according to my friends' weddings, and he told me how all of his are having babies. And we kind of laughed because here we were, gypsying around and watching the sunset in Agra.

I faced the river, watching the sun go down over the Yamuna River and that glittering building, and when I turned around he was gone.

One of my favorite things about traveling is the people I get to meet from everywhere. You run into these wandering souls and share a moment in each other's journey. For a just a few minutes, your worlds collide, then you continue on your separate paths. Sometimes I think about these people and wonder where they are now and what ever happened to them. But then I just smile a little, because it always takes me back to the trip that I met them...

Like that one time I watched the sunset over the Taj Mahal.


Josh, the English Gypsy


Friday, February 27, 2015

Basics: India

First thing's first: make sure you get your Visa before you book your flight to India.

Oops.

An Indian Tourist Visa on arrival is available for US passport holders, and the turnaround is really quick. When you apply online, the application requires a minimum of 4 days, but I applied on Feb 6th and my app was processed by the 7th. So for those of you in a bind, this is as good of as option as you're gonna get.

While the application was quick and easy, once I got to India it wasn't difficult, just annoying. It took a lot longer than the people who got their visas the old fashioned away. By the time I was finished (and I was only 5th in line), my entire flight had already gotten through customs. There were only three guys working the booths for Visas on Arrival, and the government officials moved painstakingly slow. MAYBE they were just trying to be thorough, but it felt like they were doing that because they could.

Since I'm traveling in Delhi by myself, I booked through a company that did everything: driver + car + hotel + guide. They even booked by flight out of Delhi to Mumbai. Easy peasy, and according to TripAdvisor and my own research, they were definitely fair in their pricing. I'll post the name of the company once the tour is over, I'll let you know the company name and whether or not they lived up to their reviews!

Here are some tips I've read and gathered from friends so far:
- Don't drink the water. Don't even brush your teeth with the faucet water. Stick to bottled water (make sure the seal isn't broken). Oh, and be mindful that you don't open your mouth in the shower.
- Be careful when it comes to fruits that don't peel and salads since it's washed with their water.
- It's best to stay away from brothy foods. Sure, that curry looks tasty, but if you're not sure how long it's been sitting there, you're better off leaving it alone. Once it starts cooling off, you're more likely to get Delhi belly.
- Tea is okay since it's boiled.
- Stay away from milk and other dairy products (Edit: Yassi and raita are okay. These curds have the good bacteria that we want.)
- If you're traveling solo, when being picked up by your driver, give them a "safety question" ahead of time to make sure it's really the person who's supposed to pick you up. I spoke with the person arranging everything, and told him that I'd ask my driver where I'm from, and told him the answer I expected.
- I have unlimited text and data on my phone, and on G+, I allowed my friends to see my exact location.
- If you're not with the same driver the whole time and just grabbing a taxi, I read that you should talk on the phone telling someone where you are and where you're heading to so that the driver knows that someone is expecting you.
- And apparently, don't let this random cab driver's friend just jump in the car to hitch a ride. Tell them that his friend can't come, or get out.
- Bring toilet paper and wet wipes, but avoid flushing it down the toilet as much as you can. These toilets aren't made for that so you might clog it. And beware of "the hole.
- Check the exchange rate and avoid changing your money at the airport and hotels They have the worst rates. I was able to exchange my money at my tour guide's office just about at the current rate.
- I'm reading different things about tipping your driver and guide, so I'll let you know once I cross that bridge, but one thing all the websites agree on is tip 10-15% at restaurants, don't confuse service charge (gratuity included) with service tax (levied by the government so you should tip)

Most importantly...
If you're feeling uncomfortable, listen to your gut!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ready.. Set.. Adventures!

India's booked with Philippines to follow and I am excited and nervous and all of those other conflicting feelings that make me certain that this next step is the correct one.

I'll be spending the next two weeks penning concrete goals for these trips to make sure that this trip is worthwhile.

Without goals you're just dreamin'.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Annual Introspection

Shame on me for missing my annual reflection post. I haven't missed this since, well, I don't even know when. I started this tradition in high school and think this is my first miss. I'll make an exception just this once, because these first two weeks have been incredibly hectic, but that's what I get for deciding to moving down the coast on New Year's Eve.

Segue into.. I'm back! In Florida, that is. And only temporarily. I've been re-organizing both my things and my thoughts since my return, and I guess now is as good a time as any to continue to the sorting.

2014 involved a lot of planning. Before it had even started, I knew a change was inevitable. Life was generally fine, but there was a dissatisfaction that was stirring my soul. Because of the nature of my job and other grown up responsibilities (i.e. rent, food, bills, loans, etc) I had to plan my exit carefully. I made my moves and waited patiently for this new year to arrive, and IT'S FINALLY HERE!

Here are the things what I am thankful for, which have allowed me to move confidently into this next part of my life:

1. Work: Office jobs can feel soul sucking, but I gained valuable industry experience and built lasting relationships. With the job came financial stability, and when your basic needs are taken care of, it frees up an incredible amount of energy to worry about other things and ask other questions besides, "How am I going to pay for this?" and instead ask, "What is my next step?"

2. My relationship: He has been an incredible blessing in my life. To have someone who is as loving, patient and supportive as he is motivates me to be better in all ways, for myself and our future. I want to be as big of a blessing in his life as he is in mine.

3. My family: They drive me crazy, but I love them. My parents love me too much for me to not do everything I can to make them proud; and they've done everything possible to put us in a position to chase our dreams.

4. My faith: His plans are infinitely better than my own.

Happy New Year!


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Clock Goes Tic Toc Tic Toc

It's already October yet 2015 can't get here fast enough! Still lots of exciting things to wrap up the end of the year, but I am completely anxious/nervous/excited about what's to come.

These last two years in NY/NJ have taught me a lot, and my job was definitely experience but I've been itching to get back to the Philippines since I left.

This zombie life is not the life for me. 2015 will be my revival.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Snooze Button

Two years and a mere 23 posts later, I'm ready to be re-inspired. Apparently I've been sleepwalking all the while and now it's time to WAKE UP!

Stability it great, but when your bad moments outnumber the good, it's time to identify and walk from what it is that is making you unhappy. Make a move and run towards your dreams.

Just don't fall asleep for too long.