Here's a first person account from a patient - who is now a friend !
My fertility “adventures” have involved 3 trips to Mumbai; in total, I’ve spent right around 2 months in India. In that time I’ve discovered kind caring people, awe inspiring places, and a few tips I wish I had known before getting started. I came to truly love India and Mumbai, and I look forward to traveling there again soon (when my expected twins are old enough to enjoy it!). In the hopes of helping other single women on the fertility journey, here are a few of my thoughts on how to get the most out of your medical tourism in India:
General Travel Tips:
-Pack light. I take only one carry-on backpack. This means I never have to worry about my luggage, can travel on foot, and don’t have to worry about heavy lifting after the embryo transfer. Remember-whatever it is you may not have brought- “they have those there!” You’re not going to the ends of the earth. If you forget something, odds are you’ll be able to purchase the item reasonably on site. I will note that I never travel anywhere without a “Lonely Planet” or “Rough Guide” of the area.
-Dress for success. I’ve found that 2 pairs of travel pants with multiple secured pockets are a godsend. That way, I always know exactly where my passport, cash, and necessities are, and I never have to worry about my bag being taken. I’ve also noticed that modesty in dress comes with high rewards in India. I’ve found lightweight but modest (sleeved) cotton shirt or blouse to be ideal-the fact is, if you dress in a way which shows respect for the culture around you, people are far more likely to engage with you, making your trip much more enjoyable. I’ve come to love my Indian style tops (kurtas) and scarves (dupattas). The scarves are much more than accessories-I put a dab of lavender on mine and found it useful in dealing with the icky smells frequently encountered while travelling. I pack two shirts, knowing that every hotel sends out same day laundry and that I’m sure to buy one or two lovely items I want to take home with me.
-Be cautious but not paranoid. Yes, as a single woman travelling alone, it’s easy to become a target for scams, unwanted attention, and potentially unsafe situations. So be careful. But I’ve also found that my outsider, and solo status inspire kindness and caring. I’ve been helped, guided, and saved innumerable hassles because individuals have reached out to help me. When I first arrived in Mumbai I was terrified and overwhelmed by the noise, dirt, and seeming chaos. I spoke to no one since, in theory, anyone could be trying to take advantage of me. What a terrible way to live! Once my senses had begun to adjust to the richness of Mumbai, I was able to make acquaintances and friends, to take folks up on their offers of chai and conversation, and develop a system of friends and support away from home. I’m so grateful! Favourite experiences have been being taken to meet Maharani Satvashiladev (in southern Maharashtra), and celebrating Diwalli with friends in their homes in Mumbai.
-Adopt an open attitude. India rewards those who travel with an open heart and flexible mind. A flexible schedule helps enormously too, but can be challenge when you’ve come for medical treatment. I’ve found my favourite experiences were made possible because I was willing and able to “go with the flow”. For instance, on one trip, I learned I had 5 days between visits to the clinic. I walked out the door of the clinic, found a travel agent, and booked a next day flight to Delhi. From there I trained it to the holy city of Haridwar where I was privileged to stay in a wonderful, restful ashram, took part in the Harki Puri ceremony, and was officially blessed in the river Ganges. Here too, I found instant friends eager to share a cup of chai, and some insight into their city. I even met up (by accident) with the guy who takes Madonna and Brad Pitt on their Indian treks and visited a tribal village with him! And yes, I got lost along the way and had to ask for help from many folks who more than happily took care of me. If you’re going to travel outside of Mumbai, just be aware that everything is more complicated and takes longer than you’re probably used to.
Learn about Giving and Taking (help that is)- I found that I needed help from EVERYONE! From learning how to cross a street, to making travel arrangements, ordering food, buying a phone, and using an ATM, I needed people in a way I never have before. And they stepped up. I was so gratified when I could return the favour in some small ways. For instance, I found that wherever I travelled, folks were curious about me, and my lifestyle, career, family, etc. I met people who wanted to practice their English, some who wanted to learn more about North America, I was able to help friends apply for small business loans through NGOs, and I even taught English reading and writing to a small group of children and young men. (by the 3rd visit we were reading newspapers together. Yeah!) Engaging with people was a great way to get to know others , and I confess that at times I felt more connected to this adopted community than I do to my own. My life is so much richer for having had these opportunities; I’m sure you’ll find your own adventures in Mumbai.
In short- fertility treatment can frustrating, expensive, and isolating; this is especially true for a single woman. Sometimes life feels totally out of control, ruled by hormones, injections, and treatment schedules, interrupted only by serious financial planning sessions, and chocolate and crying binges. It’s important to find joy wherever you can. Although at first you may be nervous and even a little scared about your trip to India, with some careful planning and mindful openness, you may discover some unexpected joys along the journey.