I can, at times, be a slow learner, particularly when the lesson life is trying to drill into my head goes against any plans I’ve laid out for myself. But 4 seems to be the magic number.
Siliguri marked the fourth time that whatever is savaging my innards landed me in a hospital. And this particular hospital stay came at the end of an agonizing 10 hour train ride during which I’m fairly certain the Indians sitting across from us were curious as to why I was writhing on my bunk like a woman about to give birth, possibly to some parasitic, alien life-form.
The saline was slower acting this time and new symptoms had joined forces with the usual culprits of severe cramping, vomit, diarrhea, weakness and fatigue. . .I was running a fever that had me convinced the room was 50 degrees one minute and −10 the next. That led to shivering which bordered on convulsions, which in turn caused a rather severe migraine.
Which, in turn, led to the very difficult decision to cut bait, and leave India.
Hence the even-longer-then-usual gap between posts. Once the most recent bout of my body turning against me waned enough to move on again there was still the issue of making arrangements with my insurance provider, selling the bikes (I’ll always love you, Hrithik), arranging flights. . . .not to mention the physical process of actually getting back to Canada; a process that took a couple days in and of itself.
I’m writing now from a friend’s couch in Sydney, NS – a town I didn’t expect to see for another 2 years or so. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
It’d be easy to mope about now. I had a lot of ambitions upon leaving for India and attempting this change of course in my life, and it was frustrating to be side-lined by something so far out of my realm of control as an inability to retain enough fluid to stay alive. And, as appealing as the prospect of seeing friendly faces again was, returning to Canada wasn’t the course I’d laid for myself. It didn’t move me further towards the goals I’d set for myself.
But I’m big on silver linings. Being forced to jump ship on travel and finally diagnose what’s going on in my intestines, then take the time to give my body a chance to regain its strength, leaves me with time. Time I didn’t have when I was on the road. Time to look at the systems I was using to organize my thoughts and photos and plans and hone it towards something that works more efficiently as I attempt to balance, among other things, writing, photography, travel, finances and friendships on the road. I might even have the chance to get a secondary project that I began the initial leg work on during my Indian wanders up and running.
All of this has me thinking of India as a test run – an experiment in life as a full-time vagabond. What worked? What failed (besides my bodily functions)? Where can I make improvements?
Sometimes, when you’re beating your head against a wall to get somewhere and life just doesn’t seem to want to let you go, there’s a reason for it. And there’s an oddly beautiful freedom in having shit hit the fan, and even in fucking up: You do it enough, and you realize that:
1 – Life rarely comes to a screaming halt as a result of it and
2 – damn good things can actually often come out of it.
This is one of the lessons that living an often chaotic life has given me that I most deeply cherish. Some of the most valuable and rewarding opportunities, friendships and experiences in my life have occurred only because of the violent shit-storms that preceded them. So I remain sad to have had to leave India ahead of schedule and cut back West instead of continuing East, but am simultaneously happy to be here, among friends, as I wait for the test results that will hopefully end the mystery of what’s taken up unwanted residency in the winding tubes of my GI tract. I look forward to getting healthy once more, and being able to continue on to Australia, my next working destination. But I also look forward to making use of the time I have here.
Over the course of the next couple weeks I’ll be catching up on blog posts and photos of what we were up to in India when I wasn’t hooked up to an IV drip. And, fingers crossed, if I’m real keen, there should be an upcoming website launch for a small, independent project I hope to continue work on throughout my travels to come.
In the meantime, I’ll be kicking it here in Sydney, attempting to rebuild my ravaged gut flora and regain at least a few of the 30 pounds I managed to lose over the last 2 months. Big love to Steph and John who have so kindly opened their home to me, and to Pete, who was an absolute champ when it came to keeping me alive during this all.
And to anyone going through what seems, at the time, to be a terribly disheartening forced change of course, remember: it’s often the challenges, not the days of smooth, uninterrupted sailing that shape us. Winds that threaten to knock us on our ass can often blow open doors we didn’t previously realize were there. Keep faith.
It’s all going to be alright.