I don't know about you, but I find vacations cliché. When people take vacations, they usually end up in the Bahamas, Aruba, Hawaii, or some other sandy, tropical, seaside, beachy location. While these places are great for relaxation and re-charging, I've never been a beach person. In fact, I get restless if I'm idle for too long. I like adventure and challenge, which is why I recently visited India for my annual two-week break from my daily routine.
India isn't a typical vacation spot. India is a very hot and humid place in the summer and subject to unpredictable rain during monsoon season. The city life in Delhi is akin to that of New York City, although with more honking horns and more infrastructure challenges. Poverty is prevalent, and people stare at you mercilessly (albeit not in a threatening way) if you're not Indian. Despite some shortcomings, India is a glorious place rich in history, food, art, architecture, and tradition. Delhi, which is where I spent most of my time, has been the capital of multiple civilizations. It's a rich city sprawling with the old and new, the tame and the crazy.
India's unpopularity as a vacation spot made it more appealing to me. I didn't want an easy vacation. I wanted the unusual. I went to India to expose myself to the unknown and to challenge myself physically and mentally. I went to India (specifically to Delhi and Agra) not knowing much about Indian culture, the language, or the people. I had the privilege of staying with my Indian friend and his family. Although I was accompanied by a familiar face, staying in an Indian home in an unfamiliar place was challenging.
For one, most Indians speak Hindi in their daily lives. I don't speak Hindi, which made social situations awkward. Thankfully, the people I met during my trip were very warm and welcoming. Secondly, the food is to die for, but you'll literally feel like you're dying during the first few days because of the pungency (i.e. spiciness). Also, India is rife with poverty that's starkly different from poverty seen in developed countries. As someone from the West, that level of poverty made me feel uneasy.
Despite some uneasiness, my time in India was one that I'll never forget. From the stray monkeys and cows, to the tight streets of Old Delhi, to the jaw-dropping view of the Taj Mahal, to the warmth of the Indian people that made my stay worthwhile, I consider this trip the most interesting I've had so far. In the end, I feel more resilient, enlightened, and mentally sound than ever before. I also feel more open to new people and new experiences. That's why I travel. I don't travel for passport stamps or bragging rights. I travel to be transformed, inspired, and enlightened. I travel to be thrown into a world of uncertainty only to come out stronger, more knowledgeable, and more compassionate in the end.
I'll end with a quote from a blog that I read recently that I think sums up my vacation.