I can safely say that I really did not enjoy my first few days of my gap year back in 1997. I left the UK with two friends and we landed in the middle of the night at our first destination: Mumbai, India. Looking back I’m not sure why we decided to start in probably one of the most difficult countries to travel in, but thankfully my parents did warn us that even though we were going to hate it that we should persevere and get through the first week. We did have thoughts about going straight home again!
In my original journal I wrote “The taxi journey into Mumbai passed uneventfully although it did take a few minutes to confirm that they did drive on the left. The number of people about was incredible but luckily they were not all driving. Several people seemed to be writing slogans on a bridge, while others seemed to be carefully painting over the same writing. Lots and lots of people were sleeping on the street, just curled up on the pavement. After arriving at the hotel, that we had booked from the airport, we tried to check in. Everyone got extremely confused as we had different date stamps in our passports, but had arrived on the same flight: we had managed to go through passport control at exactly midnight! Quite when the low point hit us I don’t know but I think it was after we had checked into the hotel. Did we really have to do this everyday? Packing, unpacking, living in cramped conditions?”
Our first few days were very difficult. It was obvious that we were straight off the plane from the UK and therefore we were fair game for anyone who saw the opportunity of abstracting money from us. However, eventually we started to walk with confidence and enjoy the experience. I’ve returned to India on several occasions, I’ve made many good friends and can now safely say it is one of my favourite countries. I’ve seen India change from a country where there were hardly any cars on the road and ‘Thumbs Up’ was the main cola drink (Coca-Cola had only been in India for a few years). Now the roads are packed with cars and there is a full range of European and American products on sale. Starting in a country that was so different meant that things could only get better. Now I don’t think twice about getting on a plane and travelling half way around the world. At the start of my Remote Year I am definitely a different person to the person who left on my gap year 19 year’s ago. However, I’m sure that there is still a lot to learn. I’m looking forward to getting to know a destination in a little more detail that I normally do.