November 2019: Travel Summary and Statistics


Qutub Minar through an archway

Namaste from India!

My friends, I finally got on the plane.

I finally made it to my dream travel destination after years of planning and half a dozen cancelled trips.

Was it worth the wait?

You bet it was! I’m absolutely in love with India and can’t believe it took me so long to get here.

But let’s start at the beginning of the month.

Girl rock climbing in Bristol

I kicked off November doing much the same as I did last month: bouldering my heart out! It turns out that I am well and truly obsessed with climbing, and I’m so dismayed I’ll have to miss out on it while I travel for the next three months.

When I wasn’t hitting the climbing gym, I was basking in the joys of Bristol in the autumn.

This year, we were fortunate to have blue skies, golden leaves, and plenty of excuses to head out in search of the best Sunday roast in the city. So far, my winner is Vittoria over on Whiteladies Road, but there are so many great contenders out there.

When I get back, I want to check out the roast at Victoria Park, as it was recently voted the best in the entire U.K. One of my favourite aspects of living in Bristol is its incredible food scene!

Autumn in Bristol

Roast dinner

Because I’m going to be celebrating Christmas with Dave’s family this year, my family decided to put up the Christmas tree early so we could celebrate Fake Christmas before I set off for India.

We then all got together to exchange presents, venture out for a delicious meal, and spend the evening snuggled up inside watching TV.

Then, it was time to get on the plane.

To finally get on the plane.

The plane.

And it wasn’t until I stepped foot on it that I allowed myself to believe I was going.

Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi

Even when I landed in Delhi, there was still a part of me that couldn’t believe I was actually here.

We chose to stay at Tatvamasi Guesthouse in South Delhi, which made our stay in Delhi even better. I don’t usually shout-out guesthouses in my monthly summaries, but the owner of this place was so great that I can’t resist giving him some promotion. He did so much for us, from showing us around the local night market to driving us to tourist attractions, helping us get set up with SIM cards to making half a dozen phone calls when mine didn’t work.

I highly recommend staying here if you have a trip to Delhi coming up.

Chaotic streets in Old Delhi

I decided to split my time in Delhi into three areas for my three days in the city.

First, Old Delhi.

This was the part of the city that felt most like how I had pictured Delhi to look before arriving. The streets were crammed with rickshaws and motorbikes and cows and goats and street food and so many people and so much noise. I shared a video on my Facebook page if you haven’t seen it already.

When I wasn’t being swallowed up by the chaos, I wandered around the Red Fort, clambered up the minaret at Jama Masjid, visited Gandhi’s memorial, and generally took so many photos and videos that I’d drained my camera’s battery by the end of the day.

Hand holding Indian street food

India is one of the first countries I’ve been to that has left me baffled over its street food scene. I love to eat on the streets when I travel, but man, I have no idea what most of the dishes are here!

I signed up for a Delhi street food tour with Urban Adventures to find out more and had such a great evening with my guide! We tried so many delicious treats that I would have never stumbled across on my own, from Indian-style shawarma to golgappas (my favourite!) and bhelpuri. Next, came the pao bhajji and kulfi-falooda, and we rounded off our tour with gulab jamun (another favourite!) and jalebi.

Taking this tour gave me the confidence to tackle street food in India, and our friendly guide made the whole experience fun and interesting.

Humayun's tomb

My second day in the city was all about New Delhi, as I wandered aimlessly around Connaught Square, wondering why I was there and what I was supposed to be seeing.

Humayun’s Tomb was a big highlight for me — I hadn’t heard of it before arriving in New Delhi, despite its UNESCO designation, and was surprised to discover a seriously impressive building waiting for me.

My favourite attraction of the day, though, was Lodhi Garden. What a cool park! I loved spending the last hour of my explorations watching families play cricket and picnic on the grass, surrounded by old historic monuments.

Qutub Minar through an archway

I finished off my time in Delhi with a relaxed stroll around South Delhi — one of the calmest parts of the city.

