• good and bad of goa

A Reality Check |I forgot how hard backpacking was

As I mentioned, living in India as an expat is much breezier than backpacking through India for a variety of reasons like budget and familiarity.

Before I started my kickass goMowgli tour of Karnataka I had to get myself to Mysore from Goa. I’ve been on a bit of a I-hardly-have-an-income budget, so instead of flying I opted to go by bus. GoMowgli staffers use the Volvo’s when they come to Goa and assured that it’s a breeze of a 16 hour ride. I figured okay what the hell- I’d rather do 16 hours straight and watch movies/sleep then have to take a train which switches in Bangalore with a small wait in the middle of the night.

sloth bear resort near hampi

All was swell… the bus had about 10 people on it. All men, but I wasn’t bothered because I’m used to being the only girl and on a Volvo it’s always safer than local transport (I would explain why, but I’d probably come off saying something politically incorrect).

The Bollywood music was blaring on the TV in the front and I was struggling to sleep… but all while in my cozy A/C bus with an empty seat next to me, legs stretched out.

Little did I know it was about to all change. The Volvo Fiasco.

We’d been on the road about an hour and half when the bus stopped and some men got out and starting tinkering around with the this or that and after an hour informed (not in English I might add) that the clutch was broken and we’d have to take another bus, but no fear, it had arrived!

I looked out to see a packed to the brim local bus and let out a, “Oh hell no!” I am not taking an effing local bus all the way to Mysore!

“oh no ma’am, this is just for 10 km, then we get to a bus station and get a better bus.”

Well in that case…. okay. (looking back, he was obviously lying to avoid getting yelled at by a crazy foreigner.)

I grabbed my backpack, small electronics backpack, and FULL SIZE PILLOW I brought thinking “hey, it’s a Volvo and I’m going on a proper bus tour after, I might as well be comfortable.”

I literally could barely fit in the local bus and struggled holding all my stuff for the 30 minutes to the bus stop.

Once at the bus stop, we waited around for about 45 minutes while local bus after local bus came through packed too full to fit us 10 stranded Volvo people.

Finally, the last bus of the night came and we were told:

get on or get a hotel.

I talked to Ben who knew some people near where I was but I finally decided screw it, if I don’t do it now I’ll end up doing it tomorrow all day. Ill sleep in Mysore.

To say that my anxiety was high would be downplaying it. I don’t know what came over me, but I had tears in my eyes telling the Karnataka Bus People (whoever they were) that this was bullshit- we’d paid about 10x the price for a nice bus and now are jammed on a local one STANDING with all our luggage (on local buses in India there is no place for luggage except tiny space on top which fits all of nothing) for 13 HOURS!

I got on begrudgingly and dropped my purse while trying to get up the stairs. With my big backpack on my back and the small one of my front, I looked down but like a pregnant person couldn’t see my feet. I was looking and couldn’t find it as the bus pulled out. Like a lunatic I yelled, “Stop the bus!! I can’t find my purse! I think I dropped it at the station”  The bus attendant picked it off the floor, rolled his eyes, and said something extremely hilarious to the other Kannada speakers on the bus. Ha, ha crazy white chick is having a melt down! 

Then I almost got lucky.

After time I got a seat, only for the bus attendant to decide he’d like it and I’d have to get up. Back to standing.

Ages later, a seat opened which was a 3-seat bench already seated with a mom, dad, and child. The child was in their lap and there was space for me! I sat down but within 5 minutes the sleeping 5 year old was lying across us all with her head in my lamp. My god…. I couldn’t even put my pillow in my lap and lean on it, lest I suffocate her.

Around 4 AM a new seat opened and I called it faster than I’ve probably done anything in my life to luckily get two hours of sleep on and off before arriving in Mysore.

