It’s been almost three weeks since my last blog post and the reason for my tardiness is a good one: I was on the other side of the world for business (and pleasure). When I accepted my current job, I knew I would have to travel to India and the prospect thrilled me. From the time I was a little girl, I have always loved to travel and it has been my long-held dream to see every country in the world before I die (although I’m running a bit behind schedule).
Last Monday, I got on an airplane in Newark, New Jersey with a backpack full of books and snacks and settled in for a sixteen-hour plane ride to Mumbai, India, where I collected my suitcase and met a driver who made the three-hour trek to Pune, India, where my company’s India offices are based.
I spent three days in Pune meeting with my team, tackling some major infrastructure issues, rebuilding the systems and processes that make our functional department run and training them on some industry best practices. We escaped the office for lunches and dinners and got to know each other while I got to know Indian food on a whole new level. It was divine. I’ve always loved “Indian” food as it is prepared in the U.S. and the real thing was even better than I could’ve hoped for.
At the end of my visit, my team told me they’d organized a surprise for me and we all piled into a car the size of a shoebox and lurched into rush hour traffic (which, if you’ve been to India, you know is practically life-threatening ;). While we drove, the guys, knowing I love to garden, presented a chart they had made of what grows when in Philadelphia then proudly delivered me to a nursery where they insisted I choose – and let them pay for – all sorts of seeds for my garden. I was so honored that they wanted to send me home with such a thoughtful token and memento of our time together. The Pune visit was such a gratifying trip on a personal and professional level. I can see my team growing and advancing and I am learning from them just as much as they are learning from me. Our cultural differences only make our working relationships more interesting. My garden this year will be a special reminder of my colorful adventures in Pune.
After Pune, I made the trip back to Mumbai, where I spent two and a half glorious days exploring the most exotic city I’ve visited thus far – and relaxing. I stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, as a bit of a treat for myself, and it was worth every penny (not that it was terribly expensive – the exchange rate is so favorable for Americans my stay was about $150/night). Room service offered gourmet cuisine with artistic presentation. My bed felt like a cloud. I had a deep soaking tub overlooking the city and the Indian Ocean beyond with a little tray just right for a cup of tea and a book. The spa was two floors of jasmine-scented, marble-floored, steamy perfection. The concierge helped coordinate dinner reservations for one, spa appointments, car services and best of all – a local tour guide who spent several hours each day showing me the wonders of the city.
Dadar Flower Market
I always feel changed after travel, but, I think I feel especially changed after this journey. I haven’t had this much time to myself in many years. It gave me time to think about the future, reflect on the past and be in the present. I read, I journaled, I meditated, I prayed, I slept. I spent very little time on social media and didn’t watch any television. I took care of me and only me. It felt good to think and to just be.
Traveling alone allows you to follow your inner compass and seek out knowledge that you crave without the influence or accommodation of someone else. I slept when I wanted and woke when I wanted to. I ate when I felt like it and napped when it felt right. I shopped without judgment or a ticking watch and I lingered in museum exhibits that spoke to me.
I visited the flower and spice markets of Mumbai, the famous Dhobi Ghat open-air laundry, the Taj Palace Hotel, the Sassoon Docks fish market, the Ghandi Museum, the Hanging Gardens of Bombay, the Towers of Silence and a slew of beautiful, very sacred Hindu temples. I was fascinated by the micro-economies that exist in Bombay's most famous marketplaces - from the dark-skinned, high-cheekboned women who travel into Mumbai on the train from remote villages to sell banana leaves, which is their only livelihood, to the complicated relationship between the men who catch the fish and the women who then sell them. I watched Masala spice mixes being roasted then ground and saw my first lotus flower (my favorite) up close. Every person I met was kind and welcoming. I am still dreaming of the rich colors, beautiful smells and awe-inspiring sights.
Mumbai Spice Market
There is something special about having had this experience completely by myself. I had so many meaningful interactions with people from walks of life so drastically different from mine. Some of the things I witnessed put the laughable “struggles” of my own life into harsh perspective. I was a little nervous or afraid at a few junctures but my inner toughness guided me forward into adventure. Being alone in a faraway place made me feel powerful and self-assured.
When my journey came to an end, I was ready to come home. I felt restored, rejuvenated and ready to resume my myriad duties with renewed enthusiasm. I missed Daisy (and Nick!) so much, but, I know that someday, when I tell her stories of India, and hopefully take her there, she will be glad that I always took advantage of the opportunity to explore and consume new experiences. I believe that whatever makes me feel happier and more whole as a person will always make me a better mother - and I can't wait for my next solo adventure ❤
My tub at the Four Seasons - what more could you ask for?