India is a crazy place, there’s no doubt about that, and just thinking of the time I spent there brings back so many feelings and emotions. It can be overwhelming, noisy and chaotic but also peaceful, spiritual and somehow soothing. In my opinion there are not that many countries in the world that would hold so many contrasts within their borders and could possibly be so irritating yet absolutely lovable. This place has strong claws so you better brace yourself.
WHY I LOVE INDIA
„You either love India or hate it, there’s nothing in between. “
You’ve probably heard this before. And even though this statement might be a slight exaggeration, it is not far from the truth. So, what does it actually mean?
India simply enjoys extremes and offers raw experience in its unique way. In many areas there is pollution, both trash and noise, and poverty in its most brutal form. So why would I even want to go somewhere this extreme? Why is India on the top of the list of countries I’ve visited? Why I always defend India so much when people frown after I say I love this country?
This is when it gets hard to explain.
First of all – the diversity. The country is so rich in history, customs and traditions that it created a world of its own. With such a variety of culture you could never get bored. In fact it would take a lifetime to see and experience all India hides in its corners!
It might sound pretentious but India made me feel alive as no other country has. There was a surprise waiting around every corner and each day revealed a new unexpected adventure. At first sight India seemed to be imperfect and “too real”.
But when I took a better look, I saw a beauty in the dirt and a faith within the chaos which proved that it’s ok not to be perfect.
My Indian adventure also happened to be my first solo trip outside of Europe. For the first time in my life I said goodbye to my comfort zone, left for the unknown, met the most amazing people and realized that travelling is what really feeds my soul. It was quite a ride but I learnt that once you let go of your expectations and ideas of how place should look like, it will draw you into its magic and won’t ever let you go. India will always have a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to go back, visit familiar places and explore some new ones.
REASONS TO VISIT INDIA
The truth is, travelling to India isn’t easy and isn’t for everyone. I came across this quote, which, I believe, sums it up perfectly:
” If you can go to India, you can go anywhere”
Yes, if you think you’ve seen it all, India should be your next stop, as this is where everything is possible and nothing can be expected. India will get under your skin and challenge you on every day bases. But despite all the inconveniences, struggles and moments when you think to yourself “why the hell would I put myself through this craziness”, it will leave you with unforgettable memories and a new version of yourself.
I went to India to discover more of the world but I ended up having discovered more about myself.
So jump on a plane and head to the Namasté-land if you want to see Indian iconic (as well as less known) landmarks, experience the reality of this subcontinent, try authentic Indian food and also:
STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
If life really begins at the end of your comfort zone, then India is a place to be. The cultural shock combined with all the smells, noises and challenging weather will get you so far away from your comfort zone that you won’t even see it. 🙂
Firstly, the climate can make your travels pretty unbearable. The seasons in many parts of the country can be characterized by “wet” and “sweat” as it is either pouring rain due to the monsoon time or extremely hot. Plus all the humidity makes you feel like you’re living inside of a sauna.
Secondly, let’s talk hygiene. Unless you’re lucky or staying in a fancier hotel, finding a sit-down toilet is a miracle. Squat toilets are far more standard (your bum will thank you later) and a toilet paper is rarely provided. In some remote areas finding a toilet paper is a challenge that might cost way more that you would imagine.
And did you know that more people in India have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet? Therefore, seeing people squatting in the field doing their thing wasn’t an exception.
As much as India can be a delight to all your senses it can also irritate the hell out of you since some of the streets are extremely dirty, smelly and full of people, animals and unfortunately also flooded with trash.
So keep in mind that Indian subcontinent simply is a one giant chaos and can be hard to deal with. On the other hand, as I said before, the country is huuuge and full of contrasts so there are also clean peaceful places (that don’t fit into the stereotypes) to be found.
BROADEN YOUR PERSPECTIVE
If any place in the world truly opened my eyes then it was India. It doesn’t matter if the feeling towards this country is love or hate; it rarely leaves anyone unchanged. The reality of travelling around India will expand your horizons and make you appreciate seemingly normal things. You’d be surprised how much joy and pleasure can a cold shower bring after a day spent under Indian sun or hot cup of tea in the chilly Himalayan morning.
India is intense and so are the emotions here. And even though it might have not always been easy to backpack around, those feelings after “reaching that peak”, “finding that train” or “making it through the heat” made everything worth it. Moreover, your everyday struggles won’t seem so dramatic after seeing the deepest form of poverty which will remind you how fortunate you really are.
