Budget Glamorous Trip of a Lifetime!

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Passing the Christmas season in dreary weather, I often start daydreaming of other places — hot places, beachy places, exciting places, places that don’t look like the Appalachian mountains.  I love travel.  Ever since I was a little girl I’ve longed to see faraway destinations.  I blame my love of “third world” countries on James Bond flicks and being budget glamorous, but I love them just the same.  India, however, was never a place I thought I would get to see for a number of reasons, a big one being money.  Coming from the U.S. to places past Europe is Ex-Pen-SIVE.  But when I met my lovely friend Sreya, she helped make it a reality.

I spent what is up to this point in my 34 years the best summer of my life in 2011 partly in Calcutta, India.  I spent what appears to be about $3500 on the trip — mostly in air costs.  I had a fabulous time.  I got very sick, lol, but I had a fabulous time.  India (to me) is one of those very glamorous places that one dreams of going and then realizes will cost a fortune, at least if you live in the States.  Of that dollar amount above, I kept out about $900 in spending money — food, gifts, etc.  The rest was 100% airfare!  It is a 15 hour flight from the east coast of the U.S. to New Delhi, not counting any transfers you may have to go through.  Jet lag was pretty severe.

Things I Did Right…

I stayed with a family.  That cut my housing costs by, well, 100%.  Yes, I tried to do as much as possible to show my hosts I was grateful.  But staying with someone has other advantages besides monetary ones.  For one thing, I got to see a very personal side of Calcutta — how people really lived, what they really ate, what they really talked about.  Not that Calcutta is a prime tourist destination or anything, but I didn’t see a touristy package.

I went to an international travel clinic and I spent the money on shots and preventatives.  When I got sick in Calcutta, I was VERY grateful for my Z-pack.

I pressed on like a brave little hobbit, even though I was scared and at times it looked as though the trip might fall through.  The richness of this adventure was well worth the $3500 investment!  😉

Things I Didn’t Do So Right…

I didn’t buy the plane ticket when I should have.  Due to screwing around on the part of travel companions who didn’t turn out to be travel companions, I put off buying my ticket in February, when I should have, and ended up purchasing it in May when things were finally sorted out.  The lag cost me about $600.  And a bit of sanity, I might add.

I went during monsoon season (Yike!).  Now, I didn’t have much of a choice.  The best times to go, I gather, are between October and February.  Not June.  Definitely not July.  But I work for a university (and so does the lovely girlie I stayed with) so summer was the only choice for me.  The monsoon rains both fascinated me and kept us from going places frequently.  The roads were washed out in spots — and we’re talking major thoroughfare.  All in all, though, I didn’t mind.  I loved watching the rains and thinking and drinking chai.

I didn’t bring Pepto-Bismol!  Had I done a little more research about getting sick in India (as you WILL get sick), I would’ve discovered that frequent travelers to India swear by pepto pills once a day.  Might’ve helped, who knows.  Getting sick did cut my trip short.  I had planned to go to Delhi, maybe up to Darjeeling, all these lovely places.  On top of that, because I had to change my air ticket to leave earlier, I paid an extra $1200 approximately to get back home.  Well worth it in case I had to be near Western medicine, but definitely an unplanned expense.  Further, even though I had trip insurance, it would not reimburse the cost of the ticket since I didn’t demonstrate that I went to a Western doctor pretty much immediately upon arrival back to the States.  😦  So all that was totally out of pocket.  Had I realized that’s what it took to get reimbursed, I’d have gone in anyway.  I was just happy to be back, given how delicate my tummy was at the time.

There is always next time though, right?  🙂  In the meantime, I look at the sheets on my bed, the wooden bracelets, the charming and inexpensive Christmas gifts I was able to buy for my friends and family, the pottery elephants, the lovely photographs and I remember what a time I had!  It was a wonderful feeling to get to share Sreya’s culture with her during that summer and then to spread some of that around at Christmas time.  I am reminded of what we shared every time I go through my house or put on my Indian pearl necklace.  That is truly priceless.

Coming up next, how did I afford it?

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2 responses »

  1. Thank you! There are websites to help people connect with families in case you don’t know one personally, like servas.org, that are designed to match people who love to travel with host families in the country of destination. The people who use it rave about it. I’ve never used it myself, but I plan to in the future, and it seems much better vetted than something like couchsurfer!

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