Felicia at the top of the stairs in a Buddhist temple she climbed

Incredible India

Felicity has myotonic myopathy, symptoms are reduced lung capacity and trouble walking long distances. She already was an accomplished traveller, having visited Europe, the US and Panama, before she decided to go to India. She wanted to go to India in particular to study with Indian medical doctors while volunteering in free medical clinics.

I went in June 2015 after planning for this experience with an organization called International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) and with fellow naturopathic medical students who I was travelling with.

My travel dates: June 2015

My flight: I used three airlines: Air France, KLM, and Air Canada. All were accommodating with providing aisle seating, especially since I did not plan much ahead or call in advance. I took a bipap machine along as carry-on and encountered problems going through security. I needed to do lots of explaining and provide a doctor’s note. Once on the plane I found that there were no outlets available for charging. I used the battery I had brought along with me.

View from second floor Balcony where Felicity stayed in Bir
View from the balcony on the second floor of my lodgings in Bir
After climbing the stairs to one of the buddhist monasteries in Bir
Proud moment after climbing the stairs to a buddhist monastery in the Himalayas 
Waiting for the bus in the middle of nowhere
Waiting bus on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere
Felicity visiting the Taj Mahal
Visiting the Taj Mahal

Practical Tips for travelling in India

Some impressions about accessibility in India:

  • Staying in Airbnbs, hostels, volunteer housing, and with a host family, I found none to be very accessible.
  • Sidewalk accessibility was very poor; I usually walked on dirt roads or streets.
  • When visiting the Taj Mahal, various mosques, temples, monasteries, markets, and other historical sites – there was often lots of walking and stairs involved.
  • The biggest obstacle to overcome while travelling was the heat, unreliable electricity and stairs.
  • Commuting was more challenging in rural areas and easier in the city. But people in rural areas were nicer, more helpful, and less busy, so it balanced itself out.

Three things I love to think back upon:

  • Home-cooked meals with my host family
  • I tried public transport but felt more comfortable using cabs, ubers, and tuk tuks (three-wheeled, open-air mopeds). While tuk tuks are quite jarring, especially for someone with scoliosis and back pain, they are so much fun and very much worth it.
  • It truly was a life-changing experience with adventures around every corner.
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