On my 32nd birthday (May 15), I received the following message from my mother. A thoughtful, perfect message only a mother who knows me so well could think up. It said, "What an amazing ride it has been! You have been a lesson for us since the beginning. I swear, mothers can't feel their babies move at 13 weeks but you already were looking for a way out. By about 32 weeks you were consistently screwing your head, I thought trying to screw your way out! You were #vagablonde from before birth.
The past year you have found yourself again, and you have found happiness! We rejoice with you in your authentic self and wish you a very Happy Birthday!"
Twelve months ago today I arrived in Dallas, where I had moved my life from Minneapolis. Today I start a new chapter of my life, as I jet to India. This was no coincidence. It was very intentional...all part of a greater plan. A plan that involves death and rebirth. A redefinition of self. Here I am.
In India, I want to experience it all. Equal amounts of chaos and calm. I want to get lost in the masses. I want to drown in chai...be overwhelmed by the sounds and the smells. A wise friend told me the other day that India will give me exactly the amount of chaos and calm that I can handle - no more and no less. I know I'm not ready for it, but I'm ready to be not ready. Prepared to be completely knocked on my ass and shaken up. India is otherworldly. And I guess I should mention it's a miracle that I'm even where I am right now.
You see, I discovered yesterday that I had completely forgotten to apply for a visa. Yep. You heard me. You see, the government advises travelers to apply for a visa well in advance, but for certain no less than four days in advance for acquisition of an e-visa. There I sat, at work, 18 hours before my flight was supposed to depart for MSP and then onward to CDG and BOM. Holy shit. - Spoiler Alert! - I sit here, now, on the flight to Paris, watching "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and I giggle to myself when the owner of the hotel says, "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." I giggle because it's exactly what happened to me yesterday. I feel like - in a very bizarre way - I experienced an extremely miniscule peek into what life in India will be like: consistent contradictions. Nonsensical beauty. Bring it on.
Here's what went down: my colleague Carol asked me if I had a visa. I got a bit - and I emphasize the word 'bit' - nervous, but, as I normally approach situations based on what I've learned so many times, things always have a way of working themselves out. I had zero clue what I was getting myself into, and it was a textbook Megan misadventure...those of you who know me can attest to that. Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong: first, I didn't know what was a reputable source for acquiring a visa, second I had no clue what would happen if I didn't have one...and thought there might be VOA like in Istanbul. Tried the e-visa site three times, no luck. Drove back to Salt Lake from Park City to pick up my visa from home. Tried to call Indian consulate in San Fran 9 times...it rang and rang. At this point it was about 2pm and I started getting slightly anxious. Tried to call Delta; they said they'd waive the change fee but had no answers for me about what would happen if I got on the first flight to Minneapolis. Turns out I snagged myself trip insurance...probably for the first time ever. Phew. What I learned about trip insurance was sobering though - it turns out it likely wouldn't cover a strong case of the blondes. Shit. It was on my second trip pack to Salt Lake at around 4pm that I started sweating a little bit. Called a visa agency in Santa. Monica and started the journey deeper into the unknown. Good thing I had excellent travel companions in Ladan and Jennifer from Ambassador Passport and Visa. Seriously, those women are saints in my book and saved the day.
In the meantime, I kept a smile on my face and came up with a plan, and I called Scotty - one of the most positive, encouraging souls in my life, who encouraged me to keep on smiling. What he didn't know was that the entire time I was really just thinking 'What would Scotty do?' An intrepid traveler with equal amounts of joy and travel mishaps endured, Scotty has a way of authentically charming everyone in his path and making everything work out. But that's no accident. It's by design. It's called Karma. Back to Park City and to dinner with two of my favorites Eirik and Stacey, and a visit from a third Alice...I think they believed more than me that it would all work out. Back to SLC, yet again, I started packing. About 8 phone calls and 15 email exchanges with Ladan and Jennifer later, and I still had hope but knew the 72-hr turnaround was a very real possibility.
Called friends and my mom, dad and sister and devised a plan to drive myself to the airport and figure it out in the morning if the visa had not yet arrived in my inbox. Meanwhile, some of my craziest work traveling friends couldn't believe I had flaked on the visa. I just laughed. And packed. And prayed. In classic vagablonde style, I went to bed at 3am with a plan to awake at 7am and start the journey, hoping that if the visa wasn't there yet, it would be by the time I arrived in Paris...and then the worst that could happen was a few nights in ol' Paris. Not too shabby. 7am came fast. Awoken by Gaga's "Gypsy," and rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I grabbed my phone. I let the emails load.
And there it was. Visa status: GRANTED.
WHAT?! I jumped out of bed with anticipation and gratitude - and disbelief - and texted my best friend Ana, who dropped what she was doing to see me on my way. I grabbed the least amount of luggage I've ever traveled with: a Topo Designs Travel Pack and the Trip Bag that clips onto it, and my Ethnotek Vietnam 6 Setia Pack. Ho.ly.shit! The power of positive thinking. For a brief moment there, I was convinced this was a sign I shouldn't embark on this journey just yet. But it was fleeting. And here I am, landing in Paris as I write this.
1 year from the day. I was meant to get on the plane today. This was no mistake. It was by design...just like when I was 13 weeks old, looking for a more efficient way out and ready to take on the world.
India, here I come!