This is what I have maintained since a little while after my first visit to India – it’s the one country that despite fears or worries you might have, you really need to go there before you die. Why? Because, amongst the amazing sights, experiences and people there, you will find some perspective on this whole wide world by spending a few weeks in this incredible country.
I was there, as readers may know (lol) back in March this year, and that was my fourth time. It had been far too long, and seeing the way the place had changed in 14 years made me regret that I hadn’t visited it in the interim to see how it got from where it was to where it is today. On the other hand, there was much that simply hasn’t changed at all, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
People from the “west” may think of India purely as a poor country, and with that goes a whole selection of presumptions about the second most populous place on Earth. But India has its rich too, and its middle class as well. Considering the population of 1.4 billion there are far more “rich” people living in India than there are living in Australia.
I once heard someone say ‘India shouldn’t ‘work’, but it does’. It’s the world’s largest democracy. It’s a country with an incredibly comprehensive rail network. It pretty much created the outsourcing industry, it has a growing tech-industry that one day will probably be the biggest in the world.
As for climate – you name it, it’s got it! It has snow, it touches the Himalayas, it has warm sunny beaches, deserts, tropical weather and monsoonal downpours unlike anything we’ve ever had in Melbourne. India borders Bangladesh, Nepal, China and Pakistan and is only a stone’s throw from Sri Lanka. It has eye-opening poverty in clear view, it has some of the most magnificent forts and palaces you could ever want to visit.
It’s large. It’s the world seventh largest country. There’s so much to see and do. You could not possibly get bored in India. And above all, travel in India, even in 2018, challenges you. And this is the biggest reason to go there – the biggest personal reason.
It’s the ultimate opportunity to test your self and your capabilities. Travelling in India, finding hotels, buying train tickets, choosing a place to eat, braving the buses and so much else can surprise and challenge you. And so, the thing to do is always remember – the people who live in India experience these challenges every day.
Just attempt to organise some sort of official documentations whilst you’re there, and then you’ll experience even more challenges. I remember getting my Indian visa in Dhaka. Bangladesh. They required so many documents, and copies of them. I went to this office, miles from where I was staying, through the Dhaka traffic at least three times, I had to organise photocopies on the spot, I had been given the wrong forms the previous visit, it was a nightmare. But in the end, I got my visa. Things have more obstacles in India it seems, but all things are possible if you stick at it.
In Delhi Station there is a room just for foreigners buying train tickets. And that is a long wait an when you get there you think that all foreign visitors must be in that one room. Booking tickets usually requires you to fill out a form that you submit with train times, dates, classes and then personal information. Join the queue. And what a queue – people will literally walk into the building and bypass 30 people to the front of the line. People will push in and shove you out of the way.
Sometimes it feels like life in India is one constant fight. If you don’t push in, you miss out. Do you have the patience, the awareness and the smarts to navigate your way through this? Every ticket booked to me was a little victory.
SO why put up with all this? Well, as I said, for you it might be ‘too much’, but for the locals, this is every day. But YOU the visitor – well, you get the chance to see all the amazing sites of India. The Taj Mahal, Varanasi and the Ghats, the forts of Rajasthan, the tranquillity of (parts of) Goa. You are a guest in a simply amazing country, and despite the hassles and the constant request for things from people and in particular auto-rickshaw drivers, people in India want the visitor to enjoy their visit. Get out of the tourist areas and the people are some of the most generous in the world.
From chill out spots to thrills and spills on auto-rickshaws, India is THE place to test your travel fortitude, to meet amazing people, to see amazing things. You don’t have to be at the Taj Mahal or the Lake Palace to have amazing experiences. Experiences, generally speaking, are always amazing in India regardless of where you are.
So India – you simply MUST go. Learn about India, the people, places and the food. Learn about the world, about where your country sits, about how things work when it seems they shouldn’t. And most of all, learn about yourself, what you can and can’t do, and how you can improve yourself. India is nothing short of life-changing as a travel experience. Thanks for reading – May the Journey Never End!