I started my explorations with a failed attempt to see the Lotus Temple. It was closed when I attempted to visit, so I had to make do with a couple of snaps through the barbed wire surrounding the grounds.

The true standout from my time in South Delhi, though, was Qutub Minar. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this towering minaret reaches a height of 73 metres and is surrounded by so many cool ruins and monuments. I can’t wait to share more photos from my time here, as it’s been one of my highlights from my time in India so far.

November 2019 travel map

Countries visited: 2

India, United Kingdom

Cities visited: 3

Bristol, Kiev, London, New Delhi

Distance travelled: 4,290 miles

Number of photos taken: 1,338

Number of dosas consumed: 4

Number of cups of chai drunk: 8

Number of flights: 2

Number of rickshaws: 6

Highlights of the Month

Discovering I had nothing to be afraid of: I’ve long been intimidated by travel in India. There are so many horror stories to be heard. I was concerned it would be unsafe to visit as a woman; that I’d be groped and scammed at every step. Not so! Or, at least, not so far.

I feel safe and welcomed in this country. Nobody has tried to rip me off; nobody has attempted to scam me; nobody has shown me their peen.

At the start of my travels, I think I would have struggled with India. As an experienced traveller, though? It’s fun, wonderful, and far less intimidating than many other countries I’ve visited. I can’t get enough of it.

Being blown away by Delhi: I had a feeling that Delhi would be the worst part of my India trip. So many people despise this traffic-clogged city and advise visitors to get out as soon as they can.

Still, I’m not one for skipping over destinations, so I gave myself three days in the city. I suspected I’d come to regret allocating so many days for Delhi, but I still wanted to give it a chance to wow me.

To my surprise, I love this city! Yes, it’s crowded, chaotic, loud, and polluted, but there’s so much to discover. It now has me wondering: if this is going to be the worst part of my trip, I can’t wait to see what the rest of my Indian adventure has in store for me.

Finally a positive Google update: My site has been hit hard by Google’s algorithm over the past year. Since March, every search update has whipped away a solid 20% of my traffic away, over and over and over. It was disheartening and frustrating and had me pondering if this was the beginning of the end for this site.

In November, though, I finally had an update go my way. Hopefully things continue to improve in 2020.

Humayun's tomb building
Isa Khan’s Tomb dates back to 1547 and was a peaceful place to spend a few minutes exploring before heading back into the mayhem of Delhi

Lowlights of the Month

My failed attempt at becoming a Youtuber: Last month, I announced I starting my Youtube channel back up and kicking it off with a Q&A.

Well, in true Lauren fashion, everything that could go wrong did.

I purchased a whole bunch of gear for my video — lights, microphones, tripods — and set up my living room as a studio. I sent Dave out of the house for the afternoon and spent a solid three hours answering your questions. I then planned to edit the footage into a 20 minute video when I was done.

Well, it turns out that my camera stops recording videos after 30 minutes.

Yes, I spent the vast majority of my afternoon talking and making jokes to a camera that wasn’t actually recording me.

Embarrassing. 

I re-recorded my answers, then when watching the footage back, discovered that my phone had been causing the speaker to bip-bip-bip-bip as I spoke, making all of the videos unusable. I didn’t realise I’d need to put my phone in airplane mode or its radio waves would get picked up by my microphone.

Sigh.

I re-recorded my answers, then when watching the footage back, learned that my microphone was faulty and had been buzzing for the entirety of the video. The footage was too noisy for me to hear myself speak.

Sighhhhh. 

I got a new microphone, re-recorded my answers, and finally had footage I could use. I spent a full week learning how to edit a video, then spent the next few days cutting into shape.

And then half of my files spontaneously corrupted and were no longer usable.

Sighhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I wanted to cry.

So.

I re-recorded my answers again — I’m getting really good at answering your questions — at 10 p.m. on the night before my flight to India. It was the absolute last thing I wanted to do, but I’d committed to filming this video and I was determined to finish.

