We spent two months travelling through India at the beginning of our 2016 trip, and we’re not going to lie, it was hard work.
People told us that travelling in this country would be tough. Having travelled a fair bit over the years we thought, ‘It couldn’t possibly be that bad’. But it is the only country we have visited that we were relieved to leave. The culture shock, the poverty, the rubbish, the constant hassle, the inefficiency, the crowds, the creepy stares, the never ending rip-offs and the stomach problems wore us down eventually.
Every conversation we had seemed to end in a sales pitch, and it left us feeling pretty jaded. We constantly felt conflicted between annoyance at being hounded for money, and guilt for being wealthy (by Indian standards). There was also the sense that we would never get anything for the price it should be. Having to barter for everything from bottled water to hotel rooms wears thin very quickly. We were shocked by the huge and visible gap between the rich and the desperately poor. Yet, we felt like hypocrites at the same time. It was a very confronting couple of months.
The highs and lows
But somehow, despite all of this, we still have a strange fondness for India. It’s a love/hate relationship that is hard to describe. We often had the best and worst travel experiences of our lives in the space of a single day. In the morning we could see the Taj Mahal and then 5 steps outside the gates we could be hounded by tuk tuk drivers until we wanted to scream. You can eat the most amazing food, then get sick for a week. You can meet the most incredible people and then someone tries to charge you 10 times the proper amount for a taxi or you walk past someone taking a shit in the street. We could be jostled around the dirty crowded streets of Delhi one minute, then sitting in the silent serenity of the Lotus Temple the next. It was a complete roller coaster of highs and lows.
Without a doubt, India is the country that has left the biggest impression on us in all of our travels. It is the country we speak most about with other travellers and between ourselves. As our friend Fraser put it, it is the place that will teach you more about humanity than anywhere else. Life (and death) is played out on the streets every day. In the western world we tend to live our lives behind closed doors. In India, there are no closed doors. With such a huge population, there aren’t many places for privacy. You really get a feel of just how cheap human life might seem in such a country. For better or worse, you will see it all.
Will we return to India?
Perhaps. The truth is it is going to take us a while to build up the energy we would need to go back to India and enjoy it. Everyone’s experience of India is different though, and we have met people who have returned over and over again without hesitation. India inspires such strong and different reactions, which is one of the reasons it is so special. No one will be able to predict for you what your experience will be. You will just have to find out for yourself…