It took us years to finally travel to India. We hesitated visiting this country, though most of our reasons were merely excuses because we weren’t sure if we were ready for it. The truth is we needed the patience to handle its intensity. We wanted to be open, with a willingness to accept everything that India would offer – the highs and the lows. thank you India
Now, we have just left India after three months, and boy has our travel been a ride. We left with full hearts and admiration for this country. Thank you India, you gave us not only more than we imagined, but you also created lasting experiences different and better than we anticipated! thank you India
Those experiences were deep and meaningful, far beyond just the sights, sounds, and tastes India is known for. We didn’t just see India; we also learned about it and grew to appreciate it, as a result.
There is beauty in India; you just have to look beyond the things that are vastly different than your own frame of reference. Friends and fellow travelers warned us that India is the attack of the senses; meaning, it is a place of extreme noise, pollution, garbage and invasion of personal space. That would be enough to ward off anyone wanting to visit this country, and it was one of our excuses. India is like that- in some places, but that is India on the surface. Exploring it deeper, uncovers so much more.
Troy and I were ready for its intensity, and we were willing to embrace these expectations and look beyond them. By shifting our attitude, we met wonderful people who share our views of India, we discovered deep-rooted culture and traditions, and saw impressive historical sites, like in Hampi and in Jaisalmer and Udaipur, which were intricate and ornate, brimming with royal history, almost too hard to imagine their reality. We embraced India and just took in every moment ready for whatever happened. thank you India
We are foreigners in India, no doubt about it! We look dress and act very different than anyone here, which is no surprise why we are always faced with constant stares everywhere we go. We quite enjoyed breaking a stare by saying “Hello” or “Namaste” and with a warm smile. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, that small action turned into a beaming grin and a “hello” back, a handshake or a conversation. As we snapped pictures of the women of India who are so well put together in their colorful Saris, they, too, wanted to strike a pose and get a picture with us. After all, don’t we all want to share a photo of something vastly different than ourselves? Often, those meaningful travel moments turned into priceless laughs and enjoyable conversations.
To our many Indian friends and readers, we are humbled. There were so many things we didn’t know about India, and we feel grateful we had the chance to travel here, and experience it with our own eyes. We didn’t understand the importance of different religions in the history and the life of India, beyond just Hinduism. Instead, we learned that Sikhism, Muslim, Buddhism and Christianity are also prevalent here, depending on the region. This is a topic we just never thought about. But to understand it we had to get here, to see it, listen, and feel it. We feel enlightened and inspired by this.
For instance, we knew little about the principles of Sikhism. We visited some of the most beautiful temples and learned how Sikh religion is all about inclusion and equality, no matter what race, religion, color, age, or sex. We learned the importance of selfless service, which is a major community virtue in this religion. This temple in Delhi, for instance, offers a free meal every day to anyone, served generously by its volunteer members. We have enormous respect for this way of life. There are many Sikhs and Sikh temples in Canada; we just didn’t take the time to visit or understand this religion, until we made it to India.
We also didn’t appreciate the diversity of India before – until we witnessed it our last 3 months. Every state is vastly different from its language, food, climate, geography and religions. Like in the beautiful state of Kerala, which is mostly Christian, it boasts some of the most beautiful Dutch and British colonial architecture and has food flavors that are closer to Thai food than the rest of Indian fare. (and beef is readily available too) Also, we can’t forget how we, Canadians, were cold in Northern India in November and December – we often heard that this was some of the worst times to visit.(For the crowds maybe, but for the weather, it’s ideal to travel as long as you are prepared for it.)
We came to India with the intent of spending a portion of our time working on a social impact project. What we didn’t realize is how much we would learn about India, socially, politically and economically by contributing our time and our skills. We spent three weeks experteering (volunteering our professional skills) with Moving Worlds in Northern India, near Dharamshala and created videos for an animal recovery center, called Peepal Farm. We discovered animal welfare, and we also learned the challenges and opportunities in India that were far better compared to by just visiting as a tourist. Check out the video of our volunteer experience at the Peepal Farm Animal recovery center here.
Little did we know how challenging it would be to access money in India, especially that the government demonetized their currency. This situation was frustrating, (and it still is) but we found workarounds with locals to pay for food, lodging, and transport, and we definitely faced some hilarious conversations with Indians at ATMs. After all, we were all in the same situation, needing cash, and we were all limited by the supply.
Despite the intensity of India, Troy and I have loved every moment, from the time we started our travels in South India, and two months later, visiting Rajasthan, this trip is our top travel experience of all time. Our travel skills have matured; we are more in a groove, not limited by discomfort or distractions. We felt this separately, but we are also unruffled by issues together. We’ve hit our pinnacle of feeling energized and calm most of our time here. It feels incredible!
Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com