I could write an entire blog post on the things that scare me about travelling, from sharks to jellyfish to body-snatching beasties and more… but instead, I am going to tell you about the one thing I am not remotely frightened of:
Driving 3,500km across India in a three-wheeled tin can.
Fear is the one thing people expect me to feel when I tell them what we are doing in the name of charity and adventure, but I can say with absolute certainty that when it comes to the Rickshaw Run, I am genuinely not scared at all.
Sure, there are parts of it that concern me slightly, like the fact that our rickshaw is bound to break down at least once a day and neither I nor my team mates have any mechanical skills whatsoever, but for some reason I just have faith that we will be ok. I have this faith because I believe in what we are doing, but more importantly in this instance, I believe that we will always find people to help us.
I believe in the kindness of strangers.
I do not subscribe to any religion, and have no God to pray to for protection, but I have faith that when we need help, the right people will present themselves to us. I believe that language barriers and cultural differences aside, we will find a way to work together and keep going, and I believe that it will be these unavoidable breakdowns and misadventures that will prove to be the hidden gift of this whole experience.
Some of you may find this belief naïve or overly optimistic, and maybe it is, but here in India, I have learnt through experience that a helping hand and an open heart is never far away.
I am currently a little under one month into my new life of indefinite round the world travel, and the last of the Namaste Outta My Way team members to finally hit the road. At the moment I am living in a lovely little house in Goa, India, where I will be until I head to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to begin the Rickshaw Run.
This is my seventh visit to this amazing country, filled with magic and mayhem on a scale I have never experienced anywhere else. India makes me feel all kinds of happy, and the people here inspire me to live wholeheartedly every day. There is an openness here, long forgotten where I come from in England; a kindness and generosity of spirit that renews your faith in humanity, and the power of good.
Driving around the countryside in Goa, through the lush green rice paddies and hills densely blanketed in jungle, human connection ripples through the land as warmly as the breeze. People appear from nowhere to wave and shout “Hal-low!” with a sense of glee so infectious it leaves you beaming as you continue to drive past. Stop for a moment on what appears to be a deserted road and people of all ages magically appear from nowhere, offering a friendly smile and prerequisite nod of the head.
Indian people always want to know why you have come to their country, and are especially interested to talk to me when they hear I have visited so many times before. Their visible pride is matched by their inquisitiveness. Have you seen the Taj Mahal? they ask. What other places have you visited? Where are you going next? Why do you like my country so much?
When my boyfriend Lee and I were lost in Mumbai at the start of our travels, a young woman we stopped to ask for directions at a bus stop actually got up and walked with us to make sure we didn’t get lost again. When we did just a short while later, a man happily changed direction and walked and chatted with us down the street, his conversation peppered with questions on why we were visiting his homeland, and what we were going to do while we were here.
Oftentimes I find conversations with women can lead to particularly personal revelations about our cultural differences, their thoughts on arranged marriage, and longing for the freedom I am so lucky to have been afforded, simply by being born in a different country. Little happenstances like these can change the course of your day in an instant, and teach you more than you ever dreamed possible.
From the snow-capped Himalayas to the golden beaches of southern Goa, the people of India have touched my heart in so many ways, and left an indelible mark on my soul. And it is these people that we will surely be turning to as Kim, Sarah and I putter our way across the scorching landscape in our mobile hunk of metal.
It is my many varied experiences here in India that allows for my absence of fear as the three of us prepare to drive headlong into the wildest adventure of our lives. I am not afraid, because I have seen the kindness of strangers, and I have faith that I will see it again.