Kyros accompanied his husband on a work trip to England, Sweden, Switzerland, and India over the course of two weeks. He and Monica thought it would be a good opportunity to blog about traveling with an Invisible Illness. For those of you who don’t already know, Kyros particular Invisible Illnesses are peripheral neuropathy in both feet, a torn meniscus in my left knee that has refused to heal correctly, and somewhere in-between severe lactose-intolerance and a medium dairy allergy. So this is his story...
If you missed previous installments of this series, go here to catch up before reading this.
Day 14 - 2/3/18 - Pune/Mumbai/Newark/San Francisco
Today is our last day in India. My husband and I took in a few sights before getting in a car and beginning the twenty-nine-hour trip home.
Here's a quick breakdown of the next 29 hours of my life:
Pune > Mumbai = 3 hours drive by a car
Mumbai > Newark, NJ airport = 16.5-hour plane flight
Newark airport = 2.5-hour layover
Newark > San Francisco = 6.5 hour plane flight
San Francisco airport > home = 0.5 hour drive
Since my husband didn't have to work, we slept late this morning. It was nice to catch up on sleep before our long travel day. Our driver isn't supposed to pick us up until 4 pm, so we requested a late checkout from the hotel. They said we could stay until our car arrived. Excellent!
So since we had some time to kill, I took my husband back to the Hindu temples that I really love here. I'd only visited the small one in the shopping district in the middle of the day on a weekday. Trying to go there on a Saturday was an entirely different story. It was a madhouse. There were hundreds of people trying to get in so we only looked in from outside. I didn’t have the strength to stand still on concrete in my bare feet for the half hour to forty-five minutes it would take to just get inside the temple. I wouldn’t have been able to walk afterwards. So we settled on taking pictures from the outside and then walking around in the shopping district.
Once we were done there, we took an auto-rickshaw to the second temple, the one with the massive amount of steps. Since I hadn’t destroyed my feet trying to get into the other temple, I managed (barely) to go all the way back up to the top with him. Thankfully, you only have to take your shoes off for the actual temple at the top of the stairs so it wasn’t as bad for my feet. When we finished there, we went back to the hotel room to rest and shower before meeting our driver to take us to the airport in Mumbai.
Drivers in India are fairly aggressive. Most of the roads don't have lanes, so the drivers all cram together using all the available space. There is so little room between vehicles that, most of the time, you could literally wipe the nose of someone in the next car without even having to stretch. My first trip to India, that really bothered me for a few days, but I'm so used to it now that it barely registers.
I bring this up because the guy who drove us to Mumbai actually scared me several times. I was very glad I had my seatbelt on (and that the car had working seatbelts, not all the vehicles we rode in did), otherwise, I might have joined him in the front seat with how hard he stomped on the brakes! And like the trip from Mumbai to Pune, our luggage took up the entire trunk, so we had to have our backpacks between our legs on the floor. I couldn’t move my feet or legs for over three hours.
By the time we got to the airport, I was in agony. When I got out of the car, I had to hold on to it for dear life to keep from falling over. The driver had grabbed a cart, unloaded all our luggage, and was waiting to leave before I could stand without assistance. Even then, I just transferred from the car door to the cart to stay upright. Because we arrived four hours before our flight, the check-in desk wasn't open yet. Thankfully, the wait was only about twenty minutes and my husband watched our bags so I could sit down for part of that.
Mumbai airport has several layers of security. For example, after we dropped off our bags, we got in a long line to go through security, then we got in a short line to have our tickets checked before going into Immigration Control, then we waited in another long line to actually go through Immigration Control. Thankfully, my husband has a perk where we get lounge access. The lounge was a mixture of good news and bad news. The good news: All of the food they had was labeled with what allergens it contained. The bad news: Only the salad and the hummus didn't contain dairy. And neither the chips nor the bread the had to dip in the hummus was dairy free. So I just had a sad little salad. About 20-30 minutes later, when my husband went to get another drink, he noticed they had brought out more food, and it was actually stuff that was safe for me. And since he's such a sweetie, he brought me a plate of actual food. Yay!
We boarded our plane at just after midnight local time in Mumbai. My husband had pre-ordered a vegan meal for me to make sure that I could actually eat on the flight. He also upgraded me to business class so I would have more room and a lay-flat seat even though he got stuck in coach. I spent most of the flight with my legs elevated to keep the swelling and pain down. Their vegan meals were mostly edible, too. I say mostly because when I got my breakfast meal, they gave me a croissant. Those things are like 90% butter. Who the hell thought that was appropriate for someone eating a vegan meal? Other than that slight mishap, the flight from Mumbai to Newark was uneventful. I even tried several times to get my husband to swap seats with me so that he could sleep on the lay-flat seat, but he declined each time.
Coming from mid-90 degree weather in Mumbai, stepping off the plane in Newark was a bit of a shock. I was wearing shorts in 35-degree weather! Brrrrr!
Since this was our first point of entry into the US, we had to go through customs. We both have Global Entry, so getting through customs and back through security to our connecting flight was a breeze.*
Because I’d been able to keep my legs elevated during the long flight from Mumbai, the last leg home, from Newark to San Francisco, was a breeze. Granted, after 29 hours of travel, I desperately needed a shower and a nap, but I’d survived the whirlwind tour of Europe and India.
Thanks, everyone, for following along on my travels. Until next time, remember...
Be Kind, Be Gentle, and Be a Badass....
Distance walked = 3.86 miles.
* A bit more about Global Entry: I cannot stress enough that if you travel outside the country more than twice a year, or have a disability, do yourself a favor and get Global Entry. It is a trusted traveler program from the US government. You just fill out some paperwork then go to one of their airport offices for a brief interview. They run a background check on you, and if you pass, you get a trusted traveler number. Once you have that, whenever you return to the US from another country, instead of filling out a form on the plane, then waiting in a long line with the several hundred other people who just got off your flight to talk to a customs agent, you get to skip to a short line where you use a touchscreen to answer the questions. The machine takes your picture and prints out a receipt that you show to a customs agent as you walk out. It's that simple.
For comparison, one time we came back from a trip and were able to get through customs, get our luggage, and drive a half hour to our home before my husband's co-worker even got through customs. Plus Global Entry comes with TSA Pre-check which allows you to access a shorter line whenever you fly, foreign or domestic. Pre-check lines are fast. You don’t have to take off your shoes, you can usually leave a light jacket on, and you don't have to take your laptop out of your bag. Both Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check speed up your time at the airport, and for a spoonie who has limited energy, they can mean the difference between being completely exhausted or still having energy when you get to your plane / leave the airport.