“One’s destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
After “what was it like?”, the second most popular question we’ve been asked about our trip was “would you go back?” We’ve asked ourselves the same thing many times.
This was the first trip we’ve ever taken where upon our return we were not already planning what we’d do the next time we went. We’ve always so thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on all of our vacations, even the places that had some challenges–Morocco, Belize–we had pretty much fallen in love with by the time the plane took off for home.
Because we do so much planning and research before any trip–a wonderful part of any vacation for us–we form a mental picture. We imagine ourselves there, walking around, visiting the sights, eating, relaxing. We anticipate how much we’ll enjoy it.
But India was different. India is a place where all your planning goes out the window when you arrive. Everything takes longer than you think, or is slightly more difficult to accomplish than you thought it would be. It’s an overwhelming place, in the fullest sense of that word. And perhaps because of this, because the reality was so vastly different than that mental image we had, much of our trip felt off-kilter, as though we had no idea what would come next. Even while we were enjoying ourselves, seeing amazing things, DOING amazing things, we had this unsettled feeling of having no clue.
Our friends in Delhi, Rick and Kirsty and Eva, are in the process of packing up to move back home to Scotland. Their time in India (nearly five years) is over, and they are ready, more than ready, to leave. I can totally understand that; visiting India is not the same as living there. Dealing with the frustrations–and there ARE many–every single day could wear you down (not to mention the honking!), and no matter how much we look back on our trip fondly now, I’m fairly certain there will be no Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in our retirement.
But I’m so, so glad we went. With every trip, we learn something. We learn about where we’re visiting, of course, but we also learn about ourselves. Our view of the world changes with each new city or country, with each encounter, good or bad or frustrating or delightful.
What we learned about India, and Nepal, is that you just have to take things as they come. If you miss one thing, you see something else. Challenges turn into opportunities. Getting lost looking for a bridge becomes a walk through market streets teeming with goods you can sometimes identify. A crazy 45- minute cab ride on a hot day with a driver who spoke no English, turned into an impromptu stop in a posh hotel bar and an excellent conversation with the manager about cricket. Sitting in a tuk-tuk in traffic that never, ever stops honking, offers a close-up view of cows and families of four on mopeds and bicycles loaded to cartoonish proportions. A long, tiring walk to the car means passing children on their way home from school.
If you have the slightest inclination to visit India, do. I can’t promise it will be easy, or necessarily relaxing every single moment. But you will have the experience of a lifetime.