Erasmus life: a few free days before classes start – take a trip! I managed to spend 3 days in Vienna and then visited Salzburg and the surrounding region.
Originally, I intended to visit Vienna, Graz, Salzburg and maybe Innsbruck, but I’m glad I slowed down in the end. I stayed at least three nights in the two cities, meaning I wasn’t rushing around as much as I would have been had I stuck to my original plans. And I got to spend 3 days in Vienna rather than having to cut my trip to the capital short to fit in other places!
My dad has been waxing lyrical about Vienna to me for years, so I figured that it was definitely time to see what all the fuss is about. And really, I think it lives up to the hype.
To anyone who asked me about Delhi after my trip last year, I always said the same thing. It’s a place you love or you hate, I said, and thankfully I took to it straight away. It was true – from the moment I stepped off the Shatabdi Express train from Dehradun in the middle of June, 2015, I knew there was something different about this city. I have also always said that I am eternally grateful that I had two months to acclimatise to India in Dehradun whilst volunteering with the Saheli Trust, rather than coming straight to Delhi and being thrown into the deep end. I don’t think I’d have coped nearly as well in the capital if that had been the case.
More than one year later, I’m back again. Or I was, for a day or so. Whilst last year I spent more than a week in Delhi, this year, it’s been a flying visit before moving on to Dehradun for a couple of days to visit, and then catching a plane to Mumbai (please, save me the 40-hour train journey!)
So, a few things have been different. I’m no longer wide-eyed and unaccustomed to Delhi traffic, and I have even less patience for touts and over-eager rickshaw drivers. More on that later.
When you’re travelling in South East Asia, the majority of backpackers you meet are fairly young. But the majority of those travelling alone are in their mid-twenties. It’s reasonably rare to see gap-year students alone, especially once you step off the main tourist circuit. This is particularly true of young women travelling alone. And that’s just what I saw on my travels in Thailand and Cambodia. In India, to see a teenage girl travelling alone is almost unheard of. To be honest, travelling solo in India really deserves a post of its own. Another time. But here are a few things you’re likely to experience, both good and bad, as a young solo female traveler.
I wouldn’t have taken back a second of my travels last summer. Although I definitely had some lows to match the highs, travelling solo did amazing things for my confidence and sense of direction after leaving my first university course. Although I only I turned 19 towards the end of my stay in India, I wouldn’t say that being so young had any detrimental effect on my travels as a whole.
NB: I apologise once again for poor photo quality; still no laptop/camera access!
I’m happy… But I’m sad. I’m hopeful, but I’m also a little nervous. I’m tired, but I’m full of excitement for the next part of my life.
Such are the feelings I face as I scuff my toes in the hypothetical dirt, unwilling to drag myself away from the action-packed, varied life of travel which I have been living for the last few months, leaving behind the unpredictability of life on the road in favour of a new Bachelors degree and a whole YEAR of living in the same place. I left university nearly six months ago; I flew to India a month later. Since then, it has been such a roller coaster ride. The lows are few and far between, but despite what some would have you think, they do exist. But the highs… The highs are extraordinary in every way.
I would not take back a second. I would not reverse a single decision or moment which led me to be here, writing this post in a cafe in Kanchanaburi, watching the monsoon rains splash on the road outside. Even though at points during the last year, I’ve felt so desolate that I could barely see my own existence into the next week, I am now exactly where I am supposed to be.
I haven’t really loved my time in Cambodia so far. A number of reasons have added up to me being alternately amused, faintly bored, somewhat interested and enormously irritated in varying amounts since I have been here. I am sad that I don’t have more time here to give it more of a chance and visit some places which are a little further from the backpacker trail, but unfortunately I am going to be leaving in about a week. Or perhaps fortunately, this time.
Don’t get me wrong; in no way am I dismissing the whole country, or the people, or the amazing experiences other people have had here. But at this point, Cambodia and I really haven’t gelled at all… Maybe another trip in the future will change my mind but currently, my feelings about the places I have been here are fairly resentful. For a number of reasons.
I’m going to hold my hands up to the fact that I’m a little guilty of sugar-coating my travels. Not so much on this blog, because I’d like to think I don’t hide anything from you guys, but on my personal Facebook and Instagram, I do a fairly good job of making it seem like everything I’m doing is exciting and cool and indie and making my friends jealous, and pretty much presenting a rose-filtered version of reality. Nobody wants to hear moaning on Facebook, right?
But I won’t lie, there are times when it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Yesterday, I had to go and sit in Starbucks for a while just because of the familiarity – label whore much – when it all got a bit much.
I’m not really one for getting lonely, but I just felt quite overwhelmed all of a sudden. I like my own company, but sometimes it’s nice to have people to talk to, to have someone else to hold the camera and tell your stories too. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of other English girls on the train back from Agra the other day, but they left the next morning, heading to Bangkok. And my hostel isn’t particularly conducive to meeting other people.
I’m not really uncomfortable in India. And as for Delhi being quite different to where I was before, I feel like it’s one of those places which some people love and others absolutely loathe. For my part, I’ve really taken to it. I love the contrasts of New and Old Delhi. I love that you can turn the corner from a busy shopping street in Old Delhi and come face-to-face with a beautiful old mosque or fort. I love the wide avenues and parks of New Delhi. However, I won’t deny that the place has its drawbacks.
I’m writing this from my new favourite haunt, the Chhaya Café in Old Rajpur. It’s one of a few slightly hipster joints on the Old Mussoorie Road, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of inner Dehradun. Great, cheap food and drinks, a lovely view, and FREE WiFi! My dream location…
Okay, I lie. That’s the only bit I wrote in the café. Procrastinating much! Terrible…
On Thursday, I unfortunately was a bit ill again (does a week ever pass that something isn’t wrong with me???) and spent the day at home, reading and catching up with writing my book reviews – got a nice backlog to publish now, all waiting in the folder! I couldn’t believe that I had just a week left in Dehradun before I moved onto the next part of my journey… Friday wasn’t particularly eventful either as I’d improved a tiny bit – enough to drag myself to summer camp in the morning, but I spent most of the rest of the day asleep…
On Saturday I stayed home from the camp again, and made use of some of my time which wasn’t spent reading by repacking some of my bits and bobs in preparation for the next weeks packing challenge, and tidying all my stuff. Decided to give quite a few bits and pieces to the girls here because I REALLY don’t need all my stuff and it wouldn’t hurt to free up some space.
Thursday 7th May was a big day for me! I was up bright and early to get to Shruti’s house for 6.45; we had to be in Rishikesh before 9am, to catch the bus from the booking office up to the BUNGEE PLATFORM!
I’ve wanted to do a bungee jump for such a long time; it’s been on my bucket list for years, but until I saw some advertisements in Rishikesh on my first trip there, I didn’t realise that I’d get to fulfil it so soon! It’s one of those things where you think, “I’ll do it one day…”, but never give all that much thought to what you would think if that day happened to be tomorrow. The company we decided to book the jump through is called “Jumpin Heights”, and their bridge is the highest bungee platform in India, at 83m above the valley floor just outside Rishikesh, over the Ganges.
The company seemed not only very professional with very good reviews, but they also had specialists from New Zealand working with them and catered for many visitors to the area; all seemed legit so we had booked a jump each for that day. The prices seemed almost too good to be true, like everything here.
In England, you’d pay £100 at the very least for a bungee jump. Here, I did mine for Rs 3000 – about £30 – and can confirm that the safety precautions were very good and the staff extremely professional. Another thing I didn’t tell my parents about beforehand; back home, I’m sure that the cheap price might have seemed an indicator of bad quality, but here in India, it’s quite a lot of money.