Arriving in India

India for the winter

Geoff Beattie arriving in India
The “Arriving in New Delhi Look” after 4 hours sleep on the last flight from Cairo and 20 hours traveling from Ulverston.

Van Life to Backpacking

Since April 2022, I’ve been living full-time on and off in my micro campervan in England. The decision to go “full time” came after wanting to do something different and have the freedom to go where and when I want to without being fixed to any one place, especially after all the nonsense we’d all just been through, and the general cost of living in a building.
As much as I love living in the van, it can get hard in the winter months — not just the weather, but the really short days and lack of sun affects me every year. So this year, I decided to head to a brighter and warmer climate to live and explore a place I’ve always wanted to visit: India.

Previous backpacking

I did some backpacking for a couple of years back in the early 90’s when I was about 23. I visited Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, all the usual places that backpackers visited back then, and that gave me a real taste for traveling this way. Fast forward 30 or so years, at the tender age of 54, I find myself in a position to rekindle my travels and head to India.

No plan is the best plan

I’m not one to do much planning these days if I can avoid it. I’ve been there and done that with fixed plans and routines. I’ve done the whole M-F, 9-5 job thing, the “live for the weekend”, the 2-week all-inclusive package deal with day trips to see the tourist sights, the whole “get home from work and sit in front of the TV watching Emmerdale, then Coronation Street, then Eastenders, and then other general stuff while slowly downing glass after glass of red wine to “unwind from the day” until my head starts to nod while I try to stay awake to watch more TV and drink more wine before finally getting into bed, feeling grateful that I can now close my eyes and switch it all off until tomorrow when I’ll do it all again.” So now I don’t really do planning, I headed to India with no plan other than 1 month in Delhi to do some volunteer work and get a feel for life in India.

And no real plans for work either.

Although I’ve been doing photography and other self-employed and freelance work for some years now, it’s always been a part-time thing since my studio closed in about 2010. This hasn’t been a bad thing, quite the opposite to be honest, it brought on some real big life changes, and brought home some real truths about my life situation and people I really trusted in my life back then! This also gave me the chance move to a beautiful part of the country, Cumbria, and to do other work I was interested in, especially care work.

Victim of overworking, a blessing in disguise.

As much as I enjoyed the care work, I soon found myself not being able to say “no” to extra shifts. Even though, at one point, I was doing multiple days in “Day Service,” 24-hour shifts in “Supported Living,” and doing 1 to 1 support for 1 day a week, I found myself back in the system, doing 60-70 hour weeks!

Then one morning while brushing my teeth, I had the sensation that I’d been to the dentist as one side of my mouth was numb. Looking in the mirror, I noticed that the right side of my face had drooped! To cut a long story short, it turned out to be “Bell’s Palsy,” possibly caused by working too much, not resting enough, and stress. Fortunately, I made a 95% recovery. The only thing I’m left with is that my right eye doesn’t fully open the same as my left. Fortunately, that doesn’t affect my sight. It just looks a bit odd to me when I notice it in selfies haha.

That “bell’s palsy” was another blessing in disguise and another big turning point for me. Working all the hours that I was at the time, and having worked in domiciliary and palliative care for the previous couple of years, I realised that life can take an unexpected turn at any point. Someone who’s normally fit and healthy can be hit with a life-changing illness, leaving them disabled and dependent on care for the rest of their lives or diagnosed with a terminal illness and have only months to live. I know this is something we are all very much aware of, but to have firsthand experience of helping people in these situations, talking to them, and listening to their stories is quite profound.

Care work: a wake up call for me

After returning home from my first day in care work, my partner asked how it had been. As I began to tell her about the day, the people and things I’d helped people with, I just started to cry. (I’m actually filling up now as I’m writing this) This was my first experience of what some people and their families had to live with on a day-to-day basis. People who had worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder towards having time to “enjoy” retirement, but sadly never would.

Do it now!

One gentleman I’ll always remember had been diagnosed with colon cancer. As a carer, I would visit him at home for the usual 30 minutes and help with whatever was needed. He lived alone in his house that he and his wife bought many years ago. On the front drive was a beautiful, large motorhome. It looked quite new and ready to go traveling in. I once asked him about it, and he told me that he and his wife had bought it a few years ago, and they planned to go off and travel around the UK and over to Europe once they retired. They had both had good careers, paid off the mortgage, had a good amount of savings, and good pensions to live off, so they could spend the rest of their lives traveling.

Just a few years before retirement, his wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had to retire early from work, so he decided to take early retirement to look after her. Her condition quickly deteriorated, and she had to move into a care home. Within a year, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, and his wife passed away.

One thing that I’ll always remember him saying to me was “if there’s ever anything you want to do, do it NOW, you never know what can happen”

So here I am, taking his advice to heart, and sharing my journey and experiences with anyone who comes across it, in the hope that maybe I can help sow a little seed and inspire others to “do it now”. Life can be shorter than you think.

Love to you all, whoever and wherever you are on this crazy journey of life x






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