What is India travel like like? It’s a question that I get asked regularly and one that I find infinitely difficult to answer due to the fact that travel to India is so different for everybody. India is a vastly diverse and varied place with a huge range of cultures, languages, landscapes, religions, peoples and philosophies. The answer I usually give is that nobody can answer this question other than yourself. You get out of
to India more or less the same as what you put in and what needs to be put in is a question far more relevant to India travel. So let’s ask the question again. So what does one need to put into India travel in order to make a trip as worthwhile as possible? Now that is a question far more answerable with an answer that is actually beneficial. In my mind there are four main things that you need to do to make your trip as memorable as possible:
Patience and flexibility
Any plan for India travel that involves a strict schedule is doomed to fail. Even established tour operators in the country can’t offer prompt arrival and departures to destinations mainly because of the fact that India is so unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen in India, how long it is going to take to get somewhere, what’s is going to happen when you get there and the likely time of your departure. The trains are usually late, sometimes by just an hour or two but sometimes by a whole day. The roads are bad to say the least and the traffic in certain regions absolutely diabolical meaning that a journey of six hours could, in a few cases, take 10 or 15. You have to be flexible enough to change your plans at the last-minute and patient enough to deal with the inconveniences that are just to be expected.
But patience and flexibility are not only important for staying sane in India, they are also essential for turning your trip to India from a mere holiday to an invaluable and unforgettable experience. An overnight stay in an Indian train station may be a huge inconvenience if your trip is planned down to every detail, but if you look at it from another angle, it can turn into an amazing experience. The opportunity it presents to speak to the locals, learn about the culture or even just to watch. Watch the people, watch the customs, watch life as it exists. In my mind this is what travel anywhere is all about. You don’t travel to India to take a picture of the Taj Mahal and then go home.
You travel to India to experience, to witness and through these experiences you gain insights into an entirely different culture and people thus gaining insights into your self. Without flexibility and patience, travelling in India has the potential to be an absolute nightmare, but with them, a new world opens up. A new world full of learning, revelations and unforgettable experiences. This is, after all, what travel is all about, isn’t it?
Openness and self-trust
The amount of times I saw travellers in India completely closed off to the country they came to see seemed so strange to me during my first trip to India. Now it is something that I completely understand. It’s easy to arrive in the country, bright-eyed and naive and soon get yourself into a sticky or more commonly, expensive situation which results in seeing this amazing country through a lens of mistrust and suspicion. It happened to me when I was in India but I quickly realised that if I closed myself off and shoved my head back into the Lonely Planet I would not experience India as she really is and essentially, my trip would be wasted.
I was in the country long enough to soon turn my bad experiences into valuable assets allowing me to carefully evaluate those who were out with bad intentions and allowing me to avoid potentially bad situations. I soon developed a sort of sixth sense which allowed me to take calculated risks resulting in my trip turning into the trip of a lifetime rather than just a trip to a faraway land. Thanks to my newfound sense of openness and my new sense of self-trust I experienced India in a whole new way. I was no longer just a tourist in India, I was a traveller, willing to explore every new opportunity that I was confronted with. It is this sort mindset, out of all the advice that I give to people travelling to India, that I recommend the most. It can change your trip into something beautiful and life changing rather than just an opportunity to take some pretty pictures.