Irrespective of where I traveled to -- I was planning on India, Southeast Asia, whatever countries I'd have to travel through to get between those two places over land, and Australia -- this journey was bound to shape me. But India specifically has had such a profound impact on me that I'm pretty sure I won't make it to SEA or Australia this time around. In fact it is hard for me to believe there was a time (read as: um, my whole life until 30 days ago) when I saw life through a lens that did not include a shade of India. I feel like I could be here for years and years. Every single day when I wake up -- not even intentionally! -- my first thought is that I am extremely grateful for this experience, for another day India, and for all that India has given me and taught me in my short month here. Which is why I'm having a little baby anxiety attack :)
I am just 24 hours away from an expired Indian visa. What that means is that I needed to be out of India and into to another country where I can reapply for a longer term Indian visa.
Why am I in this situation? Well, I was so busy in New York leading up to my departure for India that I opted for the easiest, most convenient visa application: 30 days. The 30 day visa is the only visa that can be granted online and does not require an embassy visit. At the time, 30 days in India seemed like more than enough. I figured Delhi would be meh. Figured I'd see a couple of cities in India, check em off the list, and bounce to Myanmar and to the rest of SEA for the real party to get started. But then I landed in India and within three days I knew I was stuck here. There is so much to see, there are so many micro-cultures and geographies. Of course there have been stomach-twisting bus rides and the terrifying trek situations but besides those life-threatening little blips I have had such good experiences... I just can't leave! It's got to be India all the way.
So... Must. Get. Self. Back. Into. India.
Some popular nearby countries for 're-applying for your visa and traveling there during the week it takes to prepare the new visa' are Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. I was already in the north of India so I've chosen Nepal. I had originally booked this journey over land via trains and buses to the Sunauli/Nepali border (42 hours of travel time, 4 modes of transpo, $22 USD), but then felt given the circumstances it would be better to suck it up and pay for reliability -- transpo I could depend on for timeliness and accuracy -- so I flew from Delhi to Kathmandu (1 hour 45 minutes, $85 USD) this morning. It pained me to buy that flight. It cost at least one week of living.
In any case, here in Nepal I'll apply for a new Indian visa, explore for a couple of weeks while my application is processed, and then return to the visa office and hope I've been granted re-entry.
It's a good problem to have, having to post up in Nepal. Perhaps it has even forced me to get to Nepal whereas I hadn't planned it this way myself.
As an American, I will have the privilege of applying for a ten-year multiple-entry Indian visa. A month ago I didn't think I'd like India, now I'm begging for the ten year unlimited access plan. (Starting with Rishikesh reunion 2016... Clark/Mike/Emily/Sally/Cauê/Ashish amiright?!)
There is no reason my visa shouldn't get approved but I guess the possibility of being shut out of India just got real. I feel a little helpless, you know? Of all the tickets for entry I've ever wanted -- the opening night movie ticket, the sold out festival ticket, the too-expensive plane ticket, maybe even college!, I have never wanted one this badly. And this one money can't buy. Sure there's a fee, but there's no schtooping (Yiddish word for "paying off") the visa office to guarantee approval.
If I can't get back to India, I will be devastated. Wherever I end up I know I'll make the most of it, and maybe tomorrow I'll be like uh oh I'm in love with Nepal!, but right now India is the prize. Fingers crossed for crossing borders!