Now I just need to overcome my jetlag and find a spare day in my busy India itinerary to edit the footage together.

Spending so much money on my sinuses: Remember that blog post I wrote about how my apartment was making me sick? Well, I moved apartments and it fixed approximately zero of my issues. Sadly, it seems as though I’m reacting to something in British buildings.

Three of the five places I’ve lived in in the U.K. have given me these same sinus problems, and I haven’t experienced it anywhere else in the world. Am I allergic to something in the insulation of the houses? In the paint? The furniture? British mould? I have no idea how to even find out.

With the NHS falling apart at its seams and waiting lists longer than my list of travel disasters, I finally sucked it up and decided to go private. When the cost of seeing an ENT specialist for a 10-minute appointment comes to $350, you can only imagine how much I’m having to spend on allergy tests, CT scans, and whatever else I may need to go through.

If I can’t figure this out within the next year, I’m probably going to have to leave the U.K., and the thought of that makes me incredibly sad.

The pollution in Delhi is brutal: And it’s not anywhere near as bad as it could be.

And yet, when safe levels of PM2.5 are around 10 and the current level in Delhi is 200, it’s still unhealthy to be breathing in the city. I keep waking up with a sore throat, my eyes are burning and puffy, and I have a headache most of the time.

As much as I loved my few days in Delhi, it’s not a place I think I could spend much longer in.

India Gate in Delhi
India Gate! I loved taking photos of this war memorial in Delhi

Incidents of the Month

My first near-death experience in India: So there I was, high up at Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, leaning back to take a photo that would encompass the enormity of the structure, when I slipped.

When I slipped and I tripped and I skidded backwards into the barrier that was preventing me from falling to the ground below.

Except this barrier, it turned out, was only at knee-height and there I was, windmilling above it, with a total loss of balance.

Fortunately, I managed to propel myself forwards and out of harm’s way, but Dave and I were shaken up by the whole experience when we realised how close I was to falling.

I almost lost my passport. Again: I was flying with Ukrainian Airlines for the first time, which really should be a lowlight of the month because that airline sucks.

Anyway, I was all settled in for my flight, with my Kindle in hand and earplugs firmly in my ears, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Are you Lauren?”

“Yep.”

I smiled, wondering if I had been spotted by a fan.

“I found your passport on the floor.”

She handed it over to me and I quickly slipped it in my bag, pretending not to notice the hard stare that Dave was suddenly sending my way.

I didn’t get to see the Lotus Temple: I’ve wanted to see this Sydney Opera House-esque structure ever since I started planning my trip to Delhi. With all my research, though, I didn’t think to look up the opening times.

It turns out it’s closed on Mondays, and that was the day I’d decided I’d visited. I wish I’d realised earlier so I could have crammed my visit into one of my other days of sightseeing.

It’s not the end of the world, though. I got to see it through a barbed wire fence instead, when my guesthouse owner took me to the outskirts of the temple grounds.

December 2019 travel map, showing my itinerary in India, Australia and New Zealand

December 2019 travel map, showing a close-up on my planned travels in India

My Next Steps

I’ve got plenty of travel on the books for the final month of 2019!

After I wrap-up my time in Delhi, I’ll be following all the other tourists around the Golden Triangle, heading first to Agra to see if the Taj Mahal is overrated as hell, then to Jaipur for a poke around this dusky-pink city. After that, it’ll be all about Rajasthan for my remaining three weeks in India.

I’ll be riding the rails (and buses) to Bundi, Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer, as well as a whole bunch of lesser-known spots along the way. I’m particularly excited about spending the night in the desert, snuggled up against the Pakistan border, discovering what everybody loves about Udaipur, marvelling at all the shades of blue in Jodhpur, and getting my hippie on in Pushkar.

