Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions since we have been home.
What was your favourite place?
It’s difficult to choose. I mean, how do you compare experiences at cities, slums, ancient temples, beaches, vast landscapes, history, volunteering with rescue dogs, stunning beauty and wretched poverty? We loved it all, but the one place that stays with me is Udaipur, partly because it is a friendly place, with lovely lakes, partly because it is where we stayed for more than two weeks volunteering at Animal Aid Unlimited, and partly because we were in a lovely homestay just out of town and we would spend time chatting over chai with Samvit the host on an almost daily basis. I would sit on the rooftop as the sun set behind a mountain feeling utterly at peace, like nowhere else I had found.
How do you pace yourself travelling for five months living out of a suitcase?
You have to remember that not every day is a sightseeing day. Sometimes, you need down time to repack your case, wash your clothes, organise your photos, read a book, and FaceTime home. I loved the simplicity of the life, no ironing, no make-up, no cooking. (There were places where we could cook for ourselves but eating out was so cheap there was no point.) Before we left, we agreed to have a safe word (two words actually, the second being ‘off’) for when we needed our own space, for example if David wanted more time to process some of his 25,000 photos.
Did you spend your kids’ inheritance?
Well, that was the plan! But no, it is ridiculously cheap to live in Asia. We couldn’t believe that we could have a meal (food and drinks for two people) for £3.50. Thanks to the heat (and seeing a lot of poverty), our appetite was often diminished and we would happily eat simple tasty meals of rice or noodles. We saved when booking with AirBnB, for example, our homestay in Kerala was £9 a night. Occasionally we treated ourselves to a bit more luxury, but rarely went beyond a two-star hotel. (My only tip would be to avoid OYO hotels in India – they are budget hotels with a capital B… though, of course, you are more likely to get funny stories from it.)
What didn’t you like?
The lack of wifi in places was frustrating. You need good wifi to upload photos on a blog, to keep in touch with home, and importantly to plan the adventures for the next day or week.
Did you get ill?
We were remarkably healthy. David was car-sick once thanks to the crazy Indian driving on tight bends, and I had a tummy bug as we left Vietnam and headed into Cambodia. Luckily it was only a two-day thing and nothing that Imodium couldn’t cope with.
Did you feel safe?
Amongst people, yes. Exploring busy and exciting back streets and markets of old cities, yes. It’s more likely to be everyday scams that will catch you out more than a mugging or theft. Even when a speedboat we were on half-way across Halong Bay (taking us to Cat Ba Island) conked out, I felt safe enough, even though we were drifting with no anchor (at least the driver had a mobile phone which worked and we managed to transfer a suitcase and us across to the rescue boat). It was the crazy Indian driving which was probably the worst thing to worry about – overtaking at speed with centimetres to spare, reversing on a motorway, driving on the hard shoulder on the wrong side of the road on a highway, taxis rarely having rear seat belts, every driver using their mobile phone while driving (we withheld tips and berated them for it).
What did you learn about yourself?
That I am an eco-warrier at heart! India presents the best and worst of humanity… people in the poorest slums who will give you, their guest, a free chai and slices of bread when they have little more than the shirt on their back. The rubbish, the poverty, the overcrowding, people sleeping on the streets, people trying to earn a few rupees in any way they can, selling balloons, or polishing shoes, or hauling three gas cylinders on their back (uphill). We were very aware of rubbish – not just on the streets as we expected, but also on the beaches and at beauty spots and world heritage sites. And that I cared more than ever about the welfare of cows and dogs on the streets.
Would you do it all again?
Without hesitation, yes.
If you have a question, please do ask and we will try to answer!