Bye bye, Europe!

3.45 in the morning is no time to get up, but that’s what we do anyway. We start our day agreeing that we are getting sick and promptly fill up on vitamins. We take a cab to the airport to avoid having to endure a long, cold walk to the train station with our backpacks on, which would ultimately make us more sick. That’s lazy people’s logic for you right there. The driver rips me off of course, but I am too sleepy to care. Paulina is with us to try and get a refund on her flight, as she hasn’t gotten her visa approved yet, but she doesn’t have any luck. She then heads over to the ATM to get some money out, and it rejects all of her cards. Almost teary-eyed, she has to watch us go through security while she is waiting for the bank to open, so she can get some money for the cab back.

Sara and I fly to Paris, where we have a quick layover, then we’re off to Delhi. We sit in different rows, which I don’t mind, since we have movies, naps and food to entertain us. We try our first Indian meal on the plane, which is not too bad. I am geniunely thinking I won’t mind this coming month of just Indian food. Two weeks from now, I will regret that.

We also have our first taste of Asian politeness on the flight. The Indian woman sitting next to Sara not only stares her up and down for a long time, she also completely skips the line to the lavatory, where we have been waiting for several minutes. I am shocked how unapologetic and rude this woman is, but I also have yet to find out how common that really is.

When we land in Delhi, we have to deal with a long walk and line to immigration before baggage claim. Our backpacks are taking their sweet time to get there, and we are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Wouldn’t it just be typical to travel all day, just to end up in a strange country without our luggage and an idea of how to deal with it?
We finally leave the airport, one whole hour after landing. A driver has been waiting for us all this time, and he’s going to wait a little bit longer, when we spot an ATM. I don’t know the currency rate, or what half the (English) words mean, so I take my sweet time. Poor guy.

Our driver takes us for quite a walk to the car. On the way, several big groups of young guys give us the stare, which makes us a bit nervous. I have heard a lot things about Indian men and their sexuality, and especially about their fascination with blond girls. It makes me even more aware of people staring at me, and even more scared that I will somehow end up in an uncomfortable situation. Not exactly the best thing to think about, going into a month-long trip in this country. I better shake off my prejudices about this country and its people. Not that I have too many.

We get in the taxi, which is clearly not an actual taxi, but an old, white car with duct tape to hold the windows in place. We have our first taste of traffic in India: loud, chaotic and seemingly super deadly. I get distracted when I see cows casually crossing the street here and there. This is amazing! What’s not amazing though, is that the driver asks us for a tip, and we hand him about 200 rupees, to which he gets offended. In the end, he cashes in 600 rupees in tips alone, and it’s a total scam, and we are tired and just want to get out of the duct tape car. He heads into a narrow and dark alley, and we stand there, unsure if it’s safe to follow him. Why is he going into this creepy alley with nothing but young men sitting around, staring at us!? It turns out our Hotel, called The Spot, is a tiny place far into the alley. Now, I’ve been staying in shit places before and it’s never been a problem. I have a fairly low standard. This place seems scary and disgusting though. I can’t put my finger on it.

We have plugged in the charger for the computer we have bought together for this trip, and suddenly a few sparks fly from the plug, the charger melts, and the lights go out. We are too scared to leave the room and go back to the reception, where it’s just a few young guys sitting around, so we just fall asleep in our beds, which Sara suspects is crawling with bed bugs. It’s been a looong day.

The last days in Denmark

I’ve spent weeks saying goodbye to my friends and family, but somehow ended up being too busy the last few days hanging out with all of them to take a nap or double-check my packing list. At the moment, both my backpacks are filled to the brim. It gives me a sense of panic, when I thought I had been very minimal and reasonal in my packing, and knowing I will return with an unspeakable amount of souvenirs, gifts and cheap sundresses.

Anyways. Friday we had a wine tasting at job # 1 (the restaurant). We got pretty buzzed and then went to job # 2 (the bar/nightclub) where a huge dress-up party was happening. I borrowed a french maid costume from a (male) colleague. I got home at 5 in the morning, and for several reasons, I really can’t recount the night.

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The next day, I was woken up by my dad who was making pancakes – he hasn’t made me pancakes since I was a kid. After a few bites, I felt the hangover hit me like a wrecking ball and I ran for the bathroom. I continued to throw up all day, while attempting to eat the breakfast, lunch and dinner my dad and stepmom made me. It was so thoughtful and nice of them, and all I could do was throw up at the sight of it. I am a horrible daughter.

I had Dad drive me to the pharmacy for an embarassing emergency purchase, but refused to tell him what it was. As I was leaving the car, he told me he needed to buy painkillers himself, and I had to throw him out of the store because I couldn’t have him there while I was buying what I needed for myself. Talk about embarassing.

Later I met up with my best friends, Aga and Albulena, for coffee and hugs.

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Look at their sad faces. I’m going to miss these two so much.

 

Sara and I are catching a train to Copenhagen, where we are staying for the night. Friends and family drop us off at the train station, say their final goodbyes, and take the mandatory awkward pictures of us with our backpacks on.

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Right before I get on the train, my dad hands me a card to read once I get on. We find our seats and look like total noobs trying to put away our backpacks, to the amusement of the other passengers. I sit down and open the card my dad gave me, and into my lap falls some money, a few notes written on paper tissue, and condoms.

