Today I leave Jaipur to head south to Goa. As I don’t need to be at the airport until 4:00pm, I choose to stay at the guest house and enjoy the lovely terrace and garden while writing. As this place offers the most dependable WiFi I’ve had since arriving in India and I’m pretty sure that where I’m headed I’ll have WiFi challenges, I’m taking advantage of it. WiFi is important to me for two reasons; first, there’s my work. In order to share my travels with you, my Virtual Travel Buddies, I write as I go. Yes, that’s 1,000 – 1,500 words per day. I’m aware that sometimes the articles might be a bit longer, but I do edit and feel it’s important to explain, not only what it looks like, but what it smells, tastes, sounds and feels like. Travel makes an impression on all of your senses and I make my best attempt at describing that. I don’t want to simply provide the information, I want to tell the story; mostly with humor yet sometimes, with a few tears.
The other reason WiFi is important is that when you’re traveling alone, it can get lonely at times. Everyone is a stranger except when you’re lucky enough to make a few friends along the way. But that can take time and is not always guaranteed. I keep in contact with friends and family through a variety of means; Facebook is, of course, fantastic. I also use Skype and FaceTime. And finally, my sister introduced me to an app. called Life 360 where, when I have WiFi, I click one icon and I’ve checked in. It tells my family group my location within a couple of hundred feet. It also tells me what medical facilities are close by, and has a panic button should some emergency arise. I highly recommend it for travelers. Other than these two reasons, it would be nice to disconnect for a few days.
After enjoying the morning and part of the afternoon working in the garden of the Jaipur Friendly Villa (not actually tilling the soil and planting flowers, but working on the computer securing flights and writing), I hop in the car and for my driver to deliver me to the airport. I’m flying Air India and am aware that their baggage allowance is fifteen kilograms, about thirty-three pounds, free of charge. I’m also fully aware that my bag weighs forty-seven pounds (hey, I shed a few pounds). I’ve accepted that I might be required to pay extra but, as I’ve explained, I never know where you’ll drop me at what time of year. I spent part of December and all of January in Germany, where I attended the ballet. It rained every day except for the day it snowed, and I spent all of February in Hungary where I went to the opera, a jazz club and a cabaret, as well as serving food to the homeless. And now I’m in India where scarves, modest clothing and bathing suits are needed, depending on your location within the country, and winter coats are not, at least this time of year. Besides, it’s nice to dress girly every once in a while. Yes, I’ve got baggage.
I arrive at the airport and place my checked bag on the x-ray machine as I enter the airport. The cool thing is that it’s not just an x-ray machine, it’s a scale. Oh wait, that isn’t cool at all. I’m asked to follow a man to a special counter. Somehow I don’t think I’ve been upgraded. I smile at the very good-looking man behind the counter knowing what he’s about to say. He politely tells me that my bag is seven kilos overweight. I smile and tell him a quick synopsis of my project and how I never know where I’m going and that I’ve shed everything I can. He says he’s sorry and hands the man accompanying me a slip of paper and indicates that I should follow the man to another desk.
At the next desk, I meet the ladies who will take my money. They’re also very nice as they tell me I must pay the equivalent of US $50. I smile and tell them that I’ve left things in places, shed any extra weight and didn’t buy souvenirs as I understand the luggage restrictions. They smile and politely take my credit card while telling me that, “Next time, you can buy the souvenirs and pay us more money.” Fabulous!
I head through security where I’m required to remove all electronics from my bag (laptop, iPad and Kindle) and proceed through the metal detector. I don’t need to remove my shoes or jacket (the fleece is getting warm, but it’s easier than carrying it). Of course I beep, as does everybody else. That’s why, immediately following the metal detector, there’s a curtained off area where everyone is scanned with a wand. I’ve accidentally left my lighter (for lighting candles, sterilizing needles to remove splinters and, perhaps, minor surgery) in my bag which they confiscate. (Damn, I accidentally left my corkscrew in my bag going through Doha which they also took. The two most important travel items.)
I head to my gate and wait for my flight to be called. My boarding number is 60, which means, well, absolutely nothing. When they call the flight, everyone stands up at once and gets in line. I take my comfortable window seat with more leg room than most American carriers. On a flight of ninety-minutes, we’re served a nice hot meal.
We land in Mumbai a few minutes late and then taxi for what seems like miles. When we finally exit, directly onto the tarmac, they point those of us heading to Goa to a spot next to the stairway to wait. After about ten minutes, they bring a separate bus to take us directly to our plane. While standing there, I speak with a well-traveled English couple who also had an overweight bag, yet they weren’t charged. They had paid a porter a dollar and he pushed it through. On the way to the airport I had asked my driver if this was the way to do it but he didn’t quite understand what I was asking. I take note for the next flight.
Due to our tight connection, we’re all nervous about our bags making the connection. As my carry-on only holds shoes and electronics (the heavy stuff), I’m completely screwed if my bags don’t make it, as I’m wearing jeans, closed shoes which I bought in Budapest (before giving away my heavier uncomfortable ones to a homeless person I served at Heti Betevö) oh, and my fleece. As I’ll be staying at some eco-resort cottages in the middle of nowhere, there will be no chance to buy any clothing should my luggage be lost.
An hour later (after a lovely conversation on the plane with Grace, a woman from Mumbai who is currently living in Goa) we land in Goa and, after a nervous wait at baggage claim, I sigh with relief as my bag comes tumbling out.
Tomorrow: Arriving in paradise.
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