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TRAVEL is a magazine by and for a community of people severely bitten by the travel bug. A place where travel and adventure fanatics can either come read other travelers' experiences, find inspiration for future trips or simply share their own interesting personal accounts.

How Mother India and Nepal Saved My Life - A Story Unlike Anything You Have Ever Heard

In December of 2015, I found myself contemplating suicide. My life leading up to that point had been very hard. I had been diagnosed with neurological and mental illnesses, and I had grown up in a very dysfunctional family. I had undergone trauma and strife with just about everything.

In August, I managed to muster up some hope, and moved to Los Angeles with dreams, like many others, of becoming a successful, working performer. Needless to say this didn't work out. I couldn't even find a survival job except a small writing gig that did not pay enough to live on. I had previously spent eight years in New York City also trying to accomplish this dream, and wound up homeless and having to move back in with my family. Los Angeles was a last ditch effort to achieve this dream, which I felt was the only thing keeping me alive, and now it had crumbled before me.

At this point I was left with just a couple thousand dollars of the several thousand I had saved to move there. Instead of depleting it on more rent, I decided to crash on the couch of a kindly man who offered to take me in for a short time until I decided what to do. This would be the beginning of what I can only describe as a force of the universe. Because I had nothing to lose at that point, and felt desperate to try to find any meaning left in my life, I made the most risky decision ever; I bought a ticket to a country I had been fascinated with since a child - India. I had never traveled solo before, and everyone I knew told me not to do it.

In two weeks, I managed to get a passport, visa and a typhoid vaccination. I felt that something maybe was finally looking hopeful.

Then I came across a shocking story in the news- a woman, around my same age, also traveling to India from California the first time solo, was gang-raped in Dharamsala, a city I had planned to visit. This frightened me. I began getting concerned that perhaps everyone was right- I had made a poor, way-too-impulsive decision. After making a small post about in in the travel group, a young man, (we'll call him G), responded to my comment.

“Don't be afraid.” He said. “Come to India and stay with my family, we will take care of you.” I was hesitant to accept his offer as I didn't know him from Adam, but something about him made me want to trust him. Instead of reserving any hotels, which I wasn't even sure how to do, I decided to wait until I got to India to meet G. If I met him and felt he wasn't legit or had bad intentions, I would get a hotel.

I went ahead with the trip. But on the way to the airport, the bus I took broke down completely, and some other passengers and I had to take a cab. I was concerned this was a bad omen.

But I made it to China with no issue for a short layover before I was to arrive in New Delhi, and that's where I met A (we'll call him). A is flying home to India to see family. A assures me I will be fine, and when I mention I forgot to take out cash in order to exchange it, he hands me fifty dollars and insists I take it. I again feel this force of the universe taking greater shape before me.

I arrive at night in New Delhi, and I am the only white person in the airport, an experience I have never had before. G is messaging me on my phone, asking me where I am. Still hesitant, I ask A to go with me to meet him to help determine if he is in fact legit. He does, and when we meet G, A says something to him in Hindi. Later I find out A told G to “show her the real India”. This will later prove to be a vast understatement.

G and his cousin help me to their car. Still afraid, (after all I am getting into a stranger's car in a foreign country by myself), I keep the stun gun I managed to legally get through customs in within reach.

But then I arrive at G's house. I am warmly welcomed in by his mother, father and brother, who offer me food and my own bed. It just so happens that I have arrived during Diwali, a Hindu holiday that celebrates the god Rama's homecoming after defeating demons.

Over the next few days I am treated as a member of their family. My stomach is filled with delicious, home-made Indian food. I am told I am a sign of the Gods, a good omen during the holiday of Diwali, with fortuitous feet and forehead. Over the next few days, G and I ride all over Delhi together on his motorcycle, to the surprise of many Indians who have never seen a white woman doing this. It was one of the most fun, most wild experiences of my life.

G's family then takes me to Agra to visit one of the wonders of the world- the Taj Mahal. Then a couple days later, we visit a notorious psychic one night in a small village in Delhi. After simply giving him my birthdate, he proceeds to tell me everything about my life, my relatives, my personality and my future, (which ended up coming true). This is information he could not possibly know, but he is 99% accurate. Earlier that day while riding around with G on his motorcycle, I spotted a leper colony and wanted to visit. G told me he and his family regularly give bread there. When the psychic tells me that in order to prevent what he says will be an unsuccessful love life in my future, I must visit a leper colony and give bread. These little magical coincidences would continue throughout my time in India.

Over the next week, G helps me to travel on my own, where I venture to Amritsar, and witness one of the most amazing sights next to the Taj Mahal- the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh temple in India. But this is where things start to derail. I stop to pet a horse with a heavy load on his back whom I feel sorry for. He bites me. For two dollars, I get a rabies shot at a nearby clinic. But the rabies shot starts to make me sick, and I decide not to take another one.

