My exploration of India started before I left San Francisco. It began the moment I stepped into the India visa outsourcing office. On a chilly November evening, the air inside the room was warm and damp. Technically, the office was closed for the evening, but the place was full. The line to pickup visas zigzagged throughout the room. Families of multiple generations waited while a few kept their place in line. Those who hadn’t snagged one of the limited chairs took a seat on the floor. There were people everywhere. And it smelled like curry.
I was in the back of the line, one of the last few people they’d let in before they locked the door. I knew I’d be there for awhile, but I was so relieved that my visa was ready that it didn’t matter. I’d made a rookie traveler mistake and didn’t take a thorough look at the visa processing time. My trip was just a few days away and I’d rushed across town after work to make it in time to pick up the visa I’d been anxiously awaiting. As I walked out of the office, passport with India visa in hand, my nervousness about potentially not being able to take the trip was replaced with nervousness about taking the trip. The impending tangibility of India scared me.
A few days later, after several time zones had been crossed and many hours of sleep had been lost, somewhere above the Atlantic, my love for travel solidified in a slightly delirious rumination:
Even when I hate this, I love this. It would’ve been easier to stay home. It would’ve been easier to not renew my passport and to look adoringly at my old one filled with 10 years of travel experiences and say, “That’ll do.” It would’ve been easier to not dig up a copy of my birth certificate and other obscure information and fill out pages of visa application forms. It would’ve been easier to not have spent hours figuring out how to get around a country I’ve never been to; to not have spent night after night trying to find decent and affordable accommodations and transportation. It would’ve been easier to not be spending two days flying halfway around the world. It would’ve been easier to not have pissed people off with the timing of the trip. It would’ve been easier to not be visiting a country that I know will challenge me and test me and break me. I probably should’ve stayed home. But I love this, like, really freaking love this. Even when I hate it, I love it.
When we reached London, brimming with travel love, I felt the urge to bolt out of the airport and explore the city once more and continue where I’d left off 10 years ago. I feel a strong connection to London. It’s where my parents met after they’d both left Ghana. It feels like one of my beginnings. And in the wee years of my life, on a day I cannot remember, England was the first country I set my little feet on outside of the United States. Those things, combined with the silly, snarky, subtle English humor I enjoy so much make me want to explore the corners of London’s massive sprawl a lot more. My layover was certainly not long enough for that, but I looked forward to meeting more people from England at the wedding I’d be attending in India and enjoyed views of the city from above.
And in the airport, I marveled at inventive travel knick knacks for sale, roamed through Boots and made note of the products I wanted to pick up on my way back, and sat down to read the Independent. When the screens finally announced the gate our flight would depart from, I got caught up in a crowd of people frantically dashing onto the airport tram that would take us to the gate. Here we go…
“All the things you probably hate about traveling are warm reminders that I’m home.”
-Up in the Air