Milk Travel Diary: Madeline Macartney's Solo Trip Through India
Milk fam Madeline Macartney went backpacking through India and documented her travels on film. Read on for her recap of her solo travels and peep the gallery above for her visual diary.
I can safely say that I did not anticipate peeing on the side of the road while watching as my bus pulls away in India where I happen to be traveling alone. I also didn’t anticipate what followed—running down the dirt road at three in the morning with my pants half around my ankles, flagging down said bus which nobody had realized I was missing from. Often on bus or train trips I was the only traveler, sometimes the only woman, and this is when the concept of making friends on the overnight bus came full circle for me.
Traveling alone was something that happened more out of coincidence. Nobody wanted to go, I wanted to go, so I went. Packing came down to what I felt like carrying and what I thought was necessary, which after much deliberation turned out to be just socks and a bunch of travel size hotel shampoos that my mom had been hoarding from past vacations. Other than that, I brought the one outfit that I wore on the plane which was a pair of pajamas that kind of looked like real pants and a plain white t shirt that is very much not white anymore.
When I mention solo travel a lot of people assume it to be lonely but they clearly aren’t taking into account my staying in hostels, some of which had up to 14 bunk beds in a room. You can just sit down randomly at a table with someone you’ve never met and ask if they want to go on a hike with you to look at monkeys and there is a high possibility they will say yes. I barely got any alone time and someone was always in the shower leaving me in the hallway with a towel and my toiletries in a plastic bag like summer camp. I found it so interesting that a lot of the other backpackers I met didn’t have an Instagram. Here they were living these incredible lives, some of them having spent years on the road, and they weren’t concerned with sharing it—they were just doing it.
I met a guy from New Zealand who quit his corporate job to travel and write sci-fi books; I met a 37-year-old woman who wouldn’t stop telling people she was 37 and was not ashamed to use a selfie stick because she was, 37. I met a couple who was in their seventies who shared stories of what backpacking India was like when they had done it in their twenties. And when I went to Jodhpur I met a yoga teacher from Delhi who invited me on a road trip and I went and I thought he was cute but I also thought I was starting to smell weird from not showering but he didn’t even care (and if he did care, I was unaware). We took motorcycle rides and watched the sunset and had bonfires and then I got on a bus and went to another city.
I spent my final days camping in the desert. It took two hours in a Jeep and two hours on a camel to reach the dunes. Our local guide cooked us vegetables and curry in a pot and cleaned the dishes with sand when we were done. I had completely forgotten what the stars looked like. I had forgotten what I like and what I care about and I realized I had spent all this time being so tense worrying what people think of me and do I stack up to all these superficial standards I had made up in my head.
On my last overnight trip, a 17-hour train ride from Udaipur to Mumbai, a sweet couple offered me some home-cooked food. I ate it and immediately got food poisoning. I spent the rest of the night in the toilet having what could only be described as an exorcism. I’m sure they meant well.
I cried when I left. I was sunburned and hairy and my feet were caked with dirt. I didn’t even look like myself but my heart was so full from all the people I met and the vibrancy of the places I visited. It wasn’t exactly Eat, Pray, Love, but I prefer my version: Food Poisoning, Winging It, Downward Dog w/ Hot Yoga Teacher.
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