This is not the first visit to a hospital I have had during our 100 days of travelling. First, there was a visit to a Cambodian clinic where I was given several drips and antibiotics to kill a bacteria infection I picked up whilst volunteering. Now I’m trying to recover from a bug that hopped on the plane with me from Thailand to India. Thank goodness for travel insurance!
So besides my obvious weakness to attracting viruses, how has our 100 days of travelling been?
First, the good stuff…
It’s been an amazing adventure filled with great moments and experiences as well as some tough and emotional times. Travelling can be tiring but travelling with a toddler is simply exhausting. There are many times where I have said to myself ‘who thought this was a good idea!’ Especially when you are trying to catch a train with your pack on, Jack’s bags in hand and pushing the pram with the other when he decides to have a melt down and sprawl out on the pavement. Or the times you are trying to guide Mr. Independent down a street without having a collision with the many motorbikes, tuk tuks, cows and donkeys coming at you. There is also the fact that we live out of each other’s pockets 24/7. We sleep in the same room, share showers, go everywhere together and are the main source of Jack’s entertainment. There is no lounge room to escape to, no office to go to and no family to offload him to for a child free night out. Why the hell did we do this when he was two?
But then there are the moments when Jack meets and plays with the local kids who are just infatuated with him, when he learns to say hello and thank you in another language and the times he is running around the grounds of some of the most impressive architecture (not that he has any appreciation for where he is). Not to mention, the amount of time Chris and I get to spend with him, seeing him grow up into a little boy that we wouldn’t have been able to back in Melbourne.
From the moment we stepped off the plane in Ho Chi Minh City until we arrived in Chiang Mai we were non-stop sightseeing. Walking or riding a push bike everywhere visiting museums, monuments, parks and temples and moving from city to city every few days. Jack’s routine was adapted and he had his day sleep sweating it out in the pram or flopped over on his bike seat so we could squeeze as much as possible into every day.
Vietnam was a planned holiday before we were to start volunteering or find paying work and become travellers rather than tourists. We went by train to each destination from the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the quieter romantic city of Hoi An. The food, one of the most exciting things to me about travelling, did not disappoint. Vietnam was all I imagined it to be although looking back we wish we had of ventured off track and went exploring in the mountains.
Volunteering in Cambodia didn’t quite go as planned and we realised that travelling with a toddler wasn’t the same as backpacking around the world in your early 20’s footloose and fancy free. It was the first real blow on our adventure as we were both looking forward to doing work that would not only make a difference to others less fortunate but would enrich our experience along the way.
Settling down in Chiang Mai
And then we arrived in the land of smiles and set up in Chiang Mai. The first few weeks were pretty quiet as we settled into our new apartment and started looking for jobs. Chris landed his first teaching gig within 24 hours while I enjoyed being the primary carer of Jack, a role that I hadn’t played since he was about six months old. Sounds cushy right? The novelty of being jobless wore off pretty quickly, and the desire to start contributing to our travelling funds and be productive grew. So I looked into online freelancing and before I knew it, I had two paying positions and could officially call myself a freelancer. Now earning money while sitting on our sunny balcony in between playing with Jack was a pretty good gig.
Unpacking our bags for the first time in weeks was great and I was surprised at how strong the desire to settle down and have a routine again was. It took me a few weeks to warm to Chiang Mai but soon I was thinking about how I could live there for an extended period. The people, the relaxed lifestyle and the array of great local food all made me fall in love with the place.
My Indian dream turned into a nightmare
Two months seemed to fly by and before I knew it we were getting ready to live out of our bags again as we explored India. India was my choice on the itinerary as I had heard so much about the country, the vibrancy, spectacular landscapes and of course the food! Arriving in Delhi was a head spin and for the first time I really felt the effects of culture shock. The place was hectic; people, tuk tuks, bikes and dogs were everywhere. As we wandered around the streets of Karol Bagh, I felt exposed. Everyone was staring at us and it never followed with a smile. I dressed appropriately and tried to avoid their stares, but I could feel their eyes on us everywhere we went. It didn’t seem friendly or warm and welcoming like we had just experienced in Thailand, and I felt uneasy and unsafe at every corner. I was beginning to wonder why I had chosen to travel to India, especially with Jack. Where was this magical India I was lead to believe existed?
We couldn’t get out of Delhi fast enough and after our scamming experiences, India was leaving a dirty taste in my mouth. But then I stepped foot in the Taj Mahal at our second stop, Agra (not the most attractive of cities but with an impressive landmark like this, it can be forgiven). It was stunning and although filled with lots of people, it was a peaceful place to wander around. The architecture is purely remarkable and I could really appreciate why it is on the list of the one of the world’s most impressive places to visit.
After one night in Agra, we were off again on an overnight train to Udaipur and within minutes of our arrival we felt perhaps we had found a magical part of India. Tiny steep alleys, small shop fronts and a spectacular view of the lake and the cities architecture. The people are friendly, pushy but friendly, it feels safer and the stares are fewer and more discrete. It was also the first time since arriving in India we saw other Westerners walking the streets, and although this signifies a more touristy area, it was comforting.
A major part of my Indian experience I was looking forward to was the food and unfortunately a diet of steamed rice, bread and bananas really doesn’t cut it. Every dish Chris orders I get food envy, dying to experience the taste of India. There is a little more time left and hopefully after my trip to the GBH American Hospital I will be able to sneak in a couple of meals before we reach our next destination.
I can’t say our trip so far has been 100% easy, which might be hard to believe for those sitting behind a desk five days a week in the freezing cold of Melbourne. Homesickness has set in and sometimes the routine of our old lifestyle seems appealing to return to. I Skype my parents every Sunday. It’s like the planned family Sunday Roast evenings, minus the roast and with a screen in between us. It’s one of Jack’s highlights of the week and when we can’t get in touch due to poor Wi-Fi or time constraints, the desire to go home is at it’s peak. Jack’s isolation from his family and little buddies is also something we have had to adapt to. His best friend is his Peppa Pig and he is constantly talking to his Nonnie and Cookie (his grandparents) on his plastic phone. The first few months he was unsociable and wouldn’t even play with kids in the park, although he has now just started warming up to the company of others giving me a sigh of relief that perhaps he won’t be one of ‘those’ only children. The biggest sacrifice we have made by travelling is being without our families and taking Jack away from them. It’s one thing about travelling I don’t ever think I will get used to.
It’s been 100 days of excitement, experiences, tears, joy and travellers belly. Hopefully we have many more to come (minus the hospital trips).