My major trip of the year is finally booked.  I'll be heading to India and Nepal for two weeks in April!  I have to say this is the most challenging trip I've ever planned, even though it will be a relatively short adventure.

First, it's sort of out of my comfort zone.  You would think with my adventures in Southeast Asia, I would be more accustomed to crowds, but I'm still wary of being swallowed up and put in a bad situation.  Also, I'm aware that my hair color will attract attention, as proved to be the case when in Indonesia and I was targeted for photo ops.  Of course recent news about violence against foreign women in India is also not helping the nerves.

Second, I'm working with a new tour company as opposed to the one I love and always use in Southeast Asia (remember, I'm traveling solo here).  I'm glad I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where using a private tour company is an option -- India is running about $250-300 per day for a personal guide, driver, meals, admission, and 4-star accommodation.  Honestly, when you think about it, that's not a whole lot more than some cruises once you pay for excursions.  And it is a thousand times more convenient for me than a group tour because (a) I'm not one who follows a planned itinerary to the minute because I always finish quicker than other people, (b) it provides flexibility to do additional stops or off-the-beaten path stops that I want to see, and (c) it allows me, as an amateur photographer, to get to the places I want to see at the right time for lighting.  I found a company, after several inquiries made based on a list I got from my friend in Delhi at the embassy, that does private tours and, conveniently, has a US office in Texas where I was able to speak to an American that lived in India for 3 years who gave me assurances that this company would be able to provide everything I was expecting.  I guess I just can't remember how anxious I was the first time I used Exotissimo in Asia in 2008, where I was convinced I would arrive in the Ho Chi Minh City baggage claim, no one would be there to pick me up, and I'd be out a couple thousand of dollars.  That trip, by the way, ended up being breathtaking and very educational, exceeding my expectations.

New Yorker Cartoon
Third, getting to India and Nepal is a big pain!  There are so many flight options, and many of which were on airlines with whom I had never flown.  I finally broke tradition and asked the tour company to assist me with finding the best flight plan.  As a bonus, their flight plan has me on the gigantic Airbus 380, an experience unto itself!

Four, contrary to my Pacific Northwest upbringing, I am not an outdoorsy person.  The idea of trekking for 4 days in the mountains of Nepal to go see Mt. Everest is completely out of my circle of competence.  In fact, I recently went to REI and I think the guy helping me couldn't believe that I was looking at large backpacks (to be carried by a sherpa, mind you!) and not trying to get by with a regular school-sized backpack.  He thought I only needed one change of pants and two t-shirts.  Ha!  He doesn't know me!  Well, I've taken his guidance into consideration, but I'm going to definitely stuff that little backpack to the brim for all scenarios!

Finally, this is the first trip I've actually had to consider training for - meaning doing extra cardio to help improve my blood flow efficiency in anticipation of the high altitude trekking.  I'm also scheduled to see a doctor about preventative measures - besides super hydrating and advil for headaches.  I keep telling myself that even marathon runners can get altitude sickness, so best to be prepared.  Just in case, I've purchased travel insurance for the first time ever as well, should I need medical attention or evacuation.

Oh and let's not forget the packing logistics nightmare! Temperatures will be 70-90 degrees in India, then 20-60 degrees in Nepal - between Kathmandu and the trek.  Lightweight conservative tourist clothes for India, then chafe-free comfy climbing clothes for getting to Everest. Intrepid Travel, who we are using for the Nepal portion, provided me with a starting point for basic items to pack (HERE).  Out of the ordinary items I need to acquire or remember to set aside from my own supplies is below (this is a working list, subject to change).  Wish me luck on jamming all of this into my various pieces of luggage - checked and carry-on!!!

  • Visa - very important to plan ahead for this, and actually you shouldn't make any reservations until you have it.  I'm lucky because I live by the embassy and got one in 24-48 hours, but it could take up to two weeks to get a visa by mail.  Follow all the instructions HERE
  • Long skirts (to cover knees), capris, or maxi dresses
  • Cardigan sweater and/or lightweight hoodie (to cover shoulders)
  • Scarf or shawl (multiple uses)
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Mosquito repellant (US brands are stronger and cheaper)
  • Hand sanitizer (lots!)
  • Immodium - trust me, if there's even a remote chance of me catching "Delhi Belly" then this will be worth its weight in gold!  I'm going to try to avoid street food and uncooked veggies, no iced drinks, limit my meat, and use bottled water for everything, but sometimes things happen.  Remember Samantha's Mexico experience in the Sex and the City movie??  Exactly!  I felt compelled to explain to the cashier at Target why I was buying a 48 count box of anti-diarrheal medicine.
  • Sunscreen (cheaper in US)
  • Pack-Safe travel safe bag (I've never used one before, but someone highly recommended getting one for all travel destinations if you're wanting to leave valuables in a hotel room)
  • Slash proof camera strap
  • Sleep sack
  • Pepper spray - on the suggestion of my friend currently living in Delhi because of recent news stories on the dangers for women in the country and because I have blond hair and will stand out.
  • Camelback (3L) bag and bladder
  • Treking conveniences - trail food, biodegradable TP, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer
  • Water purification tools - UV sanitizer and iodine tablets (backup), plus extra batteries
  • Solar iPhone/iPad charger (in case there is no convenient electricity at the teahouses where we are staying - charge while on-the-go)
  • Something for leach removal?
  • Packable down jacket
  • Waterproof lightweight rain jacket and pants (just in case!)
  • Non-cotton long sleeve shirts
  • Thermal gloves
  • Silk thermals
  • Body glide for the potential chafing
  • Blister prevention and repair (aka more Body Glide, bandaids, and Neosporin)
  • Microfiber towel
  • Ziploc bags for toiletries
  • Hydration powders (bringing Nuun)
  • Backpack waterproof covers
  • Hat(s) - baseball cap and winter cap
  • Flip flops for tea house bathrooms
  • Physical book - I've heard eReaders may crap out at higher altitudes
  • Inflatable mattress pad (Thermarest)
  • Leatherman tool
  • Visa - get on arrival at the airport
Medical Preparation
  • Shots to consider:
    • HepA and HepB vaccines
    • Typhoid vacine
    • Polio booster (if not already taken as an adult)
    • Japanese encephalitis vacine
    • Rabies vacine
    • Tetanus-diptheria (if not done in the last 10 years)
  • General antibiotic (quinolone) - Cipro, Levaquin, Zithromax
  • Acetazolamide for altitude sickness prevention
  • Full prescriptions of needed regular medicines
  • Anti-diarrheal and headache medicine (as already mentioned)
  • Dramamine for the plane ride from Kathmandu to Lukla that is expected to be turbulent
  • Over the counter allergy, cold, and pain relief
Photography Equipment
  • Telephoto Lens
  • Wide Angle Lens
  • Extra batteries 
  • Extra memory cards
  • Warming bag for batteries (keep warm in colder temps)
  • Hand warmers
  • Rain bag for the camera
  • Graduated neutral density filter to help balance exposure on the mountains