Back in Brooklyn now after an unplanned two-day drive from Chicago following an Irene-inspired flight diversion from Delhi, I have had almost 24 hours to catch my breath and reflect on the crazy month that I just experienced. It was fantastic, intense, challenging, beautiful, terrifying, inspiring, depressing, insane, hilarious, exhausting and amazing trip. The few words that I write here can barely do justice to the feelings touching me throughout the adventure. India is maximum sensory overload at all times and it goes straight to the brain.
We ended in Delhi, with two days at the uber-luxurious Imperial Hotel as a treat and reward for surviving the punishing travel demands of Indian travel. Little did we know we were so far from home. We arrived on an overnight train at 5am but couldn’t check into our comfy bed until 11, so wandered around the bizzarely empty center of India’s capital for 6 hours in a dream state before some pool time, some food and a trip to a local Sufi shrine, which quickly became the most overwhelming of all my experiences during the adventure. Unaware, we had wandered into the final Thursday evening prayer session of Ramadan and were crushed with worshippers. I have never experienced anything like this intense density of people and all I could think about was stampede deaths which is why I feel lucky to have only lost my wallet…
The next day was a street food safari in Old Delhi, which was as densely packed as our previous excursion but also involved the same density of motor vehicles, followed by some shopping at Main Bazar and an elegantly delicious dinner at Bukhara. We awoke at 5am the next day to catch a train to Agra for a final day at The Taj Mahal, the most ornate and precious building in the world. On our train back to Delhi, we learned that all NYC airports were pre-empitvely closed for the hurricane and our flight had been canceled. Some quick research opened the possibility of not returning until September 6; panic ensues and we eventually make our way to the airport, where we are offered the possibility of flying to Chicago, renting a car and driving home via Pittsburgh, finally arriving home 36 hours behind schedule. It was a grueling five days since the Buddhist tranquility of Dharamsala, but we arrived home and hugged our cats then fulfilled our sushi cravings and passed out.
I want to go back to India and see more. It has so much to offer and we only scratched the surface, but for the next few months, I will be content with life at home. There is comfort in a regular schedule and familiar environs. The point of travel is to escape that, but if I were always on the move, there would be no standard for comparison.
I want to thank my intrepid partners on this journey, Sarah, Eric and Alaina for supporting me and providing great insights and discussion throughout the trip. I know I can be a tough companion sometimes because I love punishment, finding difficult and uncomfortable situations to immerse myself in while seeking out the cheapest food and accommodation possible. Overall, I think we worked well as a team, executing the travel perfectly and learning a lot about India, its amazing people, food and culture, plus ourselves and our own home. I am certain there are many more journeys in our future!