Now and again I would suddenly feel, Oh wow, I’m here by myself, scary. Other times, I would feel, wow, make the most of it, appreciate it, soak up as much as possible. Still other times, it felt natural to be there, like a second home.
But like my month alone on the boat, two weeks was enough. I looked forward to the next adventure we could do together. I did go out one evening and have a mojito and a pizza, recreating an experience from last time, but in general it is my husband who provides the fun; I can be overly serious and work- ish.
Compared to the worst moments of our year of travel, I didn’t get super low or terribly panicky; maybe being alone I just had to keep myself together, five and a half weeks, almost six, was quite a long time. If I felt funny sometimes I still made myself get up, wash myself, wash my clothes, the bare minimum. I had a couple of minor slumps in the middle but in general I kept my mood up by having my mission, writing, and having a daily list and an overall to do list.
Often I would give myself something to do, e.g. go to a new cafe someone had recommended, go to the ATM, or a job such as get my train ticket printed. Because things in India tend to take longer and be more complicated, completing a relatively small task results in a burst of satisfaction seemingly out of all proportion to the task itself. I also rode the dialectic between being content to not do much, as always, and the fact that does anxiety stop me doing more.
Wedding season commenced, with music playing every night, and very loud brass band processions. One of the owners of the guesthouse invited us all to his daughter’s wedding (see pictures above.) I went with my Italian neighbours. As you can see, it was a beautiful experience.
I maintained good boundaries and I didn’t have any issues. But I was also aware of not saying no to everything. I did let a man, a Brahmin, take my hand and give me a very accurate mental and physical assessment. And one evening a man at a street stall stopped me, he asked me the usual questions about where I was from etc. We talked about Aloo Baba, then he said, ‘Actually I stopped you because I was going to flirt with you, but then I saw your face and that you have such good energy, you are a good person.’
‘You know what Aloo Baba says,’ I said, ‘Control looking, Every woman my mother my sister.’
‘They Aloo Baba rules,’ he said, ‘I have my own rules, ‘Beauty is for looking not for touching.’’
‘Well that works just as well,’ I said.
Late morning one day I was just getting up, I heard the sound of bins being moved and assumed it was the cleaning staff. Then I heard the sound of monkeys running about outside the rooms and a scream from my neighbour. I went out, she was standing outside her door with her skirt ripped all the way down the front, but luckily no injuries to her skin. She had come down the stairs and probably startled them and inadvertently blocked their escape route.
As before, there were always cows at the rubbish dump near the guesthouse. Towards the end of my stay cows always seemed to be licking each other, getting the bits they couldn’t reach themselves. It looked cute and I would stand there watching them. One day I was at the rubbish dump staring at the cows when one of the staff from the guesthouse came up behind me. ‘That is cow,’ he said, laughing. I never minded the way that being a foreigner meant sometimes being a source of amusement for locals.
There were always people around to chat to if I felt like it; at the rooftop restaurant at the guesthouse, at the coffee place, at the chai stall, or just out and about. Just as before, it felt like a place where people of all nationalities meet and connect with each other. I met people from Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Argentina, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Holland, USA, UK, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Jordan, Georgia, and from India I met, as well as lots of people from Pushkar, a lovely family from near Hampi, and a Baba from Rishikesh, we swapped phone numbers.
One morning I was sitting in a cafe, a woman came in, there were no empty tables so I invited her to sit with me. We connected and had a good chat. She was my age, married but travelling by herself like me, from Australia. ‘It’s so good to talk,’ she said. She was going to Varanasi next so I shared some information about it. ‘See, you’re never alone, not really,’ she said.
Thank you very much for reading
About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia.
I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year. This is my personal blog.
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