Bombay Bound and Feeling Brave

Excited, nervous, anxious… all feelings that I’m experiencing right now. I’ve read so many books that are set in India, read travel blogs, and heard stories from colleagues and people we’ve met traveling over the years about their time in India. I feel like I have somewhat of an idea of what to expect, but am trying to let go of all expectations and be completely open minded. I’ve been told over and over again, “Everyone’s experience in India is different. Everyone reacts differently to the sights, sounds and smells. Let go of all expectations… just let India be what it is for you.” I might love it, I might hate it. I’ll let you know tomorrow after a day of exploring!

It feels really odd to be traveling without Matt, or at least a familiar face (like Rebecca, who I miss traveling with so much)! The last time I got on a plane to go somewhere completely new and alone was my flight to Thailand in 2012. Since that year, independent travel hasn’t really been “my thing.” I had one terrifying experience in a Thai taxi in September 2012, and didn’t take a taxi alone until Uber came to Monterrey in 2015. I would hire the same two drivers who took me everywhere and was totally comfortable on the back of a motorbike, but every time I entertained the thought of getting into a taxi alone, anxiety paralyzed me.

Quickly after the taxi incident, I began to feel anxious about feeling anxious (silly, right?). An overwhelming sense of nervousness trickled into other areas of my life, making me feel reluctant to try new things, less confident in myself, and like I’d lost control of myself.

I’ve been recovering from that experience for years now, one step at a time. Now I have strategies to use when I feel my hands start to sweat and my heart start racing. Yoga has helped me learn to control my thoughts, or at least to let the negative ones go. Matt is almost always there to hold me tight, or put pressure on my chest (we call this squashing my elephant, haha). I can ride in a taxi alone (preferably an Uber, but it’s a step), and I’m learning the difference between my intuition and anxiety (this has been the most challenging). For the past year, I’ve started to feel like I have control again. At least most of the time.

The next step for me was to go back to Thailand… get into a taxi with the familiar smell of jasmine and lemongrass and Buddha images pinned to the ceiling, and see if I can do it. Ya, I could keep cool in a taxi in Canada or Doha, but could I do it in Thailand? I partially expected to get in the bright pink cab at the airport in a Bangkok and have a full on panic attack.

Fortunately, I got through two weeks in Thailand this past Christmas panic attack free. What a relief! After our holiday, I’m feeling even more so like my brave self again. It feels good.

Fast forward to India. As I was waiting in the immigration line, a Irish-Indian man asked me if it was my first time traveling to Mumbai. I told him yes, and that it was also my first time in India. He replied with,

“Alone? Bloody hell, you’re brave.”

Why, thank you. 🙂 Here I go!

Advertisements

Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai

This morning I woke up early, eager to explore Mumbai and get my first taste of India. Waking up in my simple, cozy hotel room, I could have been anywhere in the world. It was hard to believe that I was actually in India. India has always been a future travel destination for me. You know, like… “when I’m ready for it” or “when I’m brave enough.” Well, ready or not, here I am.

Unsure of taxi culture in Mumbai, I asked the hotel security guard if he could help me arrange a driver for a few hours. Outside the hotel flagged a totally random taxi down, then walked away leaving me there to negotiate on my own. Be brave. The driver seemed nice enough with a big black toothed smile and relatively clean car (which I later discovered did not have air conditioning).  We settled on a time and ending point and I showed him a hand written list of a few places I wanted to visit. He smiled, said “yes,” and nodded his right to left… which sure looked like no to me.

With some confusion, we eventually made it to Dhobi Ghat, the largest open air laundromat in Mumbai. Families work each day washing laundry from hospitals and hotels in Mumbai. Watching people do so much laundry by hand felt like taking a step back in time. I could have watched them work all day. Carrying bags of laundry, washing with soap and water in concrete basins, and hanging the pieces to dry on long wires was fascinating. The colors were beautiful and it was without doubt a photographer’s dream.

All of my photos were taken from the bridge along Mahalaxmi Railway station. The bridge was lined with foreigners snapping birds-eye view pictures. Most hopped out of a taxi, took a few shots, jumped back in and carried on (just like me). I’ve been told that you can walk down the steps, follow the road, and pay a small fee (200 rupees) at the entrance of Dhobi Ghat for a tour inside. Unfortunately, my driver had no interest in waiting for me to go in and seemed genuinely confused about why I even wanted to come here in the first place! Next time I’m in Mumbai, I’ll definitely take the time to go inside.

Dhobi Ghat is definitely worth checking out. Don’t forget your camera!