Whatever your expectation of a place would be, halve it, then halve that. This is what your third world country travels expectation meter should be like. It’s not going to be much like your normal experience back home, and it’s best to just take it with some humor on the side, so that the terrible moments that make you wish you were home aren’t so bad after all. Our first stop was the old capital of the country – Kolkata.
It all starts with our first taxi ride through the bustling city, and coming from silent Bangkok (silent compared to this) where they speed like crazy but they almost never use their horns to a place where they use their horns almost out of habit, even if there is no one there to alert of their presence – this place was extremely intense from word go. Even though this was almost the taxi ride from hell (due to near misses we experienced in the double digits), I had a HUGE grin on my face the entire time! Here I am, bouncing around on a springy seat in an ancient yellow automobile driven by a mumbling Indian man chewing tobacco, through dusty streets filled with cars, people and animals of all sorts, and I felt so relaxed, so delighted to be here – while Tristan constantly turned back to me from the front seat with an anxious expression, unable to comprehend how we were still alive.
As soon as we entered Indian airspace, I felt tranquil, (that’s saying a lot because I am not very good in the air, thousands of meters away from land) like I was stepping into a pool of warm honey. So later on when I was walking through the busy market place full of counterfeit goods and delicious street food, I didn’t mind that my feet were getting covered in the black, stagnant water on the streets, I didn’t even mind that people were hassling us for handshakes and photos that I’m putting down to our porcelain skin, and I really didn’t mind that I was jostled by cows as I strolled along.
To test this theory further, I didn’t even mind that when we arrived in our hotel room that we had booked for our first night, the glass was missing from our bedroom window, the bathroom was 2 flights downstairs and the hotel had run out of towels, so we had to dry ourselves with our dirty clothes. Talk about expectations! It was an experience to be had though, and I feel like it has lowered my standards a lot, but in a way that makes me appreciate what I have more than being ungrateful and materialistic. I feel like when I do go home, I won’t need the best of the best of everything, and I will save spending my money on those things for experiences like these, even if they make me want to go home sometimes. These are the things that make me grow as a person and make me empathetic of different cultures and situations all over the world, so that I’m no longer sheltered under my first world life.
I almost feel as though I’ve come home, but not my ‘physical’ home where everything is clean and technologically advanced, like the home my soul has been waiting for me to come back to, to continue my search within.