The pressure was on. Austin-Bergstrom Airport and I had a date with destiny as I prepared to embark on my first-ever visit to India. It was a strange sensation knowing that in about 36 hours, I’d be in a foreign country, far from home. Not only would the environment be unfamiliar to me, but so would the purpose. This was a business trip; of course, I’d seen plenty of movie scenes with people in professional clothes crisscrossing the globe for work. But for me? Never before had I traveled anywhere unless it had been for fun. The combination of an unfamiliar country and purpose made the trip slightly more daunting than I expected. I was excited, undoubtedly, but my catastrophizing abilities are elite. Nevertheless, I entered the airport and embarked on a life-changing journey I’ll cherish forever.
Long Flights, Little Sleep
The plan was simple. Take an 8-hour flight to London, chill for 8 hours in Heathrow, and catch my 8-hour flight to Delhi. After another 8-hour layover, I would finally hop on a domestic transfer to Pune, India, my final destination. If I’m being honest, the trip was seamless. At every turn where I expected some issue, none appeared. Whenever I thought I’d be held up, I passed through unhindered. It was an incredibly smooth experience, barring one slight problem. I could not fall asleep on the plane for the life of me. I don’t know why, although I’m sure a deep dive into my psyche would reveal a few reasons, but my eyes seemed incapable of closing. It was infuriating. I would’ve loved to explore London during my time there or even wander around Delhi during my layover. Instead, I sat on the precipice of consciousness as I struggled to pay attention to my surroundings. The lack of sleep had me in a dream state where I’d think I was awake, only to jerk suddenly back into reality after dozing off. This was my perpetual state until I finally reached Pune, where I became very awake very quickly.
An Introduction Like No Other
After nearly 40 hours of travel, I finally landed in Pune, India. I had worked with the hotel I’d be staying at to have a car waiting for me at the airport, but I was still nervous. I wasn’t sure how well my phone would work, and in my worst-case scenario creation, what would I do if nobody was waiting for me? Those fears were immediately alleviated, thankfully. I exited the plane, took a short walk towards the exit, and found a man with a sign bearing my name. Luckily too, because as I feared, my phone became useless as soon as I exited the plane’s wifi network. I walked outside with this stranger and was immediately assailed with stimuli of all varieties. My exhaustion faded into the background as I drank in my surroundings. There were people everywhere. A cacophony of sounds, from car horns to security officers guiding traffic, occupied every nook and cranny. The smell of diesel, fresh rain, and brilliant food wormed through my nostrils and found permanent residence. I was in awe, honestly. My lifeline, the car driver, was immune to all this and walked purposefully towards an unknown destination as I hurried to keep up. We reached the car and exited the airport into the chaos of Indian roads. For the uninitiated, this can be quite a shock.
Experience Combats The Unfamiliarity
As a junior in high school, I had the privilege of going on a weeklong trip with my professor and other students to China. The experience was eye-opening and fundamentally changed my perspective of the world. There were so many things I’d never seen, heard, or eaten. Those memories and experiences were the only things that enabled me to keep my head on straight as we weaved through Pune. The roads could be described as nothing other than controlled chaos. Construction was continuous, lanes blended together, and the overriding commonality was the crush of traffic trying to move forward as fast as possible. If not for my forays into Xian, Shanghai, and Beijing years before, all of this would’ve been a shock. Thankfully I acclimated quickly and found myself at my hotel after a torrid drive. There was some security to get through and a quick meal before I gratefully laid my head to rest and had one of the most intense nights of sleep of my life.
The Real Work Begins
I landed on a Friday evening and then spent the next two days recovering from a frustratingly intense bout of jet lag. That is not how I wanted to spend my first two days in Pune, but if you deny your body its needs for long enough, eventually, it pushes back. Monday morning came soon enough, and it was time for my first foray into a professional environment outside of the U.S.
My first steps into the Pune collaboration space were filled with an immense feeling of pride and happiness. Introductions with people I’d talked to for months but had never seen were finally taking place. Everything was coming full circle. think’ers from various teams were in Pune that week. As the day continued, everyone found their spot in the collaboration space. Meetings began and continued throughout the week as I worked with teammates to create solutions for current issues while strategizing for 2023. Being in the same space with talented people from various departments deepened my intense appreciation of our capabilities as a unit. So many skillsets are gathered in the same place, working towards the same goal. It was a sight to behold and provided a hopeful lens through which to view our future endeavors.
Making The Most Of The Situation
While there was plenty of productivity involved, my favorite moments from the trip were ones spent outside the collaboration space. The opportunity to socialize with all of these people I’d been speaking to for months on a monitor was such a joyous occasion. When I left Austin, I was determined to make this occasion one to remember, but it was the people I met along the way who made sure the trip and its memories will always have a special place in my heart. It was an absolute pleasure to visit Pune. With WWW set to take place once a quarter, I’m already looking forward to my next journey to India. Sometimes things work out in ways you’d never expect. Still, if you keep an open mind when these occasions arise, you might make lifelong memories. Pune captured my heart and mind, and so did my fellow think’ers. I couldn’t be more thankful or excited for the future.