A couple of days after this, G and I meet again in Delhi and decide to venture to Varanasi, the holiest site in India for Hindus. While on the train there, I become horrifically sick. Without going into two much detail, I had no toilet paper, nowhere to change, and had to step over several sleeping people to get to the bathroom which was nothing but a hole in the floor. I arrive to Varanasi and immediately have to see a doctor who tells me I have food poisoning. I subsequently have to visit a hospital, where outside there is a cow laying with its feet in the air and monkies are jumping and yowling on the roof.

Refusing to let this spoil my trip, G and I proceed to discover Varanasi. While doing so, we almost get run over by a bull chasing a cow through the streets, and I meet another psychic who again tells me accurate information about my life- information he could not possibly know.

One night, G and I visit the famous Ghats on the Ganges, and rent a boat in order to participate in the famous candle light and flower ceremony, while meanwhile visible cremation occurs in the background (this is a holy Hindu death ceremony which Hindus believe releases Karma, and where bodies are lit on fire in public). It was slightly shocking and but slightly fascinating.

While continuing to float on the Ganges with G, I have what has so far been the most wonderful and magical experience of my life: I light a little candle in a paper boat with flowers, then make three wishes, as tradition dictates. Along with what I have asked of the universe, I release them and the little boat onto the Ganges. I feel a holy presence I have never felt. I watch it float away to join hundreds of other little boats, all lit up with candles, all with their own wishes attached to them. I will treasure this moment in my soul forever.

High on life after my experience in Varanasi, I decide to make yet another impulsive decision and take a bus to Kathmandu, Nepal, planning on flying back to Delhi afterwards to make my flight back to United States. I figure I can just get another Visa to go back to India from Nepal. I underestimate how sick I still am, and proceed to get terrible motion sickness on the bus, then subsequently develop a chest cold, all the while being harassed by a drunk passenger. I manage to arrive to Kathmandu in one piece. Yet when I get to the border, I realize I hadn't brought enough currency to pay the visa fee. But the universe steps in again, and a fellow traveler, a British tourist, lends me the money.

We end up banding together with some other westerners and find a hostel to stay at. Everything is great in Kathmandu. I eat momos and visit the monkey temple and decide to get my hair put in dreads on the famous Freak Street, all in front of the backdrop of the incredible Himalayas.

Then I lose my debit card. This is the beginning of a domino effect of unbelievable proportion. I call my bank which reassures me I will be sent another card within one day. But I don't get the card. The hostel owner, who proceeds to get oddly more friendly and touchy-feely with me, says I can stay there until I get the new card. But my bank has to communicate with Visa in order to get me a new card, and they speak on the phone with the hostel owner to get the information in order to send it. What then follows is a series of miscommunications, all the while leaving me with no money. Someone at Visa tells me that when they spoke to the hostel owner, he told them that I wasn't even there. I begin to listen to my instinct that tells me that the hostel owner is up to no good, perhaps trying to keep me there for his own devious intentions, and that my bank and Visa have screwed up immeasurably.

I leave the hostel immediately and head to the embassy. But the Americans in charge of the embassy are less than helpful. They give me a list of hotels, that are not within my budget and miles away. Since I have only a few rupees, I attempt to withdraw the small amount of money I have on another debit card in order to try and get a cab. Then a power outage happens and all the ATM's break down. Hungry, thirsty, with no money and slowly beginning to freak out about my situation, I lay down on the floor of the bank, essentially stranded.

Then the universe, which I have begun to trust, steps in yet again, in the form of two Nepalese nurses and best friends. They basically rescue me. They invite me to come to one of their houses where they give me food and let me shower. The hospitality of the Indian and Nepalese people is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life.

Over the next few days the family tells me to stay with them until I get my debit card, and to talk to the Embassy again. But the head American worker at the embassy is less than sympathetic - he offers me no help and even yells at me and tells me to go home. But I can't go home as I have no money to get back to India to catch my flight. They don't even give me the correct address at first so I can get my debit card, which is the only thing they had offered to do.

I continue to stay with this family, and discover what amazing, wonderful people they are. They help me get another visa to get back to India, and I eventually get my debit card. They tell me that what happened between us is “one of the God things” and that it was meant to be. To this day I am friends with them on Facebook.

I get back to the US safe and sound, utterly overcome with joy, awe, and humility with the two countries and their people who not only took me in, treated me with a kindness I have never experienced, allowed me to have an adventure I will never forget, and proved to me that the universe indeed cares for me. My experience helped prove to me that my life was indeed worth living, and sometimes more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.

Namaste,

Lauren