After three years of obsession - planning, saving, discussing, looking at maps and reading books, my first, but not last, trip to the mighty subcontinent is coming to a close. As I reflect on my journey, it seems hard to imagine that I have fit this much life, and this many experiences, into such a short amount of time. Since coming here, I have learned:
About the real consequences of volun-tourism
I have dedicated two whole posts to this, but it’s worth mentioning again because it was perhaps one of the biggest lessons travel has ever taught me. I learned how I react to entirely new situations, how I am able to communicate without speaking the same language. The family I stayed with in the village seemed so happy, and I learned that the cliché of “money poor but life rich” is, in some way, very true.
How to say No
The barrage of demands in India is constant “look my shop” “rickshaw?” “here good price for you” “rickshaw??” “guesthouse?” “Rickshaw?? “photo?” “RICKSHAW???” India is crowded and pushy and saying yes to every single request would leave a person drained and broke within a day. I've learn that it’s okay to be assertive and to stand up for yourself. There is no room in this country for self-entitlement or coddling. As foreigners, we are often treated as ignorant walking ATMs, and respect will only be given if you demand it. More than any other place, India has taught me to be assertive.
... And when to say yes
Beyond the barrage of rickshaw drivers and touts, this place also has beautiful, kind, and friendly people. I met a whole crew of young Bangalorians who are artists and musicians and web designers. We took a trip together and bonded over jobs and travel and over-bearing parents. Had I closed myself off to all that is native to India, I would have never met these people, and would have missed out on having another place in the world where I have friends.
You are never alone on the road
Since leaving the US on the September 1st, I can think of exactly two days where I didn’t meet a new friend, or hang out with a friend I had just made. On two difference occasions, I met people in one city that I had met in another city, or people who I had friends in common with. The world really is quite small, and if you are open and kind, the road is the easiest place to make friends. It is a perpetual first day of college, but like in college, I have met a few people I consider lifetime friends.
Some travelers tricks..
Always bring toilet paper
Pack less than you think you will need
Room prices are always negotiable
Taking five deep breathes give you time to process the chaos
India has taught me that no matter how much you think you know, there is always room in learn something new in this vast, incredible, and beautiful world.