"There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. " - Keith Bellows, National Geographic Society.
I received a lot of mixed reactions when I told friends and family I was going to India. They were either really excited or responded with a head tilt and some variation of "...why?" Some people conjure up negative imagery and that's that. I however, was thrilled to get experience what good and what bad India had to offer. I definitely feel that India (or anywhere vastly different from what you know) can change you're life for the better if you're open to it. That being said, if you're flirting with the idea of traveling to India, then here are five reasons you should take the leap!
*For reference, I traveled to Mumbai, New Delhi and Agra.
Walking through the streets of India is truly an adventure in itself. The smells are intoxicating with a mix of everything from pungent spices, to sweet tropical fruits and exhaust fumes. The city of Mumbai was especially overwhelming to the senses; it's a dizzying jumble of people, noises, cars and scooters coming at you from just about every direction. I laughed, napped, cringed, ate and cried my way through India and was forever changed by pushing myself to limits I didn't know I had within me. There's something about having your world thrown upside down, and then having to figure out how to function outside of your comfort zone that can really change you for the better. I joyfully dove in to hot meals, excited to taste the differences between Southern and Northern Indian foods as I traveled. I stood next to tombs larger than life and walked through temples that left me without words. Adventure is simply a way of life in India.
TESTING YOUR PATIENCE
In the midst of some stunning beauty (the tombs really are as grand as the pictures suggest) is a whole lot of chaos, disarray and poverty. Any sense of rules, law or order felt more like suggestions than requirements. Seemingly simple tasks, such as going to the grocery store or down the street, can start to feel like a fight to hold your ground because of the amount of people in every location. If you can learn to let things go, you can learn tolerance for differences and humans in general. Acknowledging that their way of life is not mine, and simply respecting that I'm a guest was such a lesson in patience. Reminders like these are why I love travel so damn much.
When you're in an environment where said-chaos doesn't stop, you learn to focus and tune into what's important. You can't really look at your phone when you're walking down the street, unless you want to be hit by a car or bicyclist, so you're forced to absorb every piece of your surrounding. It's always nice to get a break from routine and just be in the moment. The chaos and noise pollution really provoke taking those quiet moments for yourself, if only out of necessity.
The food alone is worth a trip. If you've got an adventurous pallet, India is a dream! I can probably only say that because I didn't get the infamous "Dehli Belly" that strikes so many foreigners, but I played it very safe and only ate hot, cooked food and drank water that had been boiled and then filtered (never with ice). It was WORK to stick by these guidelines, but I can happily say that it was worth it (especially when observing others get sick). Some of my favorite foods to try were different roti, Idli and sambar, elephant dosas, and many of the other recognizable Indian dishes I enjoy while in America, but on a whole other level.
If you're up for it, India is filled with plenty of warm and welcoming people to ease you into their country. Many things felt backwards and frustrating to my framework of thinking, but there's nothing like embracing the unfamiliar to really shake up your routine and learn a million things from feeling so constantly uncertain.
Have you been to India? Would you ever consider visiting?