 Why am I venting about this little thing? Because…

This kind of thing happened ALL THE TIME as backpacker. But I haven’t “backpacked” India in two years. I forgot how hard it is. Since being an expat, I fly more or take 2AC trains. I drive a lot and local buses have been a thing of the past. Even shitty food is in the past since Goa has the best food.

backpacking coorg Hiking ThadiyandamolIt’s seriously stressful and annoying. Luckily, I slept all day in Mysore because I wasn’t there as a backpacker, but I remember when I was on tight schedules to see everything and would skip sleep to see temples or palaces. Sleep was never a priority when backpacking.

Expat life in India is a spoiled existence. I love it. Thank god for this goMowgli trip- it was my first tour but came at a great time because I am no longer a sleeper class, local bus, 250 rs guesthouse girl. I can do Volvo bus, even 3 AC train, or a 500 rs a night guesthouse… as long as the bus doesn’t break down.

If you’re lugging a backpack around Goa, I promise I’ll stop in my Omni and give you a ride wherever you’re going (for 15 rs per km. JK!)! I needed my own backpacking India Pep Talk.

Seriously, people who backpack India, especially solo, deserve some kind of award… most likely an award of Patience.

indian experience


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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Laura January 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    haha I love this! I am such a bad backpacker now. When you start living somewhere and have the luxuries of going off on weekend trips or vacations around with a bit more income, suddenly traveling on a budget again is SO hard at first. I get back into eventually, but those first few days (ok week) are a hard breaking in period.

  2. venus john January 6, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    you are a heroine..

  3. oksana January 6, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Hilarious!! And so true! :)

  4. Renuka January 6, 2015 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    I can understand what you are trying to say. Even I can’t backpack. In fact I never did! I believe travel is an adventure in itself, so don’t add any more trouble to it. Spend money if you can and be comfortable.

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Exactly! In India at least my budget lets me travel a bit more midrange than I think I could in some other countries.

  5. Justine January 6, 2015 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    It is so weird how differeny I think about travel now that I’m an expat. I’m actually planning a backpacking trip to Cambodia in the next couple weeks (hopefully) and I’m nervous. I’m planning to go to places with no electricity…how will I cope?! I’ve become very spoiled living in an apartment with 24-hour electricity!

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Yeah it’s so funny how being an expat in a country is so different from traveling… that’s why it’s so important to get a local’s perspective and get guided around sometimes when you’re feeling overwhelmed traveling

  6. Rachel January 6, 2015 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Ahh, standing for hours on a bus with all your stuff. I can’t even imagine. And I definitely would have cried. Congrats on your survival and potential sainthood.

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      dude, it was SO SO rough! lol looking back I shudder

  7. Katie January 6, 2015 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Sorry if you’ve been asked this before or have done a whole post on it, but in wondering why you chose India/who’s idea was it and why did you decide to live there? I think it awesome btw :)

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      I was backpacking India and met my now-boyfriend in Goa and we decided I should come live with him. He’s from the UK and works in India. Now I work here too!

  8. Ashley January 6, 2015 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    That bus ride sounds like an absolute nightmare! Kudos to you for surviving that. I will be arriving in India at the end of the month, but will not be taking any local buses lol.

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      ahhaha yeah, local buses are a nightmare most of the time except the short bus rides within a town.

  9. Emily January 6, 2015 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    I feel so thankful that we never had an experience on the buses like that! We took them a few times and luckily they didn’t break down. The worst we got was severe delays.

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      It was actually my first bus break down, I don’t know how commmon they are. Indians are so good at fixing things, I was surprised when the Volvo couldn’t be fixed.

  10. Aleks January 6, 2015 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Wow … and I was complaining when our trip on a local sleeper bus from Hanoi to Saigon took 52 hours instead of 30 like they said it would :D At least we could kind of lay down!

    Fortunately we travel mostly by motorbike so we don’t experience too many adventures like yours. Just flat tyres, horrible roads and sore bums :)

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      52 hours on a bus!!! that’s rough though even if you had a sleeper.. wow!

