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!
Sister
12/22/2012 10:33:28 am

Haha. Look. at. that. huge. goat.

Cici's Pizza, Pho, and Las Vegas Buffet awaits you!

And hopefully some snow! I get to see you in less than 14 hours!!!!

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David
12/23/2012 01:01:56 pm

Perfect finish Dustin, and for what I saw, you seem to be an amazing person, never doubt about it. Please feel free to ask if you ever want to go in Paris :) Hope to see you one day!

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Arastu
12/24/2012 03:51:09 pm

Fun Fact for you - those people you saw living in the slums, I learned that many of them own 200-400,000 US dollars homes/apartments in upscale Mumbai which they RENT out to people and make money which they use for their businesses, world travel and god knows what else. Dharavi is where a lot of big businesses run......In India, appearance is not everything and they can be definitely deceiving. And people SAVE a butt load of money in India... :)
I liked your blog though. Good stuff.
Enjoy!!!!

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Ron
12/26/2012 12:14:20 pm

You are such a champ. I can't stress thanking you for sharing this. It's been an absolute privilege.

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logan
1/1/2013 02:24:28 am

congratulations for backing home one piece!
more than 1/3 of year, a baby can grow double size, so as your mind.
from 1990 to 2012, this last year beats the other 21 years, good for you.
knowing different sides of the world makes you a become fair person, seeing and judging things fairly.
this finish line is just one of another starting line in life, go for it!

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mattfromcanada
1/4/2013 12:26:15 pm

Been following your blog since we met in Egypt. Glad you had fun.

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