“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
One month from today we’ll get on a plane heading for India (well, by way of London first). If you’ve been following our blog these past seven months or so you know how much research and planning have gone into this trip, not only because it will be the longest vacation we’ve ever taken, but also the most complex and exotic destination.
Until now, much of our research has been “big picture” sort of stuff: choosing which cities to visit, finding hotels, getting planes and trains booked, obtaining visas. But now, a little over four weeks out, we are spending a lot of time looking through the various guidebooks, websites and articles on each city, and trying to work out a rough day-by-day itinerary.
When you tell people you’re visiting London, or New York, or Dublin, nobody asks why. Those are places nobody questions. There’s no “why on earth would you go to there?” looks from your friends and family. But India is different. When we first told people of our travel plans, reactions were varied but universally centered around a theme: “Why India?”
Our first instinct is to say “Why not?”, but that’s no answer. Why indeed? Why would we choose to get vaccinated, fly halfway around the world, suffer jet lag, and risk stomach illness to visit a place that by many travelers’ accounts is crowded, dirty and utterly overwhelming to the senses?
Perhaps it’s not enough to say that India is the largest democracy in the world; home to one of the oldest civilizations; is an amazingly diverse and multiethnic country; is one of world’s fastest growing economies. All very valid reasons to visit India.
But still. Why India?
We travel to India for the same reasons and with the same goals we have when visiting Paris, or Portland, or Prague: To taste the food, hear the language, see the sights, meet the people. To have our understanding of the world expanded, challenged; to challenge ourselves.
But back to the itinerary. We are well aware that on any vacation, to any country, even the best laid plans can go awry because of illness, a missed connection, bad weather. I suspect this risk is tripled when visiting India, where I’m sure things will be thrown off course by things we cannot even predict yet. But having at least a starting list of things we hope to see, with a general sense of what we might fit into each day, makes us feel at least a wee bit in control.
It will probably all go out the window once we land. And that’s OK with us, because we’ll be busy answering the “Why India?” question for ourselves…
We’ll write more about our city itineraries in future posts, but in the meantime, if you’ve been to Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur or Kathmandu, are there particular sights in those cities you would highly recommend?