Wheels up

Time is a weird thing. Especially when you’re traversing the globe. On my way to India, I spent 24 hours on plane and zipped ahead in time a full 36 hours. On my way home, it will take just as long, but since I’m going the opposite direction, we’ll tick time off the clock each hour of the journey. I leave at 1a Mumbai time, arrive about 2p in the states, before my last connection.

As if India weren’t done proving its spirit to me, I had one last adventure in store as the porter at my hotel helped hail a cab to the airport for me. At first, no one would take the fare, the international airport is so far from South Mumbai. Of course, the cabbie who agreed pulled up in perhaps the most rusted out little sedan I’ve ever seen – each door seemed to be hanging on by a thread, and the car puttered itself to a stop in front of us.

At a flat Rs 500 ($10) rate, I shrugged my shoulders and hopped in. What more can you do but surrender to the whims of this place? Windows down, the last sights and sounds and smells of the city blew by me as we zipped north along the coast. I spotting the Haji Ali mosque as we drove, the place of worship that is its own island, accessible only at low tide. I hadn’t made it there in my own wandering – both the building and the solid stream of faithful walking the narrow path to it were lit with an amber glow under the city lights. I tried snapping a photo, but by then my little rust-bucket taxi had really picked up steam, so all I caught was a blur of lights.

I spent yesterday and today seeing more of the city – I walked the length of Marine Drive yesterday, and toured Gandhi’s Mumbai home. Both incredible. Being in a house where Gandhi spent so much time, seeing his workspace, his artifacts – it’s honestly not something I expected of this trip, but I won’t soon forget the experience.

It may be stating the obvious, but I won’t soon forget this entire experience. It’s been challenging and nerve-wracking and even scary at times. But it’s also been eye-opening, heart-swelling and more incredible and impressive than I could’ve imagined. I don’t know why we don’t do it more often – pack our bags, jump on a plane and see the world spinning from the other side. I think (I hope) that’s the most indelible part of this trip for me. I’ll carry with me when I’m back in the US the overwhelming sense of presence this trip have given me, the idea that at any given moment literally billions of people around the world are going about their business, too. Sometimes, they’re already on tomorrow while you’re still squeaking by today.

Some have asked if I feel different, if I’ve been inspired, if I find I’m particularly reflective as I prepare to put behind me so many memories and experiences that I spent years planning and imagining. I suppose the answer is yes. I suppose that’s why I travel – I know it changes me, I know I’m different for it.

How, exactly, I’m not sure I can say yet. I have an interesting couple of days, weeks, months ahead as I sort out where I’m headed next. I think when the dust settles on it all, I’ll be better able to say how all this has shaped me and my future. For now, I’m just grateful to have had it to do at all.