Have you ever yearned to go somewhere so badly, visualized it for years, had high expectations, and then became totally disappointed when you realized it wasn't the enchanting place you dreamt of? So, sadly, that's Bali for me, specifically Ubud.
We've had an adventurous 2016, with trips to exotic places like India, Thailand, Alaska, and Las Vegas (maybe that's not "exotic" but still), and yet, ending up spending the summer in Illinois is something I can't quite wrap my brain around yet. And we've been here for 10 days already.
As I type this, we are sitting at a beachside hotel in the south of India at the half-way point of a 15 week journey through India and Thailand. That sounds amazing doesn't it? Well it is, but it's also incredibly challenging. And our direct experience of backpacking with months of medical supplies on our backs through a country that has no concept of "handicap accessible" probably looks a hell of a lot different than the dreamy vacation you might be imagining. We travel for so long at one time because we move so damn slowly.
As you can probably tell by the title, I've been traveling in India for 5 weeks now and am feeling a little snarky.
This post was inspired by a visit to the toilet in a "nice" restaurant...
I was just lecturing Nick about how we need to stay in control when dealing with locals. How I want to be kind, but not allow them to sway me when I have a plan, or an idea of what I'm doing. In fact, Nick was unhappy with how I snapped at a nice local man while waiting for the train from Gaya to Varanasi, so that's how this came up.
The sad truth is you have to be hard here. Kindness is quickly mistaken for interest and people will follow you for blocks trying to convince you to buy something. Just about everyone has an agenda here in India, especially if they approach you out of no where.
So when we arrived in Varanasi late at night and our auto rickshaw driver talked us out of our decided-upon hotel, and took us to another place (inconveniently located on the opposite side of town) where he earned a commission and somehow even managed to get a fucking tip out of me on top of the previously negotiated price, I beat myself up about it. How did this happen!?
Nick and I both desperately want to believe that all humans have good hearts and intentions. We want to trust people. We want to be loving and compassion, but in India, you just can't. Or, at least you shouldn't. Otherwise you will end up somewhere you didn't want to go.
But I didn't learn from that experience, because within 30 minutes on the street the next morning, we were following a friendly local in the complete opposite direction we wanted to go as he led us to see how textiles "he designed" were made. I told him twice, "No shopping!" and as we walked further and further, I got wearier and more frustrated feeling like we were about to get duped. Oh and Nick sure didn't need to walk two extra blocks on top of all the walking he would be doing later.
Next thing I know I'm walking into a sari show room and being shown fabrics by a pushy sales man. I was so fucking pissed, at the local guy for being so nice, helping us, talking to us, and then taking advantage of us, but I was more mad at myself though, for knowing better but feeling timid to stand my ground and firmly saying no to his invite. I can't believe it happened, again! I'm so tired of not being able to trust anyone here.
He redeemed himself though, by walking us back to the main road, hailing a cycle rickshaw for us back to where we met, negotiating a "locals" price for it, following us there, apologizing profuseley, and personally guiding us down to the burning ghat. He spent 45 minutes with us there telling us all about the process. He was very gracious and more than won us over, even after an attempt to take advantage of us. Such is India. Ahhhhh, incredible India.