My Sabbatical Story – Month #5 (November, 2019)

by Carly | Fearless Female Travels

Sabbatical Update Month 5 - Seychelles and South India

Date:

Today is December 2nd, 2019.

Current Location:

I am currently on the island of Praslin in The Seychelles.

Places Visited Since Last Update:

  • Palolem, Goa
  • Vagator, Goa
  • Panjim, Goa
  • Fort Kochi
  • Alleppy & the Kerala Backwaters
  • Munnar
  • Mumbai
  • Mahe, The Seychelles

As you can see, I spent nearly all of November in India.  My next stop is South Africa, and the cheapest flight to South Africa went through The Seychelles (on Air Seychelles, which I believe only flies internationally to Mumbai, Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg?).  So here I am.

The Good, The Bad and the Bizarre

I’m bringing you all of the updates on the best, the worst and the weirdest experiences on the road since I last checked in.

The Good

The Best Destination I’ve Visited

Beach Huts on Palolem Beach in Goa, India

In general, I really liked most of South India.  Palolem (both the town and the beach) were a little reminiscent of Bali, and Fort Kochi, Alleppy and Munnar were all nice places to wander around for a few days.  I’d definitely be happy to return to the south (and Sri Lanka!  How did I miss Sri Lanka!) to explore more.

The Best Thing I’ve Eaten

In a throwback to the cafes of Canggu (in Bali), it was probably the green smoothie bowl from Zest in Palolem.  It must have had twenty different fruits, from kiwi to strawberry to mango to pineapple to apple to banana…

Palolem actually had quite a few lovely vegetarian and vegan restaurants, along with regular restaurants with good vegetarian and vegan options (like The Germany Bakery, where they have a grilled yak cheese sandwich!).

The Most Amazing Experience I’ve Had

Kerala Backwaters Near Alleppy in South India

I really enjoyed spending a day on a canoe in the Kerala backwaters.  Traveling by canoe was definitely slow, but it gave us lots of time to see the little details of life in this watery region.  In some ways I was reminded of Xochilmilco, near Mexico City, but the backwaters around Alleppy are much more densely occupied and in heavier use.  And they’re probably prettier, too.

Something Else That Made Me Smile

I’m going to dump on The Seychelles a bit below, so I will say that seeing the famous rocks along the islands’ coastlines was a pretty big deal for me.  I distinctly recall staring at photos of The Seychelles when I was a kid, and it was Kind of a Big Deal to find myself here, seeing the same landscapes that I’d only imagined when I was seven or eight years old.

The Bad

The Worst Place I’ve Visited

Polio-Free Mumbai Signs in India

Although my time in the Seychelles has sucked, I can very easily see their appeal.  However, I just didn’t get Mumbai.  I was definitely expecting it to be a bit more cosmopolitan, but in fact that it seemed like any other Indian city, just more spread out and more difficult to get around.

The Most Questionable Thing I’ve Eaten

I think I might have accidentally eaten meat?  In Vagator, someone told me about post-drinking “egg burgers” and they told me that it was basically a fried egg sandwich.  I was a little drunk (and grumpy) when I visited the egg burger stand at 2:00 am, and although I know told the guy “veg… pure veg… veg… pure veg…” at least ten times, and although I don’t recall there being any meat in my sandwich, someone later told me that all egg burgers contain sausage?  So, I might have drunkenly strayed from fifteen years of vegetarianism… or maybe I didn’t.

The Most Frustrating Experience I’ve Had

A Rainy Day at the Beach in the Seychelles

The Seychelles are absolutely not friendly for solo travelers or budget travelers, and the return on investment during my stay has been unusually poor.  I’ll give you the lowlights:

  • Unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy all day, every day while I was here (do not believe bloggers like The Blonde Abroad who say the weather is good year-round, or that rain only lasts an hour or two!) and there is almost nothing to do in the rain.
  • There is no real budget accommodation here.  I booked the cheapest places I could find three months in advance, and it’s generally costing about €100 per night.  These are all self-catering apartments, so I could cook for myself but…
  • Groceries are insanely expensive.  I wanted to buy some tea but the cheapest box of tea bags I could find about €5.  I paid €7 for some fruit and found that none of it was ripe, despite the assurances of a fruit vendor.  If I was staying for longer, I might invest the €20 or so you’d need to stock a kitchen with things like oil, butter, salt, pepper, etc. but it’s not worth it for just a few days.
  • Restaurants are even more expensive.  Guys!  There are NO cheap restaurants here.  I had an awful pizza on Mahe for $18 Canadian.  Here on Praslin, I went to a nice restaurant that charged $44 Canadian for a lentil curry with rice and chutney… and the staff ignored me anyways so I just left.  If I’m going to pay $44 for rice and lentils I would appreciate a “hello” or “good evening”.
  • There’s nothing to do!  Maybe all-inclusive resorts have activities, but otherwise there is… nothing.  I went to the island’s national park yesterday, but their hiking trails are ridiculously short (I believe the longest is about two kilometers?) and the entrance fee is €24.

I am not opposed to coming back to the Seychelles, but I would only come back with someone else, and we would either stay in a resort (in which case I’d be coming with a rich person, as The Four Seasons charges €1500 per night… not including food or drinks… and even the cheapest resorts start at €210 with only breakfast included!) or book an apartment like the one I’m in now, but stay long enough to make stocking the kitchen worth it (and, honestly, I’d consider bringing some food with me, as the quality of imported groceries here is quite low… unless you like Spam).

Something Else That Was Really Unpleasant

I did a nine-hour trek in Munnar, India.  I don’t have proper hiking shoes with me, and my Nike runners were so slippery on the downhill sections that I honestly thought I might not make it down.  I slipped and fell multiple times, including a major wipe-out in a huge pile of dirt, and I was in tears for about half an hour (that’s a conservative estimate).  Oh, and at the start of the hike I had an allergic reaction to something, which caused my left eye to swell shut for about two hours!  So I was doing it one-eyed!  Never trust a tour organizer who says you can do a nine-hour trek through the wet and muddy mountains (it was the third-highest mountain in the state!) in running shoes… he’ll say anything to make the sale.

The Bizarre

The Most Random Place I’ve Visited

Somehow I got suckered into going to a psy-trance party in Vagator.  I am too old, and too drug-free, to even accept that psy-trance is a thing.

The Strangest Thing I’ve Eaten (Or Seen on a Menu, Or Been Served…)

I went to a restaurant in Mumbai that is famous for its thalis (big plates with many small servings of different foods).  They had a “healthy” thali, so I tried to order that.  The server shook his head and said, “That one isn’t good. No taste.  No flavor.”  Okay?  So I tried to order a different thali.  He shook his head once again and said, “That isn’t authentic.  It’s not real Indian food.”  Okay, let me try again.  Finally, he accepted my third order, for a Rajasthani-style dal bati thali.  I don’t really understand why they’d have a menu full of plates that aren’t good enough to actually serve?

Something Else That’s Totally Unexpected

My Rental Car in the Seychelles (in the Rain)

Here’s one you’ve probably never heard before!

In The Seychelles, I rented a car for the first time so that I could practice driving on the left.  Within about two kilometers I’d misjudged my distance from the curb and scraped the front left tire against a retaining wall, bending the hubcap and scraping the actual tire.  And you know what?  I didn’t freak out!  Normally I would go into a complete panic, but I pushed myself to keep driving (the tire wasn’t losing air) and I finished seeing that entire side of the island before taking the car back to the rental shop… who told me not to worry about it and to have a good day.  I then kept driving for another four hours, seeing the entire island and not beating myself up for making a small mistake.

I was talking to my parents on the phone last night when an ant crawled across my pillow.  I said something like, “Get off my pillow, you little ant,” and my mother burst out laughing, because five years ago I would have called them in tears if I was staying in a hotel where an ant might be on the pillow.  Same for the six-inch spider that lives outside my bathroom window here – that would have been a deal-breaker at the start of this trip, and I would have had a very physical reaction to its presence, but now I’m just not bothered.

I’m quite sure I had eleven years of internalized workplace pressure building up inside me, and after five months of absolutely zero responsibilities (I don’t even feel bad if I don’t blog!) I’ve somehow “detoxed” my anxiety levels and reset them back to normal.

(Or maybe I’m crazy.)

Read about the first half of my eight-month sabbatical here:

Month #4 (mostly India)

Month #3 (Central Asia)

Month #2 (mostly Bali, plus Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur)

Month #1 (mostly Bali, plus Taipei)

or skip ahead to next month:

Month #6 (South Africa, Buenos Aires and Montevideo)

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