It is simply impossible to leave India the same person as you arrived because; same as travelling generally, encountering different lifestyles and cultures opens your mind. Personally, the trip changed my patience which was put in test after all the delays, inconveniences, hassles and mainly those well-known head wobbles which can mean yes, no or maybe. It was driving me crazy at first but later I even find my own head wobbling in response to some questions. 😊
SEE A DIFFERENT WORLD
This goes along with leaving your comfort zone because, unless you come from the subcontinent of South Asia, India is going to be a completely different and jaw dropping world for you. World of unique art and craft, traditions, cuisine, customs and festivals. Indian culture as a whole is an unique experience, and even though you might undertake a culture shock at first, embrace it and enjoy all it has to offer, be it Bollywood movie, Diwali festival or typical Indian wedding.
GO ON A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
As cliché as it sounds, India could serve as a perfect place to set yourself on a soul-searching pilgrimage to deepen your spiritual life and find your inner peace. From the beautifully coloured saris to unique evening ceremonies that take place on the banks of the holy River Ganges, it is full of sacred places and spirituality is in the air, especially in towns like Varanasi, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Amritsar.
How to take part in this spiritual journey which is supposedly going to make you feel uplifted and renewed? Start by participating in meditation rituals, visiting sacred places, joining the pilgrimage to Himalayas or observing one of the gregarious Hindu rituals of worship.
In case spirituality is not your thing, visiting India still brings a great chance to learn more about several kinds of religions that are present there, not only Hinduism but Sikhism and Buddhism as well, because the religious side of India is very interesting.
- PRACTICE YOGA IN ASHRAM
In addition to the spirituality, India is a hub for all the yogis in the world and if you want to improve your practice (or start with it) you may as well give it a go in the birthplace of yoga.
Arguably the most popular place for all the yogis is Riskikesh, sometimes called the “yoga capital of the world”. People believe that practising yoga and meditation in Rishikesh brings them closer to the moksha (ultimate salvation) and gives them similar results as taking a dip in the holy water of the River Ganga which flows through the city. The town is also a gateway to Himalayas, hosts many ashrams (including the one where members of Beatles practiced), yoga centres and lies on the holy pilgrimage route to the Himalaya mountains.
- TRAVEL ON BUDGET
India is often thought to be a backpacker paradise as in most places you simply get more bang for your buck which I can confirm. This country is probably the cheapest place I have ever been to and even a broke volunteer (me) managed to live there super comfortably for two months without making my bank account upset.
So take advantage of the local prices and go shopping (=bargaining) in famous Indian markets that hide all kinds of traditional goodies (How many baggy pants is too many baggy pants? 😊)
OR MAYBE NOT?
On the other hand, as mentioned above, India is a hard place to travel and even harder to understand. And as much as I loved India, I quite frankly also loved leaving it and going back to „civilisation“ with all the western standards I am used to.
Unfortunately, India has received a lot of negative publicity recently in regards to women’s safety and earned quite controversial reputation which holds many people back from travelling to the country, especially solo female travellers.
Admittedly, India can be an uncomfortable country for foreign female tourists and I had also experienced several shocking moments, such as seeing random men masturbating in front of me in public places which, judging from what I’ve heard from other female travellers, isn’t a complete exception.
All I can say is – don’t let the bad stereotype stop you from travelling to this (or any other) country. Make sure to follow safety recommendations and use your common sense even more than usually – don’t travel alone at night, filter your eye contact, don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel uncomfortable and be extra cautious using public transportation. Groups of men in India can sometimes be very intimidating because, well, Indian men simply stare at foreign women but most of them are genuinely just curious about seeing different cultures (same as you) so don’t let it ruin your experience and hold you from talking to locals.
On the other hand, and this might sound a bit discouraging, don’t be ashamed if you feel that India is not your match and you are not ready or interested to experience this crazy circus.
Admitting that doesn’t make you any less adventurous and there is no point at pushing your limits way too far from your comfort zone. I strongly believe in listening to your gut, especially when choosing a travel destination.
But if you have even the tiniest inkling that visiting India could make your wanderlust spirit jump with happiness, give it a chance and create your own Indian experience.
P.S.: My tips on what to do and visit in India coming soon. 😊