"To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." -Freya Stark
I learnt a whole lot of things along the way, met many amazing people, experienced things I had never experienced before (some of which I don't even intend on experiencing ever again) and had a complete blast! Here's some things I learnt along the way...
- Indian Railways FTW : During the course of my trip, I travelled by train, bus, rickshaws, taxis, the metro, a ferry and at times even hitchhiked. I must say though, of all the modes of transport, the railways are what charmed me the most. Cheap, efficient, and traveller-friendly is how I would define the Indian Railways. Especially for someone travelling like me (i.e a cash-strapped no-fixed-plans traveller), the Indian Railways proves to be extremely useful. Plus I met some of the most interesting people of the whole trip on the long train rides.
Special mention of the Indian Railways site. I know it's a favorite site for people to bash, but I found it an amazing resource. Planning out trips between places was very simple thanks to this site and it's probably the single most visited site in the run up to the trip. Yes, the UI is shitty, but the information you can access through the site is nearly boundless.
- Faith In Humanity = Restored : 'India mein insaniyat ke liye koi jagah nahi hai' is a quote that you hear often in India, especially in these times where everything seems to be a major mess, but I was happy to see that at the ground level, humanity is not only alive, but kicking as well. Through many examples throughout the trip, I witnessed people putting others before themselves, in ways big and small!
- Mobility and Stuff : Everyone knows that mobile connectivity is growing by leaps and bounds, but you only get the proper picture when you travel to remote places. I was amazed to see that during the entire course of the trip, I barely had a few hours of "No Range". From the most urban cities to the most rural villages, there is mobile connectivity everywhere... even in places where mobile phones are virtually non-existant! This is one of those things where the network exists before the need... kind of like a parallel universe where the internet exists before the computer! Now I'm not yet sure if this is good or bad, but the day people in remote villages start using cellphones, the game changes in a big way!
On a random note, my trusty Micromax Q5 proved it's worth once again! Having a phone which easily lasts for 3 days on a full charge and moderate usage is nothing short of godly on trips like this! :)
- Travelling Alone Is Tough : I won't lie about this one. Travelling alone can be taxing... physically, mentally, as well as emotionally. You get sick, you have noone to help... You get lonely, you don't really have anyone to talk to... You get tired, well, you don't have anyone to complain to! There are days when you just want to take the next train or plane back home, and return to the safety of the known. But as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Looking back at some of the tough times on the trip, I can proudly say the most trying times are the ones I'll cherish the most :)
- India is Huuuuuge! : Sure you've heard your geography teacher say that repeatedly through your school years, but trust me, India is way bigger than you imagine. "India is the seventh largest country in the world" is so much more than a piece of trivia used in kids' general knowledge competitions! The vastness of the country becomes evident the moment you leave your comfort zone, be it your home, your district or your state. So many different cultures, so many different traditions, so many beautiful places, and a billion+ faces! I know this sounds like an advert for India Tourism, but it is what it is!
- Gaana-Waana : Any journey feels incomplete unless there's some good music playing while experiences are being, well, experienced. And this trip was no different! The most played songs on this trip, in no particular order were:
PS An insane amount of gratitude to everyone who I met on the trip, irrespective of whether we were meeting for the first time or the millionth. In your own way, you'll have made this crazy trip a reality, and I take back a billion memories of all the stuff (good.bad and *ahem*) that we did! :)
PPS AbstruseGoose gets the spirit of adventure bang on with this comic! :)