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Tuesday 12 December 2017

I'm leaving my fiance for a four-month solo trip around India'

Bride-to-be geraldine gittens is getting married in just seven months but decided now was the time for her big adventure

I'VE been engaged to my boyfriend for the past 10 months, and tomorrow I walk up the aisle. It will be the aisle of a Boeing 747 that will take me away from my fiance for four months, on my solo adventure through India.

Yes, early tomorrow, we'll be the lonely couple at a city centre Air Coach bus stop trying to downplay the goodbye, saying: "Sure we'll see each other on Skype."

I'll hop on to the bus with a cheap ring on my ring finger (better that this one is stolen from me rather than the real thing) and with a promise to make contact when I land.

The mid-week dates will be put on hold along with the meals for two, day trips outside of Dublin and walks in Phoenix Park.

 

Meditation

So why, when I should be shopping for cake toppers and bridesmaids' dresses for my September wedding, am I heading off for a month of yoga classes, a meditation course, a stint volunteering in Calcutta and a month of travel?

It's all very Eat, Love, Pray, isn't it? I might seem like a hippy following a dream or someone who's fallen under the spell of Ghandi.

I haven't read the book or watched the film but I know the story . . . a female divorcee gets bored with life, travels for a sensual awakening, and, eventually, finds love again.

I admit this trip has all the marks of a bride-to-be in doubt, or even a Runaway Bride.

That I might hike off to India and give wedding plans the boot, just as we begin our new life, does not appear to be the move of an astute future wife.

But that's not it. This is my Everest. India is the country that has tantalised me for years, but I've been too chicken to go to until now.

I want to see people sit on the roofs of moving trains, I want to eat street food and I want to see the colour, feel the spirituality and smell the smells of the River Ganges.

And my fiance -- who needs guaranteed hot showers and bug-free beds when he travels - doesn't. We're with each other long enough to know that my vision of a backpacking adventure in India is, well, pretty much his idea of a holiday from hell.

So was I to forget my dream? Put pressure on him to tag along? Or do what I'm doing?
 

Duty

I feel it's now or never really.

Imagine if I'd left it until after the wedding to leave my new husband for four months. It's one thing Prince William leaving the lovely Kate for two months -- but he's just doing his duty, isn't he?

So my guy will walk home from that bus stop tomorrow with Clint Eastwood's stern husky line from Magnum Force in his head: "A man's got to know his limitations."

He's a Beatles fan, and loves the story of John Lennon's "lost weekend" when he spent 18 months apart from Yoko Ono in Los Angeles, while she concentrated on work in New York, and that of George Harrison's spiritual awakening in India where he embraced Hinduism at the height of his fame, and reinvented his music and his life.

So somehow, the idea of me heading off didn't seem so crazy when I mentioned it and now it's something we're strangely excited about now.

He has set his sights on having a Lennon-esque adventure, albeit not as rockstarish, with treasured rounds of golf with his dad, a few extra pints with friends, and the all-important five-a-side football.

And I'll travel to Rishikesh, a town where the Beatles took a life changing meditation class, and Dharamsala, where the Dali Lama resides while he's in India. I'll trek across the desert on camel-back and I'll do my best to spot a tiger.

It's all very John and George, except we're engaged to be married and our commitment will go unchanged.

I'm not quitting a permanent job in order to travel to the mystical dreamland which I imagine India to be; technically I'm self-employed. This is a self-elected time-out before life becomes serious and I have to think about mortgages and where to settle.

This is my bucket list, something to do before I walk down the church aisle.

I'm leaving behind my share of the budget for deposits and wedding-related expenses, and who knows I might find a dressmaker in India somewhere to come up with something for my beautiful bridesmaids.

We've put in the research and a lot of the wedding preparations are made. We've booked the church, the venue, the band and photographer.

I bought my vintage dress off the rail, we found a good suit for him, and my talented future mother-in-law has offered to do some of the church flowers and the cake.

I've more to do . . . mass booklets and invitations to design, shoes to buy, and a guest list to get together. I don't know who'll style my hair, or what flowers I'll put in the bouquet.

 

Memories

But so what. That'll all come together and long after how I got my hair done on my wedding day ceases to matter, I'll have -- I hope -- wonderful memories of India.

For the moment, the only vows we'll be making are to email as much as possible, to be safe and healthy in so far as we can help it, and to reunite in one piece. There'll be lonely times, when I find myself eating dinner on my own late a night or when he's cooking for one again.

There'll be times when Skype won't work and when the internet connections will be impossible. There will, most likely, be times of food poisoning, and side effects from the anti-malarial drugs.

But no matter what, we'll be thinking of the summer when we see each other again with a renewed sense of what we mean to each other.

Whether I walk down the aisle in black or white on the Big Day, our wedding day will happen.

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