By Melissa LaCharity
Travellers know how it goes: a couple of trips under the belt and you’re not back home for long before the wanderlust creeps back in again.
I started spending a lot of time browsing flights online. It was mostly daydreaming; what I might find, where I’d want to go. I had no actual travel intentions. But then, as always, an insanely good deal changes your mind. This time, an insanely good deal to Northern India.
Instantly pictures of chaos, overpopulation and the beautiful Taj Mahal flashed through my mind. Potentially I could be seeing my first world wonder! Who could pass that up?
I’ll admit I was nervous. I played with the idea in my mind for a few weeks. I mentally wrote pros and cons to this trip. It was a google search of the Himalayas that finally spared my thinking to doing. Who gets anywhere in life by only dreaming? Click!
In the spur of the moment, I bought my round trip ticket to India. Now to tell my mom.
I wasn’t going in totally blind. An old high school friend had since moved back to her home country with her family. I called her immediately to gush about my impulsive buy. She agreed to be my own personal guide to crowded, and from what I had heard, overwhelming India. I was set!
Before I left, everyone was scared for me. I didn’t get much encouragement.
Excitedly I told anyone I crossed about my upcoming trip. I was honestly ecstatic. India would be my first taste of rich culture shock. But the reactions I got were all the same. A surprised face, a scared face, or the worst, disgusted.
“Why would you go there?”
“I can think of hundreds of places I would rather go”
“But it smells?”
Thanks for the support guys…
Their reactions scared me. What in the world was I doing? I started to freak out about getting kidnapped, getting shot; a million ways to not make it home alive. My excitement was slowly trickling down into the pit of my stomach, disguised as fear.
I had to remind myself of why I booked the flights in the first place.
India is home to billions of people who live out their daily lives in contented bliss. How rude of me to dismiss a full country because of what a few North Americans thought they knew. And since when did smell stop me from traveling? I was devoted to finding the beauty in this chaotic, colourful, and cultural country.
So did I make the right choice?
Everyday left me mentally exhausted. There is no rest between every situation you experience. This country is go – go – go. I cried. I laughed. I was frustrated. I was happy. No matter where you looked, you were confronted with crazy norms they see everyday. Some situations were laughable, like cows in the streets. Others broke my heart. Poverty like I’ve never seen before.
The streets are loud. I don’t think there was a second of my trip I spent in silence. Bustling through the narrow streets in a little Rickshaw, you pray for your safe arrival. You learn to go with the flow.
Instead of resisting the chaotic lifestyle you embrace it.
I was warned to trust nobody. While this statement is quite true for your own safety, I found everyone to be kind and helpful. If we got lost down the streets, we’d ask the local shopkeepers for help. Not once were we turned away. I never experienced anyone with wrong intentions.
The family who cared for me were a blessing. The moment I walked in their doors I was greeted as one of their own. My friend’s younger sister called me “didi” without hesitation, which means older sister. This family gave me so much love.
Each day was jam-packed with temples, and activities arranged by her mom. She wanted to give me the best experience possible, and that she did. Within just a month I saw more than what many backpackers fit into two months.
Everyday I was left speechless at the beauty I saw. The vast change in landscape between desert and Himalayas, to the beautiful mess of colour that enriches the streets. I forgot instantly all the fears I had before leaving for this trip. I soaked up everything I possibly could in the time I had.
Coming home I tried my best to explain my trip. It’s hard to verbalise the mix of emotions I had. I resorted to one word, “extreme”.
It described perfectly the spectrum of good and bad. I explained as best I could all that I saw. I wanted everyone at home to know how beautiful this country really was. I wanted all the doubters to know I really did enjoy myself, and that they were missing out.
If I had listened to all the negative comments and chosen not to go, I wouldn’t have experienced the wonderful hospitality India gave me. I wouldn’t have found my second family away from home.
I felt extremely satisfied that I went against the doubters here at home.
There is beauty everywhere in the world. India showed me just that, and I’m forever grateful.