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?