India taught me…

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. 

  
(Instagram @briana.n.yoga doing her thing)

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.

  
(Traditional Rajasthanian thali, from Instagram@nickisalwayonholidays)

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.

n

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42 thoughts on “India taught me…”

  1. Nicely put. I’m nearly three months into my 6 month Indian visa, the idea of going “home” fills me with dread – have fallen in love with this place and all its chaos. Nice to reflect on what it’s taught you, helps me reaffirm why I love it so much.

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  2. Excellent advice on all counts. I always prefer train travel and India and Nepal = great vegetarian food! And Yoga is great for everything!! I am always staggered by the amount of plastic littering the waterways after some minor or major flooding. There is soooo much of it. I carry a small stainless steel flask when travelling and refill it where I can. Much cheaper and like you suggested more environmentally friendly. Did you get to Nepal too?

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    1. You are so right in carrying a flask. Being environmentally sustainable whilst travelling can be difficult, but is definitely one of my goals. I am yet to get to Nepal, but was lucky to spend time on the ‘hill’ last year, up on the Tibetan plateau. Thanks for the comments!

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      1. Actually, I didn’t get to Tibet, but travelled inside the Chinese section of the plateau, around Xiahe home of the second biggest monastery for the Buddhist monks. A real clash of Tibetan/Chinese/Muslim cultures, with nomads in yurts throughout the plains. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing about the experience.

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  3. This might be one of the most positive posts I’ve read about India. Even when you spoke about the negative aspects, you mentioned what was being done to improve the situation. It put a smile on my face to read your post and also made me long for home!

    As an Indian, I thank you. Most people do not see such good and positivity. And I’m so happy that you had a great experience during your visit 🙂

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  4. Hey Nick! I’m planning on travelling to India next week. Yes, very short notice but when you’re backpacking without a plan you can’t really book train tickets one month in advance. Do you think its possible to get tickets on such short notice? And if not, are there tourist buses to get from say, New Delhi to Rishikesh, Agra to Rajastan, etc.? Cheers! Great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s super hot and heading into the low season, so the trains should not be such a problem, just try and keep a week in advance. New Delhi to Agra is short, so you can catch a bus if need be (but I do love the trains!). Then out to Rajasthan is a bit of a hike, maybe take an overnighter. AC2 or AC3 if you not splurging on first class. Without AC in this heat could be painful. I love Udaipur in Rajasthan! Any other questions, throw them my way, I’d be happy to help. India is incredible!

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  5. You took me back to India, made me think about the lessons learnt and made me realise how I grew up there. I guess India is the type of destination that can really transform you and the perception of the world you have. Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment. Sometimes in India it really feels like you’ve gone down the rabbit hole, but then you realise that this is how nearly 20% of the world live, and think maybe it’s you who is so different and maybe needs adjusting. Thanks again for reading.

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  6. I am researching India for an upcoming trip with my Husband and his parents who are 68 and 75! They have traveled all over the world and I do mean all over. India is his Mothers last big dream trip. We will likely have a month. Gut reaction where in India should we start? India is so vast and diverse I know even in a month we will see very little of the entire country. Thank you for your post and any knowledge you have a moment to impart.

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    1. It really depends on the time of year. You don’t want to be south during the monsoon! A quick itinerary to start could include flying into Delhi for a couple of days, an overnight in Agra to see the Taj Mahal, then a first class overnight train into Rajasthan. (The hotels on Hanuman Ghat in Udaipur are relaxing). From there you could catch an internal flight anywhere, say Darjeeling for tea or Goa for beaches, Kerala for the houseboats, Mumbai for madness etc. Again, just check the weather.

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  7. I loved this post of yours. As someone else has already said, this is one of the most positive things about India I have read in recent times. I believe India has a whole lot to offer everyone, if only we choose to look at these things. Sadly, a whole lot of tourists and even locals tend to look at the murky, dirty, gloomy aspects of India for so long that they hardly get to see that beautiful, bright, gorgeous, colourful heart of it. I am glad you decided to look beyond the facade and dig deeper. We surely need more tourists like you. 🙂

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