Has India been calling you? Her seductive voice reaching out and invading your imagination? The sounds of sitars and manjira filling your mind? The aromas of cardamom, ginger, cloves and turmeric tickling your nose?
Then you should go.
Have you been wondering if you can do it? You can.
Everyone’s experience is different and many factors led to our leaving early. Now that I’ve been, I have some advice that might help you.
Here are a few things that I think would have made a difference:
Head South First
Many people have suggested that perhaps if we had started in the south, our experience would have been different. Travel legend says that the south is easier, more laid back and prosperous than the north resulting in a better entry for beginners such as yourselves.
I have heard this from enough people to suggest that if you are building an India itinerary you should start in the south. The beaches of Goa are lovely, the backwaters of Kerala are quiet and tranquil…why start in the hustle and bustle of Delhi? Leave that for later when you are hardier…start slow and start south!
Consider A Tour
Someone emailed me to ask if I thought that being on a tour would have changed our experience and I have to say undoubtedly that yes, I think it would have made huge difference.
We managed to see many of the sights on our own, or with a car and driver, but lacked the cultural context for much of it. A tour guide would provide that cultural context along with historical references, local flavor, and general support.
Having other travelers, and a guide, to help us decipher what we were experiencing would have helped us put it all in perspective, helped us understand our reactions, and helped us manage our emotions around it all. I think we felt isolated; from other people and from each other; company would have helped fill the void.
Tour operators and tour guides know the area they work in. They have connections; know where to go, how to get there, and where to stay. They can help you have experiences that you wouldn’t normally have access to and can usually translate so that those experiences are more meaningful.
We considered a tour but didn’t sign on for one because we felt the cost was too much and because we thought we could just as easily do it on our own. I would now argue that the cost might be worth it! GAP Adventures and Intrepid Travel are two companies that I would consider were I to go again.
Make A Connection
Without doubt, all the people that have reported to me that they had a tremendous time in India found a way to make a connection to the country, her people and her culture.
Some people make a spiritual connection through Buddhism and meditation; finding a way to share their beliefs and reaching into themselves to draw out the strength they need. I saw, at the temples, Westerners circling stupas and prostrating themselves and heard of people heading off to retreats and ashrams to meet their guru and engage in silent introspection. It seemed like a good idea…but too far out of my comfort zone at the time.
Yoga is another great way to make that connection. Heading to a studio to practice whatever-form-of-twisty-pretzelly-yoga you practice is sure to find you some friends and a great introduction to one of the oldest forms of exercise known to man.
I’ve seen people make a connection over something as simple as sharing a cigarette lighter at a bus stop…it doesn’t take much, you just have to find an ‘in’ and then be brave enough to take it as it comes.
You can do it.
She is a seductive mistress; the draw is strong; the desire overwhelming; the lure indescribable. It’s not something to pass up for the sake of fear.
India. If she’s been calling you, you should go.