When my time in India draws to a close, I’ll be boarding a plane and jetting south for winter. Yes, I’m off to Melbourne for yet another Christmas in the sunshine. While I’m there, I’ll be catching up with Dave’s family, checking out the city’s bouldering scene, and heading to Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test. Plus catching up on work after such a hectic travel schedule through India.

If you thought that was more than enough travel for one month, I wholeheartedly agree, but I still have another adventure in store for December. Towards the end of the month, I’ll be flying to New Zealand for a ton of activities, from hiking the newly-opened Paparoa Track to beach time on the South Island. I also have to figure out which South Pacific island to go to now that Samoa is suddenly overrun with measles. Maybe Vanuatu?

What do you have planned for December?

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14 Comments

  1. December 3, 2019
    Reply

    I love your travel updates, Lauren. And India sounds as wonderful as I expected it too. It’s on my bucket list.

    • December 4, 2019
      Reply

      I hope you get to go soon, Jamie! It’s such a great country :-)

  2. Miranda
    December 3, 2019
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    So glad you finally made it to India! I always enjoy your posts.

    Sorry to hear you are still having sinus issues. It’s likely that you were sensitized to mold, and now your limbic system is over-reacting. So you are either reacting to small amounts of mold, or something else, but it all stems from a heightened reaction from your limbic system. If this is the case, then it’s not a true allergy.

    It’s true that I’m not a medical doctor, but when medical doctors can’t diagnose your varied weird and chaotic symptoms that come and go, this points to a limbic system impairment.

    For $300 you can do a video or online version of the Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS), and skip the many hundreds of dollars you would spend on allergy testing/treatment. (There is also an in-person version of the training for about 10x the price – same content.) It is a home based practice based on your ability to take advantage of the neuroplasticity of your brain to re-wire your neural pathways, and completely recover from your symptoms. After you complete the training, you have access to a wealth of information on the program’s online forum. There you will see many, many others with very similar stories to yours, and will understand why I wrote this message today.

    Cheers,
    Miranda

    • December 7, 2019
      Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation! It’s something I’ve looked into, but not pursued yet, although it’s on the list to try soon! At this point, I don’t have any evidence that my last apartment even had mould issues, or that the new one does… and I stayed in plenty of mouldy rooms on the Camino and had no reaction to them. But who knows! At this point I’ll try anything :-)

  3. December 3, 2019
    Reply

    I loved nearly everything about this post (obviously not that you are still sick with a mystery illness). I also feel you on the google updates hitting hard. They’ve certainly knocked the wind out of my sails.

    India looks amazing! I can’t wait to read even more about it!

    • December 4, 2019
      Reply

      Yeah, this last Google update seems like it hit a lot of people hard, so I was surprised it benefited me. It’s always so scary how one company has so much influence over our lives.

  4. December 4, 2019
    Reply

    I’m so glad to hear you finally made it to India! And that you liked Delhi! Delhi and I continue to have a bit of a love-hate relationship, but Lodhi Garden is definitely a highlight of my time in the city.

    I’m sure others have told you this, but go to the Taj for sunrise if the weather is clear. It’s absolutely stunning, and you’ll be able to beat some of the crowd.

    For Pushkar, do a sunrise climb up to the Brahma temple. It’s around 500 steps, give or take, but is totally worth it.

    If you are taking the train to Jaisalmer, guesthouse owners will start jumping on a few stops early to try to get you to stay at their places. They’ll offer rooms for cheap with the hopes that you’ll then sign up for their – very expensive – camel safaris. We did a 2-day, 1-night safari, and I honestly think that’s all you need. Especially if Dave is with you; camel rides are, umm, rather painful for men.

    And finally, I don’t know if this is still the case or if it has been addressed, but when we visited Jaisalmer there was a lot of concern over people staying in guesthouses inside the fort. Between the weight of all the people and the updates needed for sewer systems and the like, it was deemed to be harmful for the structure (so much so that Lonely Planet refused to recommend guesthouses located inside the fort). We stayed outside the fort but wandered around inside in the evening before heading to a rooftop restaurant for dinner. Again, it’s been 12 years since I visited (holy crap), but I wanted to make you aware.

