Peace Amongst the Chaos
The day after my co-travelers and I reached the beach town of Varkala, I woke up feeling not so hot. I could tell that I was starting to come down with something. It’s well-known that when you travel India getting sick is inevitable. The majority of sicknesses that occur in travelers here are stomach related. This time it wasn’t that. It was something completely different. I felt dizzy, weak, mentally confused and disoriented, hot one minute, cold the next, nauseous, and my joints hurt.
My mind started to race. Have I contracted malaria? Dengue fever?
I told myself to not jump to any conclusions and just stay positive while focusing on taking care of myself. It’s difficult to not worry in a situation like this. Being on the opposite side of the world, without the comforts of home, and in a small beach town where the closest hospital is 50 KM away. Despite my rationale mind telling me not to, I was worried beyond belief.
Since I was a little girl I worried. Worried about everything and anything imaginable. My worry led to anxiety. Anxiety took over my mind and my body - to the point where I would become physically ill. This worry and anxiety wasn't all bad. It motivated me. Motivation to grow. Ambition to succeed. Achieve goals and milestones. It instilled good work ethic and my ability to be independent and completely self-sufficient. But this type of motivation was driven by fear. Fear of being dependent. Fear of failing. Fear of not being accepted.
Motivation shouldn't be driven by fear. I believe it has to be driven by passion. That's when the best work is produced and the most genuine relationships are formed and fostered.
The next three days were absolute hell. I was so weak I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone have the strength to make it to the hostel kitchen to try to find any food. On one these days, I laid on the floor for hours in the common area staring up at the rotating ceiling fan being physically paralyzed because my body had given out. If it wasn’t for the lovely girls in the group, Maddie and Tatiana, who brought me water, toast and lassies, who knows if I would be here to tell this story today.
To top it off, the hostel we were staying in was pretty grim. It felt like a jail. The people were great but the facilities itself were rundown and the mattresses in the six-bed dorm were thin as paper. Because of the humidity, every time you would lay on your bed, it felt damp.
It’s times like these when you realize how much you take good health for granted without even noticing it. The “misfortunes” we feel we have are quickly put into perspective and you realize how lucky you are to have what you have. Whether that be health, good relationships, a safe place to sleep at night, healthy food, etc.
On the second night of hell, I lay on my bunk in complete darkness wondering if I could mentally and physically survive this. Moments later someone walked into the room and went to their bunk. It was pitch black so I couldn’t make out who it was but I felt it wasn’t someone I knew. I started chatting with this mysterious creature. We introduced ourselves and I probably spent a good chunk of time telling him how sorry I felt for myself.
Josh, the solo traveling Brit, and I chatted for the next few hours in complete darkness from across the room. We hadn’t yet seen the other in light but we opened up to each other about everything. It was bizarrely comforting. If we had passed each other on the street, I wouldn’t know it was him because I didn’t know what he looked like. Perhaps it was my vulnerable sick state, but the topic of Christmas and New Year’s came up. Both of us didn’t have anything booked or anyone to travel with during that time so we agreed to head to the South-East side of India to the province of Tamil Nadu to spend the holidays together. Who does this? Agrees to spending two weeks with someone they met only hours before and never seeing them in the light. Me of course... Hey oh!
The next morning, I woke up feeling slightly more human. The sickness was starting to pass and I had enough energy to make it to the beach with Josh and a few others. I could now say that I knew what the person I would be spending the holidays with looked like. Josh reminded me of my childhood friend, Sheldon, we had polar opposite personalities but similar ways of thinking. Not knowing this at the time, but Josh would become my British brother, protector, teacher, student, and India traveling buddy.
While the group of us were at the beach that day, I decided to venture into the ocean for a swim. This particular location was loaded with tourists and locals – all of which were in typical Western swimming attire, bikinis and trunks. As I was finishing my swim, I noticed a local Indian man sitting at the edge of the water. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I did a double take because I felt his eyes on me. When I looked back, he was staring intently at me with his trunks down masturbating. I burst into laughter and swiftly returned to the group to tell them. He didn’t stop once I reached the group. Instead, he turned towards us and continued on with his activity. One of the guys in the group, Paul, was completely disgusted that he went up to the guy and stood in front of him. Only then did he stop. Moments later, two other local Indian men joined the man and started masturbating together. They then stood up and with their pants down took a shit in the ocean. I kid you not. You can’t make this shit up. No pun intended… Perhaps some people would have taken offence to this spectacle, but for some reason, I just sat there in astonishment and laughed my face off. It was so ridiculous I knew I could never understand why anyone would think this behavior was appropriate. After that, nothing surprises me here. Paul tells the story better I think. Read it here.
This journey hasn’t been all roses and daisies. It’s been up and down and there are moments I love being here and then despise it. India is a compilation of everything that irritates me and makes me feel alive. This experience is throwing everything at me at once and saying “go deal with it and find peace amongst the chaos”.