Last Spring my husband and I set out on a journey to India. It was our first time and we were gung ho on experiencing as much as we could in as many places in under a month. We had no idea the lasting impression it would leave with us.
After traveling there is always a sense of longing to return to that place as the memories are so fresh and your every day at home may seem mundane. But what happened after India was unexpected. It was almost a sense of mourning, like not only did I take a piece of India with me, I left a piece of myself behind. Let’s not get that confused with “finding myself” or becoming spiritually enlightened, as I feel I was on sturdy ground when I arrived. But my eyes and my heart are a little more open now, I can’t deny that. Perhaps it was the generosity of the people, who would quite literally give you the clothes off their back to help you or maybe it’s the ancient history, traditions and religions that I fell in love with.
The moment we walked off the plane we were in Aww, captivated by a land so different from our own. The people, the noises, the colours, the smells; India is Alive!
Arriving in Delhi is somewhat of an overwhelming experience. I remember the moment before we exited the airport doors; I could hear the horns, feel the warm subtropical humid air on my skin, smell the spices (along with sewer and possibly burning garbage), see the colours; Charlie and I looked at each other and I knew we were thinking the same thing, now or never, and we were off. A decision that has continued to shape us, for the better.
Outside millions of people intersect in the streets with mopeds, rickshaws, buses, cars, bicycles, cows, ox carts, stray dogs and goats with little regard to street signs and lane dividers. Somehow, with the help of a horn, this works. After a day or so, you really can’t see it working any other way. It is a well-oiled machine of organized chaos.
You’ll never forget the first time you negotiate your way across 14 lanes of traffic on foot. We learned quickly we were better off to separate and tag along with a group of locals, the whole time I heard my Mother’s voice screaming “Look both ways!”. It’s a scene that seems chaotic to a westerner, but in India it is life, and I can say every day in India I lived my life to the fullest, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow.
Nothing in India happens linearly, I could tell you I went here and did this, but you really wouldn’t see or feel what I felt. Until you stand barefoot on the Taj Mahal at sunset, drink hot chai watching the sunrise from an open air train, be chased by local children on a moped, rush through thousands of people to catch and jam yourself on the train, and be invited to eat Dahl cross legged on a locals floor you won’t know India.
We spent close to a month traveling 4 states of India by moped, rickshaw, car, bus, train, plane and foot with backpacks in tow. A great part about traveling India was the meetings with strangers who quickly became friends; Whether with fellow Western travelers, impromptu acquaintances on trains and buses, or other tourists at India’s famed landmarks, there was always an opportunity for interaction. We were lucky enough to meet a couple new Canadian, British, and Indian friends. We chatted with local farmers, rickshaw drivers, chai vendors, teachers, Engineers and students; they were all kind compassionate people who were very interested in us and wanted to make sure we enjoyed our trip. I learned quickly not to hold up a map, as you could have to fend off the people trying to help you. They truly are accommodating people. Day to day I witnessed the hard work of all classes in some cases working side by side.
Sometimes, India was challenging. Space, cleanliness, language barriers, cultural differences made every day a learning experience. Each day a new challenge presented itself and each day we conquered those challenges. Whether it was the drought in central India with temperatures in the mid 40’s; hallucinating with heat stroke during power outages and lack of water; a small hole in our mosquito net resulting in Charlie being eaten alive by mosquitos; jumping on a moving train only to realize the man behind me wasn’t my husband- “OH SHIT- Where is Charlie?!” ; and experiencing the first onset of Delhi belly while visiting ancient ruins with no bathroom in site. Moments like these certainly made our trip interesting and often made us laugh. But it was nothing Imodium, hand sanitizer, and a couple deep breathes couldn’t cure. Plus, we tried to follow a “It’s not bad, it’s just different” travel mantra.
Our lessons learned:
- Never eat steamed spinach under candlelight, you might accidentally eat larvae
- Never request the top bunk on train travel unless you’re looking for a Turkish bath
- Brings lots of cash on the train, you’ll buy your breakfast, lunch, dinner and water from vendors
- When exiting train stations, airports, bus depots don’t make eye contact and keep walking
- When you leave all technology behind, wear a watch
- Importance of a Lassi (yoghurt smoothie) daily for digestive health
- Bring a bandana as a mask on rickshaws
- The Horn is your best friend
Arriving back in Canada was more shocking than arriving in India; the quiet was deafening and the space felt restrictive. The sound of a horn in traffic instantly brought me back to the streets of Mumbai. It’s amazing how you quickly adapt and things you have been around your whole life can quickly become foreign.
Although this journey was a short one and we were only able to see a slice of the country, we look forward to returning and building more memories; Northern India is calling us.
Delhi, New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmadabad, Panaji, North Goa, Hampi, South Goa, Mumbai
Car rental Service (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur): Icon India Tours http://www.iconindiatours.com
All modes of Transportation, Highway Delhi to Agra
A moment between friends at the Taj Mahal, Agra.
Charlie, an eager student.
Dinner at Sabu’s- Icon India Tours.
Dance group practicing on the beaches of Goa.
Vittala Temple, Hampi.
Rajasthan decorated Elephant, Jaipur
Monkey, Elephant Caves, Mumbai
Vijayanagar Temple- Hampi
A new sacred friend, Hampi
Charlie and I, Goa, India