5 days ago we were having lunch at our favorite little spot for Indian food in Thamel, Kathmandu. Our bags were packed, our bus tickets were purchased and we were excited about the next stop in our travels…Kolkata, India! We had printed out our E-Visas assuming that we would need them in paper form at the Nepal – India border crossing. As we were waiting for our food, Lianne glanced at hers and we soon realized that there were restrictions on these particular visas and we would not be allowed to cross into India by land. Now, as we sit at a cafe in Mumbai 5 days later, I wanted to write about travel, the inconveniences that inevitably come up and how those can relate to “normal” day to day life.
The first thing that we did when we found this error was look at each other and smile. This is because we knew that we had created the problem by not giving our visas a good thorough reading to that point. It is easy to wonder why, but look at it this way, we received the visas 4 months previously and had read very thoroughly through many India blogs and did not come across this piece of info once that we can recollect. Also, we are both fairly well traveled and had never come across a situation where you could only enter a country by sea or air.
The next thing we did was begin to figure out how we could fix the issue at hand. We had that day and one more before our Nepal visas were going to expire so we knew that we would be paying more for some last minute airfare. We searched every city in India to see which had the cheapest option. That happened to be New Delhi. This was fine as it was on our list of places to go and we would be excited about it. There was a flight for 4pm that same day that we booked. Bags already packed, we were ready. We grabbed a cab and had them bring us first to the bus station where we were able to get a 75% refund on our tickets (we expected nothing, but this shows, you have to try!). Then headed to the airport and flew to Delhi that evening.
Once we landed in Delhi, we grabbed a cab and noticed immediately that the air was thick with what was either really dense fog or smog. We’d heard that this was a pretty dirty city, so did not think much of it. The next morning we awoke and messaged our families to let them know of our changed itinerary and both of our parent’s immediately mentioned that the news of the awful air pollution currently plaguing New Delhi was everywhere. Because we had made such a fast decision to get out of Kathmandu, and hadn’t been on top of our global news cycles, we had missed this bit of info. After a little research and finding out that this was some of the worst air pollution to hit Delhi in a long time, and after reading that it was at such a hazardous level, we decided, once again, that it was time to get out of there!
We had a lot of places in the north of India and surrounding Delhi that we wanted to go, but the pollution was wide spread and so we decided it would be best for us to come back to do that part of the journey later on. That morning we walked over to the train station and booked overnight sleeper train tickets to Mumbai. We have spent a few days here and have enjoyed exploring this city and now find ourselves a day away from heading down to Goa to begin our exploration of the southern part of India. It has been a whirlwind and we are lucky to have the benefit of lots of time to be able to change up our plans, but most importantly, we remained calm, positive and open to making these adjustments.
Thinking back on it, it feels like these types of things happen to us all the time not matter where we are in our lives. It is like having a pop quiz in high school, or your boss coming to you at work and saying drop everything else you are doing and work on this, or going on a 7 day beach vacation and having it rain. We need to be able to adjust to unexpected circumstances that are out of our control and hopefully these adjustments can be done without major panic. Could you let these affect your mood and piss you off? Sure! But what good is that going to do in the long run if you can’t change that it is happening in the first place?
I feel that traveling in foreign countries can create an atmosphere where these circumstances present themselves more often. When you’re surrounded by unfamiliar customs, people, languages, it creates opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstanding. That shouldn’t be something that is feared, it should be something that is accepted. Being presented with these types of issues prepares us for the more major problems that we will all be confronted with in life at some point. I like to think of it as practice for “real” problems and how I will be able to handle them.
So our plans have changed, our path is much different now than we thought it would be a week ago, but we are just as excited for our new path. We had no way of knowing that we would be in Mumbai writing this blog at this point, but that is what makes long-term travel thrilling to us. We recently rewatched Forrest Gump and without directly quoting the most famous line from that film, I will end by saying that we are tremendously excited for the box of chocolates and all the possibilities that will be there once we open it.