  11. Brendon January 6, 2015 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    uve been my hero since day one…ur blogs r a joy to read n i believe lotsa ppl will learn alot frm ur xperience…

    shukriya! ;)

  12. Jessica January 7, 2015 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Ah this sounds absolutely miserable. There is nothing worse than terrible buses as a backpacker! I’ve had a few horror stories as well. I think I’ll pay the 15rs per km to have you pick me up ;) lol

  13. Andrea January 7, 2015 at 5:42 am - Reply

    Aha loved reading this! *telephathically sending you an award* Even the worst of times makes for great travel stories, and at the end the experience will seem more rewarding. Can’t wait to read more!

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      lol thanks for the award :) I should have learned more patience from it, but really who knows!

  14. Chantae January 7, 2015 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Hahaha! Oh my god, that sounds horrible. Backpacking = enduring whatever you have to sometimes! India sounds SO INTENSE everyone who backpacks through it seriously deserves at least a T shirt!

    I swore off my tight-budget-backpacking style for three weeks in Indonesia a few months ago… paid for the “high speed” ferry and a luxury hotel room for my last night before my flight back home. NOPE – was stuck on the public ferry because the high speed one wasn’t running for 14 hours with rats running around and people trying to sell me ramen noodles every two minutes… had to miss even going to my hotel and slept on the airport floor.

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      India is rough and it’s funny because people come here to get spiritual in such a chaotic place! haha silly.

      Omgsh!! what bad luck…. poor thing, that is rough I would be so bummed I think I would have cried!

  15. Bren January 7, 2015 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Haha! I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been spoiled too lately as I mostly settle down for a couple months at a time and stay in apartments. The recent bus trips and hostel dorms I’ve had to sleep in have got me gritting my teeth, but after a while I just tell myself to embrace it and stop being a spoiled ****. Funny thing is I used to love the grime of it all a few years ago. Guess I’m (we’re) just getting old :P :P

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Haha we are getting old :( I can tell not just with traveling, but with the decline in my partying ways

  16. Nikhil January 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel,

    I am from India and I can understand how you felt. It is said that “for every 100kms that you travel in India, the language (or dialect) and culture also changes”. Journeying to different states in India is almost like traveling to a different country. I have been living in Bangalore since 2009 and I don’t understand Kannada. I have been in a similar situation just like you when our bus broke down while we were traveling to Gokarna. All in all, if one can somehow, just somehow bear these small annoyances once in a while (these things don’t happen too often btw), you will be rewarded with a good time.

    I really like your blog because you are one of the few travelers who has written so much about travel in India.

    • Rachel Jones January 7, 2015 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      very true, each state or region in India has it’s differences. Thanks for reading

  17. Tim | UrbanDuniya January 9, 2015 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Arghhh YES YES YES! I totally know what you mean! I came back to backpacking last year, and wow what a wake up call! I forgot how pampered I had been!

  18. Anna January 9, 2015 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    “Come on inner peace, I don’t have all damn day.” Hehehe. I love it.

  19. Glamourous Journeyler January 17, 2015 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Hahahaha incredible! I’m actually restarting my backpacking again now after years of thinking these days were over, but I decided I couldn’t go all the way backpacking basics as before and still opt for some luxuries here and there along the way

  20. Joella in Beijing January 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    I’m only just reading this- got so behind on all my blog reading ha! India does seem like it’s one of the toughest (but hopefully worth it) places to backpack around- public transport sounds crazy! I can totally relate to being a comfortable expat over travelling- it is easier! In the summer we were travelling in the Tibetan/Western China regions and at times it was slightly anxiety inducing- I had forgotten what it was like to be absolutely squashed onto a bus for 11 hours with nowhere near enough seats and definitely no place for luggage! It’s an experience though and at least I can make the choice to do it or not to travel I guess.

    • Rachel Jones January 19, 2015 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      I’d love to go to Tibet but I can imagine it’s got very similar bus rides. Ugh!

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