When in India
When travelling to a new destination, I always like to ask for the advice of those who have walked the path before me, especially to find out what they enjoyed most about their trip and if there are any pointers I should make note of before departure. I've recently come home to Sydney after a whirlwind trip to India, and sitting down to write about my time away was much harder than I had anticipated! When looking back, I realised that I have so much to write down and so many stories to tell. So I thought I would begin with this, India 101 - for those of you who might be thinking of venturing to this wild part of the world.
You can never be too prepared... Being the organiser I am, I think of every possible outcome that could happen before it’s happened. When you’re in a country where things can sometimes work backwards, it’s best to be one step ahead. Have emergency numbers with you at all times, make sure you’ve told your bank you are heading overseas and keep the address of your hotel on you if you need to ask for directions.
Hydralyte and hand sanitiser will be your saving grace... It is vital in India to only drink bottled, filtered water. But even the bottled water can be stripped of nutrients. I highly recommend drinking at least one bottle of water with added Hydralyte to make sure you are always hydrated. On top of sweating and if your stomach hasn’t been 100%, you will feel better adding back those lost salts and minerals from your body. Hand sanitiser doesn’t need too much explanation. It comes in handy at those times when you have touched all sorts of different surfaces and things.
When in doubt, go vegetarian. I absolutely LOVED the food in India! Some people find it too rich but I adored the combinations of spices and flavours (more about my foodie experience soon). But I would highly recommend eating vegetarian as much as you can. While there is always the inevitable ‘Delhi Belly’ it’s best not to test fate and stay clear of anything that could potentially ruin your trip. As long as you’re eating food that has been cooked and has been heated well you should be ok. NO street food! Most of the restaurants cook with mineral water. When in doubt eat naan bread, have a mango lassi or chai tea (the best I’ve ever had!).
But don’t be scared of the food. One of the Gypsettes hated Indian food before our trip and is now converted!
Sometimes you just have to trust It’s not easy to trust a stranger. There is always a risk of being ripped off or being told false information. When we arrived at the Taj Mahal a tour guide approached us offering his help. My instincts flared up and I automatically chose not to trust him. After letting my guard down he ended up being the highlight of our visit to the Taj. He showed us all the best spots to take photos and fended off any onlookers who were trying to take pictures of us (You would think they would want to take pictures of the Taj Mahal, not us! How ironic!)
You can’t always be in control. Relax and enjoy the ride... We were so excited for our camel safari in the desert. But 20 minutes into our trek, dark blue-black clouds started to descend on us. All of a sudden it went from calm to torrential rain! After being picked up by our jeep, we were taken to our campsite. Pitch black, completely drenched, cold and hungry, we huddled around a small campfire on top of our swags wishing we were celebrating under the stars instead. I suddenly found I was not enjoying myself. I was out of my comfort zone and I didn’t know what we were doing. It wasn’t until one of our guides from the desert handed me a small ball of dough he had been kneading and asked if I would make chapatti with him. He showed me the way to work the dough so it would form a flat pancake shape. Instantly I snapped out of my slump. Chloe! You are in the Indian wild making chapatti with a man from the desert! And it made me realise – if you get stuck on what you think ‘should’ happen, you might miss out on what is already happening around you. The real magic happens outside of your comfort zones.
An oldie but a goodie… appreciate what you already have. We live in a very privileged part of the world. We can turn the lights on with a flick of a switch; we have drinkable running water, a variety of foods to choose from, and abundant opportunities to travel. We have options. Sometimes we're quick to forget that some people don’t.
Be happy with what you have. Be grateful for the small things.
Travel does indeed change you. Take a trip outside the box you live in. Even if it’s to a suburb you haven’t been to. It’s a lovely world out there; go exploring!
Thank you to Rebecca Hannaford for the stunning photography