It's hard for me to believe that the journey has ended. Four months ago I was on my flight to Dubai, nervous and apprehensive, thinking, "What if I hate it?" "What if I get lonely?"

I'm happy to say that India, a country I casually added to my trip back in October, really turned out to be the icing on the cake.
Note: My Nikon stopped working in India so all these pictures are taken with my crappy tablet camera :(

From Jaipur, I bussed my way over to Udaipur - known as the 'Venice of India' and the most romantic city in India at that.
There I met Deepak, Mark, and Ben: three funny, amicable guys that I would end up traveling the rest of India (the next 12 days) with.
With less than a million people, Udaipur is a small city by Indian standards.
More importantly, Udaipur showed me a side of India I didn't know existed: beautiful lakes, rivers, and most importantly - silence.
On one especially eventful day, the guys and I hiked to the top of a mountain west of the city just in time to catch the sunset.
With beers in hand, we laughed and joked the entire way up: one of the most pleasant evenings of my trip. I hadn't found a group this amicable since my time in southern Ethiopia. We all hit it off pretty well.
Had I planned more time for India, I would've liked to stay in Udaipur longer. Having a few beers on the rooftop restaurants along the canal reminded me so much of some European city.
Deepak left the pack a little early, but a day later, the rest of us moved on southward towards the one and only... Mumbai.
Abundant with massive skyscrapers, Mumbai is as cosmopolitan as cities get.
Back in Udaipur we had met Abhira, a Mumbai native that offered to show us around the sprawling city she calls home. 

For two days, she brought us to awesome comedy clubs, restaurants, and local bars: a look into upper-class Mumbai that looked and felt just like home.
We saw another Bollywood film - this one a comedy - and laughed for hours! Thanks for everything, Abhira!!
The next day, Ben and I took a ferry to see Elephanta Island - an old isle outside of Mumbai harbor filled with old Hindu temples.
Little did we know the journey itself would turn out to be the majority of the experience.

20 minutes into our '45 minute' boat ride, our ferry's engine died in the middle of the bay. Their solution? Pack us all onto another ferry that was already over capacity.
Now carrying the weight of two boatloads of people, not surprisingly, within 10 minutes the engine of the second ferry died. 

Solution? Another ferry!  Ferry number three though, pulled us the rest of the way.
Three and a half hours later, we made the 10-mile journey to the island with three times the amount of people we started with!
And we finally saw the two-thousand year old Hindu temples carved into the island caves. I made sure to take my time extra slowly since we worked so hard to get there!
Through the ferry mishap, we also made a few new friends.
And as we ferried on back, the Mumbai skyline at sunset glowed from afar. This ferry only took an hour, thankfully.
Thanks to Slumdog Millionaire, Mumbai is also unfairly infamous for its slums. On one of our last mornings, we decided to visit the Dharavi slums - the largest slum in Asia and also where they filmed Slumdog.
While we expected to see poverty and beggars abound, we saw instead what felt like a normal neighborhood community of people working together.

Not only did nobody ask us for money, they welcomed us! None of us could believe how different everything was compared to how the movies portrayed Mumbai slums.

Where was the misery? Where was the desperation? People seemed genuinely happy and content with their lives.
One thing that did hold true was the massive gap between the rich and poor in Mumbai. Upscale malls one day? Slums another?
Through the dustiness I found a charm in Mumbai that surprised me: in a city of over 22 million people, there were so many places to explore from night markets on the beach to old British colonial neighborhoods.
After our 4 days of exploring Mumbai, we continued southward to the final destination of my trip: Goa.

In the states, we have our Hawaii, Mexicans have their Cancun, and in India, Goa is the beach place to be!
My first two hours in Goa, I got side-swiped by a car while testing out a scooter Ben had rented. The guy drove off of course, but I was lucky enough to just be a little scratched up.
On the bright side, Deepak rejoined us and the guys and I decided to go all out and rent a beachhouse directly on the shore!
Sunbathing by day and partying by night, I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up the Indian leg of my journey than in Goa!
After all the dust had settled, it was hard saying goodbye to an Indian adventure that really made my trip (and went by the fastest)! 

Flying back to Dubai was a sad feeling, but I feel very content with the adventures had by the beach.
In just a few hours from now, I'll be on my flight back home where it was summer last time I set foot and the Olympics had just ended.

I've missed a lot back home - holidays, birthdays, music, but the experiences these past few months have altered me so much.

Has it really been four months? So hard to believe.

Four months of laughter, adventures, uncertainties, sickness, surprises, disappointments, hygienic challenges, and spiritual changes.

But what have these experiences with 154 different people from 46 countries taught me?

Well, for one thing, I've learned that there are only two types of people you encounter when you travel: those who will help you and those who will hurt you. 

I've learned that first impressions can easily be wrong, but gut feelings are unmistakably right.

I've learned that the worse a hotel is the more you should sleep with the lights on because it keeps the cockroaches at bay. On that same note, I've learned to be able to fall asleep just about anywhere.

I've learned that in any country you visit, train station employees will be the most miserable people you'll ever meet; and the art of dealing with taxi drivers, that's been a good lesson, too.

I've learned that sometimes when things just don't go according to plan, it's OKAY. There's always a way around things - even if you're stuck in northern Israel during the Sabbath and you've missed the last train.

I've learned that gratitude is a universal gesture that isn't expressed nearly enough and that an extra "I appreciate it" goes a long way beyond language barriers.

I've learned that traveling alone is one of the best decisions I've ever made, and I can't imagine traveling otherwise. You meet so many people, you learn so much about yourself, and nothing is ever forced or compromised. It's the selfish but most fulfilling way to travel.


