So pt. 2 of my gap year began on the 3rd of January 2016 with a one stop flight from Manchester to Delhi. When you tell people you’re going to India most don’t sound impressed, their usual reaction is ‘India?’ ‘Is it safe?’ ‘What will you eat?’ ‘Don’t get Delhi belly’ ‘It’s a very dirty country’ ‘ON YOUR OWN?’. Very annoying, yes and also makes you start to question your decision to travel here, do not let your family change your mind, you’re doing this for you- not them. Don’t compromise your travel plans.
Okay so I have probably mentioned the look of disapproval on people faces when I told them I was travelling to India, and how they would list off all the struggles that supposedly come with travelling this part of the world. I knew not to let this get to me and it didn’t, I didn’t sit on the plane filled with fear of con-men and delhi belly. I was excited, of course, it was a new adventure, I knew there would be challenges and I was ready to face them. India doesn’t recipriate the horror stories your great uncle has told you. It’s different from the Western world, don’t get me wrong, but a sense of adventure and the ability to adapt to your surroundings will have you on your way on a journey full of excitement and wonder.
They say if you can travel India, you can travel anywhere and I feel like this is true, but travelling India was amazing, I got to learn so much historically and spiritually and most important- I had fun! Really I did, it’s an amazing country, unlike anywhere else you will ever go. I got to whizz round in ridiculously cheap tuk tuks, admire the Saris and Salwar Kameez, eat delicious food you can’t even imagine and even marvel at the magnificent Taj Mahal. So there, the first wonder of the world crossed off my bucket list and it was incredible. I actually got a little teary eyed when it came into sight, it is as gorgeous as they say. Anyone can have this experience, you just need to do a little research and keep your wits about you. There are hundreds of websites out there that will tell you in depth how to keep safe in India but i’m just gonna list the five three I found most valuable.
Go veggie. This may sound difficult and top different from your everyday lifestyle but you would not believe how easy this is. Alot of areas including Pushkar do not sell meat or eggs, you become accustomed to it so quickly. There’s no meat in prekoras, hummus, chick peas burgers or naan and this is basically what I lived off. Meat consumption in India is really really low, as most Hindus are against it. This means most restaurants keep meat well over its expiry date and aren’t experts on how to handle it, most people I knew who suffered from food poisoning did so because of dodgy meat. There is just no point risking it when it is so easy to go veggie.
Escape the cities. Whilst this is the main area for sight seeing, the true beauty of India lies in the villages and towns, also you may find the people here are much friendlier, you escape the guilt of rejecting beggars. We visited a small town called Tordi Sagar in the countryside of Rajasthan and spent the night in an old unused palace, which was incredibly cheap due to the fact there aren’t hundreds of tourists trying to book a room. We took a short ride to the nearest community where we met the kindest families who let us into their homes and showed us how happy they were living with next to nothing. The only time anything was requested of me was when the children asked for their photograph to be taken, their parents later told me the village had their first TV and the children wanted to be like Bollywood movie stars.
Remain calm. India is crazy, literally insane. The streets are filled with every type of transport you can imagine, the traffic is unbelievable and may seem infuriating when you could have walked faster. There are cows literally all over the place. The noise of the cities will make you feel deaf for half an hour, literal constant beeping of horns, like nothing I’ve ever heard before. But do not panic, keep your cool, just go with the flow, there’s no point making a fuss, give yourself time to adapt, laugh along. Indian people as a whole are extremely friendly and welcoming to tourists, they will understand that you’re not used to their chaotic way of life.If you don’t want to buy their crappy postcard just say no, don’t walk away feeling full of guilt and turning back round to see if they’re still there every two steps. Keep in mind that anything goes in India, prepare to be shocked, disgusted, amused and fascinated by the way of life.
Before you leave for India it will help to prepare yourself a little, maybe a lot. Stick to the basics, no dark alleys, don’t travel on your own, if something seems too good to be true walk away, oh, and don’t use tap water, not even to brush your teeth. But seriously, don’t fret, chances are it’ll be one of the best trips of your life and will change you as a person. If you want to go to India, ignore everyone who tells you otherwise, or tries to convince you not to. You’re going for yourself cos it’s gonna be you who grows and learns about this way of life, and about yourself, you are gonna be just fine!
PS. I would just like to make a quick note that this was hypothetical and my fam were actually super supportive of my gap year and my chosen destinations.