“So, where was your favourite place?” is the most common question I’m asked about my travels. I always give the same reply: “India”. And then I find myself struggling to find the words to sum up why I loved this incredible place so much.
India was the first place I traveled to. It was where my great adventure began. I will never forget walking out of the airport in Delhi, strapped into my backpack, alone, and trying to take in all of the craziness around me. And there is a LOT of craziness to absorb in Delhi.
India is everything you imagine it would be: Thousands of people moving through the streets seemingly as one; boys playing cricket wherever they can find a ‘good’ spot (next to a busy road, the middle of a roundabout, the banks of the Ganges); women in brightly coloured saris working in lush green fields; the most terrifying traffic in the world; cows everywhere, and I mean everywhere; not to mention the endless temples, palaces, lakes and jungles.
But India is also one of the toughest places to travel. It’s not all lounging on sunbeds while sipping from a coconut, although this is possible if that’s what you’re looking for. Getting ill is one major downside, and one that puts off a lot of people. It’s quite likely you will get some form of tummy troubles and you do have to be careful not to get dehydrated.
You will also come face to face with a level of poverty that you just don’t see in Western countries. It can be incredibly moving, but also hard to comprehend. It is a place of great extremes.
I remember looking out of the window on a bus ride from Delhi to Jaipur and feeling the most overwhelming sense of happiness. I loved the chaos. I loved the landscape. I loved the endless car horns. I loved how there appeared to be no rules and yet somehow everything seemed to work. I loved the people. I loved it all.
People who have spent time in India talk about the culture shock they feel and I think this is ultimately what I loved about the place. As someone from a Western country, it’s about as far away as you can get from everything you know – and that’s exactly where I wanted to be.