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Right as I pick up the condoms to inspect them, the conducter enters the coach and stops, when he sees what I’m doing. Loudly, and with a huge grin on his face he asks me where I’m off to. I am blushing, but want to be funny, so I answer Thailand. This is true, but I’m not planning on using these on a ladyboy. The passengers are all giggling at me, and the young guy next to me whispers “that’s awkward”. If only he knew.

We arrive in Copenhagen and find our hostel, where we are greeted by an unfriendly receptionist. As we’re about to enter the elevator, my old room mate and colleague at The Pink Palace, Paulina steps out! She is supposed to join us on most of this trip, but ufortunately, she does not yet have a Visa, and on top of that, she has lost her luggage. She is still in great spirit though, and we head straight to Strøget for a stroll, until we end up on a café for a late lunch and drinks.

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Proof that I am in fact a Viking

For dinner, we eat at a cozy café where I have the best Caesar Salad and frozen sangria ever, but unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the place. We crawl back home and go to sleep, as we’ve got an early flight to India to catch. Toodles!

Drugs

Who knew travelling was so dangerous? No, I’m not talking about the possibility of getting raped, robbed or lost. I’m talking about getting sick.

Sure, I’m being overly cautious here, maybe. Or am I? Am I even prepared for four months of endless things that could go wrong? But on the other hand, people do this all the time with less preparation, and nothing happens to them. Only time will tell if my body can keep up with South East Asia.

The reason I am currently freaking out, is that with five days left until depature, I had my final run to the Pharmacy today to pick up Malaria pills. 15 goddamn boxes. This is what my medicine bag looked like when I got home:

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Jeez, Christine Louise. I need all 15 packages, but I neither can nor should bring them all like this. I stuffed three packages – with manuals – with all the pills I had, and suddenly I could fit it all in my bag and still read about the proper use and side effects.

Let’s talk a bit more about what to bring for a long trip far away from home. First things first, if living in Greece for months at a time taught me anything, it’s that vitamins are a good idea. No, a great idea. Flying, staying in less than stellar hostels, and not eating healty and balanced enough can all contribute to feeling a bit sick. While Asia is known for its healty food, there’s still no harm in bringing some for the days where you binge on bread and Coke all day (also known as Hangover Day). I also packed some vitamin C, because I’ve seen so many people do that when they didn’t feel too well.

If it does happen that I catch a cold, which is common after traveling on airplanes or sleeping with the air-con on, I have a nasal spray and painkillers ready. It is generally a great idea to bring disinfectant for whatever you’d need it for.

Birth control and condoms. Even if you don’t plan to sleep around, you never know when you meet that hot surfer dude with the accent to die for. Seriously. Better to be safe than sorry. Also, those lucky ladies that are on birth control can skip their period one month, if they are going swimming or meeting the man of their dreams that one week they are supposed to be crying and eating brownies in a fetal position.

Anything to prevent or fight diarrhea, really. It’s impossible to travel when your butt is constantly leaking.

Pills and mosquito spray to prevent malaria. All of this is a must if you are traveling to certain areas, and you need to be very serious about using this at the right hour. Unfortunately, a lot of malaria pills have side effects, like causing yeast infections, so bring something for that.

No matter where you’re travelling and for how long, I cannot stress how important it is to know about the precautions you have to take to prevent your trip from being about that one time you went to Italy and pooped non-stop, or when you were in the hospital in Laos because a dog bit you. I don’t know, just do your research about the area, get the neccesary shots and prescriptions, and know who to call if it all goes wrong.

The first step towards freedom: graduating and moving out

January 7th 2014 was a big day for me: I finished my last exam and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. It was the biggest relief I have ever felt. I have been in school since I was 5, sick of it since I was 18. Now I am 22 and I am DONE. It’s mostly been a dreadful experience, but it’s over now, and I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished, since I have been the biggest slacker for the last 3.5 years.

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“YES! A Bachelor’s Degree AND free booze!”

I have been in a permanent state of stress since the Winter of 2012 because of a constant stream of exams and tiring courses, I thought I could relax and just enjoy myself for a while, now that I was done. Not happening. I had one week to move out of my home of two years. A small, newly built place with cheap rent and within walkin distance to pretty much everything. I’ve loved living alone and couldn’t imagine having to go back to a small bedroom and sharing the couch with someone else. Now that’s my life again.

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This is just the tip of a super depressing iceberg.

By the 15th of January I had boxed up some of my belongings and brought them over to my dad’s place. Here I have borrowed my sister’s (and occasionally my stepsister’s) room until March, when I take off to India. The first night at my dad’s was weird. Trying to cook in a new kitchen, sleep in a new bed and show respect for another person’s things while trying to feel at home. I felt like I had made a huge mistake. Being on my own is more comfortable most of the time, but I know it’s for a bigger cause: I’m trying to follow my dream and detach myself from things. I realized quickly that it’s not the things, but the idea of personal space that is so hard to let go of.

There is a lot of paperwork to do when you graduate, move and plan a long trip. It’s been more stressful than any exam could ever be, because this is the real world. It’s not theoretical, it’s real and it’s all on you. Luckily, I just got my Indian Visa, which I was super nervous about, as the application form was super confusing. Almost to the point of tears. You also bleed money even before you purchase the first plane ticket, because there are a lot of things that you just can’t live without when you’re backpacking. Like a backpack. Good shoes. A good eyelash curler. OK so I have all these things, but the vain part of me wants to get a haircut, get a couple of cute outfits and a good towel that dries quickly! These things cost $$, baby. Or €, £, whatever.