To travel is to learn, and learning is the greatest gift. Discovering new cultures and new ways of life are the highlights of any trip. I’m coming to the end of my travels through India and these are some reflections on what India has taught me.
1. Yoga is a great way of life.
My GF is a yoga addict, so I kinda already knew this but for the first time, I immersed myself in the lifestyle. It’s hard not to in India, especially having spent a month in Mysore (the Mecca for Ashtanga yoga). Not to do yoga in India would be a travesty. There are studios EVERYWHERE, and most are by donation therefore suitable for every budget, so no excuses. If you are a complete novice, no problem! Remember that eveybody was a beginner at some stage, just start by practising savasana.
2. Train travel is the BEST travel.
Ok, I may reneg on this as I am three weeks off starting my first bike tour of Europe, but for now I’d rather catch a train any day. For long journeys you have to be a bit organised as train tickets go on sale 90 days before departure, and with a billion plus people they sell out quicker than you’d think. Over peak times and through popular routes, for the express trains book tickets at least a fortnight in advance. There are different class tickets ranging in comfort from deluxe suites to sardine cans. On overnight travel, a second tier A/C ticket gets you a bed in a cabin of four, with three course meals provided for lunch and dinner, and tea/coffee/snacks in between. Watching the country click click click by from a train is both romantic and hypnotic. Check out Wes Anderson’s ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ if you need any more inspiration.
(Train to Udaipur,from Instagram@nickisalwaysonholidays)
3. Plastic sux.
One of the first things to hit you on arriving in India is the rubbish. From talking to travellers who have been returning to India over the years, the problem seems to be getting worse, however there may be a silver cloud on the horizon. Beaches in Goa have installed bins and collectors, and nearly every town has shops that will refill your water bottles. Use these! Let’s say you drink 3 litres a day, on a two week trip you’ll go through 50 plus bottles. Pack a good flask with you and refill for a couple cents at convenient places alone the way. It’s a great service, use it to avoid a dis-service to our planet.
4. It’s OK not to eat meat.
A highlight to visiting Japan is eating sushi, an assado in Argentina, paella in Spain, shrimp on the barbie you know where. So do as the Romans do, in India, go veg, it’s what the locals do. There are only two types of restaurants in India, veg and the less popular non-veg. These have two sub categories, North Indian and South Indian. You don’t have to follow the food chain too far to realise that the chicken in your tikka masala isn’t the quality you’d get back home, but the dhal fry is to die for. If you go veg on holidays in India you can not only eat as much as you want of the tastiest food, you may find a new and healthier habit forming.
5. You are the 1%.
I’m not going to get into the problems of poverty, but one thing that is made loud & clear on any travel to India is that if you can afford the plane ticket over you’re financially more secure than nearly everybody on the street. Nobody likes to be ripped off, but maybe haggle a little lighter, buy some more chai, give away all your coins, and let the kids practice their English on you. Be a Good Samaritan.
India, thanks for the lessons.