    And finally, finally! Rajasthan is THE PLACE for rooftop dining. Your glutes will be screaming, but trust me when I saw the views make all the sore muscles worth it. If you’re not eating on a rooftop, what even are you doing :)

    Enjoy the rest of your visit! I look forward to reading more soon!
    xx

  5. Caroline
    December 4, 2019
    Reply

    You said 3 of the 5 places you’ve lived in the UK made you sick — any insight into what the 2 places that did NOT have in common? You might be able to suss out characteristics that the 2 safe places had and the 3 unsafe places didn’t — seems like it might be a process of elimination thing (like an elimination diet but for buildings).

    • December 7, 2019
      Reply

      I’ve been trying to figure it out all year! It’s kind of making me feel as though I’m losing my mind.

      I thought that moving apartment would help, but it didn’t. So then I threw out all of my furniture, apart from my bed, and bought new stuff, but that didn’t help.

      The two places that didn’t make me sick were my parents’ place and a house I rented with friends, whereas the three that did were places where I lived with a partner. I hope I don’t have to break up with Dave to fix this! Haha. The three places all gave/give me worse symptoms when I spend more time indoors, which means it’s probably something in the house rather than something outdoors. I’ve eliminated most things that I can by getting rid of 90% of what I own and buying ti all again. I know that the place I stayed in with my previous partner and with Dave had memory foam mattresses, so that’s probably my next step, but ugh. I’m spending so many thousands of pounds to try all of this stuff and it sucks when it doesn’t help. It makes me feel insane to be wondering if it’s something in the paint or the insulation, but I don’t have much left to experiment with.

      But! I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.

  6. Vikki Cassidy
    December 4, 2019
    Reply

    Traveling fulltime and currently in Bali, heading back to the Yarra Valley for Christmas before our first stop for 2020 in Vietnam, cheers Vik

  7. December 6, 2019
    Reply

    Awesome to hear you finally made it to India and are enjoying your time there!
    I was lucky enough to go a couple of years ago – however my experience was probably a little closer to the horror stories you’ve heard all about! Don’t worry about nearly losing your passport! It happens to all of us 😂
    One thing I really loved about India was the food! It was so tasty! And super easy to eat vegetarian and no ion or garlic (yup I have weird intolerances!) so this was really fun for me to try all the local dishes – not that I remember what they’re called! But I have never eaten Dahl that food before, and am still searching for it!
    Awesome that you are back in Australia for December. Is Dave from Aus?
    If you come to Hobart again let me know! I love to show people around my island home! I’m so lucky to live somewhere so amazing!
    Hopefully the weather picks up for your stay though as well down here in Tassie it’s been super windy and wet! And on the mainland there have been some really terrible bushfires!
    Sorry to hear you had so much trouble with your video recording! That sounds exactly like what I would expect would happen to me!
    Can’t wait to hear more stories of your Indian adventures!
    Kelsie

  8. December 10, 2019
    Reply

    I’m so happy that you’ve written this. India is one of those destinations that I’d love to visit but a totally unsure about too! It’s so nice to know that it’s not all as bad as I’ve heard! Some of your photos show such a different side to the country too. I would never have thought there’d be so much green! It looks gorgeous! :)

  9. December 22, 2019
    Reply

    I’m a long-time follower of your blog (legit I think yours is the only one I consistently check nowadays!) who also suffers from anxiety (and I think we come from the same part of the UK!) who managed to get to India after a lifetime (literally, I’m half-Indian!) of wanting to visit, and I’m SO pleased you like it!! I feel the same way – I couldn’t have done it at the start of my travels but it was so rewarding to visit having found my travel feet. I’m looking forward to your posts about India (and your videos!)

    A sidenote – I also really hope you get better soon/someone helps figure out what is making you ill :( Chronic pain/illness is awful, I wish you all the best for that.

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