Most importantly, I've learned that there really is no cure to this thing called life.

I approached this trip hoping it would improve me - turn me into a better person, a stronger individual - and all my problems back home would somehow  just disappear.

And while the things I wanted to escape from haven't changed at all, I've discovered so much about myself and what really makes me tick.

When you're in a place thousands of miles from the closest person you know, you see your raw, uninhibited personality - one without the influence of others. You simply don't care, because there's nobody around that knows you enough to judge you.

And in that time I've been able to peruse the things I like and the things I dislike from food to people to my very own personality traits.

I've attained an extra sense of self-confidence and self-assurance; to trust myself wholly because when there's no one else to turn to, I've even surprised myself at times.

To those of you who have been following my journey (and even those of you who just come for the pictures!), thanks for all of your moral support.

To those of you I met along the way, thank you for telling me your stories and sharing with me your world and companionship. I hope to cross paths with you again!

And while I'm itching to head back home for the holidays, I know it won't be long before the travel bug bites me again.

The world is so immense and I'm lucky enough to have seen so much of it already. 
Next on the list? Central Asia? Southeast Asia? South America?

There's still so much left!
 
Look familiar?
Not too long ago, I would have told you the most crowded place I had ever been to was probably Shanghai, Hong Kong, or even Cairo.
Not anymore.
New Delhi, (or just Delhi) to the average tourist, is a massive shock to the senses. People and rickshaws flood the streets and the constant honking and crowds are overwhelming to almost everyone I've spoken to.
Luckily for me, I had just experienced more than a month in Africa so to most people's utter disbelief, arriving in New Delhi was pretty refreshing for me.
Street food in Delhi is heaven for foodies: whether it's chow mein, a breakfast chopati, or something sweet, there are vendors on just about every corner - any time of day.
My first day alone, I had no less than 10 different street food snacks. I really could not stop eating all the delicious concoctions!

According to LonelyPlanet, the general rule of thumb is if it's fried or boiling, it's safe to eat. And NEVER eat meat!
The one time I didn't obey this rule (had rice and chicken), I paid a big price for. Let's just say one of my days in Delhi was spent entirely in the hotel... getting to know my toilet.

I also spent a good chunk of another day getting my train tickets together. I waited almost 4 hours to buy them, but I met some good company along the way: Anastasia and Stanistlav from Russia and Geraldine from Germany - all in India escaping the bitter European winter.
The next day, I also ran into Christian - a guy I had met back in Egypt in my Cairo hostel! One continent and 4 time zones away we managed to bump into each other in India of all places! Unbelievable!

His girlfriend joined him in India, so the three of us went out to have some "Korean" food... which was basically Indian food with a different name.
In terms of sights, Delhi has so many incredible things to see from forts to palaces to temples.
I easily got lost in all the beautiful buildings built by emperors and kings along the way.
This was used to tell time back then!
I realized very early on that it's impossible to take a picture without SOMEONE being in it.
Everywhere I turned though, there were just hundreds of more people. The lunchtime rush here is no joke!

Being a city person myself, I adjusted to it all fairly quickly.
And Indian English, as they say, is very different than American English. There were some quirky things along the way.
After a few days in the capital, I hopped on a train to Agra that was not only clean and comfortable, but even included breakfast! Very different than those pictures of Indian trains with people on the roof. I couldn't find one of those trains!
Arriving in my Agra hostel, I immediately met David from France and Alice from Taiwan - the only other Taiwanese person I had met after almost 4 months of traveling!

We spent a relaxing day lounging around a rooftop cafe, swapping stories of our adventures so far. David cut his hand open from broken dishes. Didn't stop him from traveling!
The next day, we woke up at 5am to see none other than one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

I realized going on a Saturday during peak season was not one of my best ideas...
There are some things out there that are overrated. The Taj Mahal, to me, was not one of them. In fact, it was much bigger than I had imagined!
I ended up spending over 5 HOURS at the complex, admiring everything from its colossus size to just the sheer amount of people.
That afternoon, I wandered over to Agra Fort - just a hop and a skip away from the Taj.
There were monkeys everywhere.
I'm happy to say my body's officially adapted to Indian food. Since I've sworn off the street food, every restaurant meal has been incredible thus far.
After a wonderful final night of conversations in the hostel, I embarked for the city of Jaipur on a bitter cold Friday morning. Yes, northern India gets COLD!
My train was delayed 2 hours (no surprise there) but when it finally arrived, sitting next to me was Consuelo, a Guatemalan transplant living in Barcelona for 7 years and counting.
We got to talking and eventually decided on the same hotel. This being my last few weeks of traveling, I decided to splurge on a nice hotel for once.
We went out for lunch at none other than Pizza Hut! While the portions were tiny, the Hawaiian pizza tasted just like home...
And just a few blocks away was a gigantic Indian cinema. We decided that no Indian trip is complete without seeing a Bollywood movie!
The next two days, we tackled Jaipur to see the fantastic sights of Rajasthan.
Just outside of the city was a sight more impressive to me than the Taj Mahal: The GIGANTIC Amber Fort - built to protect and house the royalty of medieval Jaipur.
We literally spent the entire day exploring this maze-like palace, built to confuse any would-be invaders.
That night, we had dinner plans with Zoey, a British lady we met with ambitious plans of traveling the world for 5 years! She's on her second year at this point, 5 months in India alone...
At this point, I must admit I'm getting a little homesick. While the past four months have been incredible, I also never realized how long four months can feel being away from friends and family.

As I've met so many people in India at the start of their trips, I've noticed just how tired I've become, especially since my African leg of the journey.
With only two weeks left, from here on out, southbound I go along the western Indian coast! Thanks for reading!