I fell for India. Hard.
There. I said it. I adored India.
Prior to our trip there, Tim and I spent a fair amount of time preparing ourselves for the worst. Many of the articles we'd read, many of the stories we heard, and many of the images we saw indicated that India would be unlike anything we had experienced to date. There were numerous signs along the way which pointed to the difficulty that traveling in India can present. We researched and worried and wondered so much that we half expected to be presented with an apocalyptic state.
But what we were met with wasn't anything of the sort. Every place we visited, every train station we waited in, every alley we wandered down, every restaurant we ate at, every place we stayed the night, every person we met was welcoming. There was never a point we felt unsafe. We didn't encounter poverty any worse than some other places we've been. We never saw any malnourished or aggressive street animals. We weren't ripped off, scammed, or worse. The water bottles we purchased weren't tampered. The auto rickshaw guys never changed their price upon reaching the destination. We were never told a sight was closed or certain routes were blocked. We had no trouble booking train tickets on our own at the train station. The few touts we did encounter weren't aggressive. There were no rats, cockroaches, or bed bugs in the hotels we slept in. We did not have bad Indian food in India. And we didn't even get Delhi Belly.
Whereas much of our time before visiting India was spent preparing for the worse, some of our time in India was spent wondering when the other shoe would drop. But drop it never did.
Instead we helped a few new friends practice their English. We posed in photo after photo with Indian families. We made grandmothers giggle by asking them "How are you?" in Hindi. We learned about Indian weddings and cricket and castes and Bollywood. We drove through a gorgeous countryside. We fell asleep to the sound of the train on the track. We heard a heartbreaking story about a love marriage. We were given numerous travel suggestions, blessed wishes, and email addresses. We walked past cows and camels, monkeys and dogs, donkeys and oxen. We went to see a movie in Hindi without subtitles and were moved to tears. We shook more hands than I can count. We met schoolteachers and students. We shared photos and laughter and stories. We watched a community dance performance and heard poetry. We drank tea and lime juice and ate with our right hand. We watched the sun set over palaces and the sun rise over cities. We explored ancient caves, little neighborhoods, and bustling markets. We experienced so many firsts and saw sights that easily rival the most beautiful places we've seen in the world. And all along the way we never felt more at home.
During our round-the-world trip, it took me five visits over six months before I enjoyed Bangkok. I fully expected India to be a similar challenge for me. But not once did I hate it. Not once did I want to leave. Not once would I have changed a thing.
I know we were barely there. I know it would be very different traveling as a single woman. And perhaps we were just extra giddy because it was our honeymoon. But I adored India, every minute of it, and I can't wait to return again and again.
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