Lessons Learned After 3 Months in India

We probably learned more in 3 months of travel in India than 6 months of travel anywhere else. Our introduction to long-term travel was like a sink or swim crash course and we feel like we passed the test pretty well. While there were definitely some moments where we thought we might throw in the towel early (2 weeks in on the beach in Goa we were fantasizing about being back in San Diego), for the most part we loved our entire time in India and are so glad we started our trip there.

So, after 3 months backpacking through India here are our top “lessons learned”:

  • It’s true, we can buy anything, anywhere – With the exception of specialty products (like my Toric contact lenses) we were able to get everything we needed on the road, in most cases for much cheaper than at home. It was nice to realize we didn’t need to stock up everything and travel like pack mules.
  • Pack light, then pack lighter – We read all the blogs that said to buy small backpacks and to cut our stuff in half before setting off. While I think we started out better than most (we each carried an Osprey Porter 46 @ 9.5kgs each) we still ended up shipping stuff home halfway through India.
Make-up Bag

My make-up bag was one of the first things to go! Who needs make-up when you’re always tan? 🙂

  • We have the most fun when we’re true to ourselves – Sure we’ve noticed small changes in ourselves already and our priorities have begun to shift, but we’re still pretty much the same Adam and Danielle who boarded that first flight in January. So while we don’t mind going out of our comfort zones and expanding our horizons (after all that’s the whole point of travel), we worked too hard to spend our trip doing things we don’t like simply because they fit in the category of ‘must do/see’. And along those same lines…
While our driver, Lalu, was very nice we quickly realized that we should have stuck with our gut to avoid long, guided tours. One week into our tour we cancelled and did the rest of Northern India on our own.

While our driver, Lalu, was very nice we quickly realized that we should have stuck with our gut to avoid long, guided tours. One week into our tour we cancelled and did the rest of Northern India on our own.

  • We’re not willing to be travel martyrs – We met so many travelers along the way who, in the name of being ‘authentic backpackers’, forced themselves into miserable situations (why?!). We are all for living frugally and not spending more than we have to, but if we spend the whole time sleep deprived, uncomfortable and miserable then what’s the point? A few days here and there are a necessary evil of a trip around the world, but it doesn’t have to be a daily state. This may be blasphemy to some other travelers and I welcome them to come and revoke our “backpacker cards”.
Sometimes you need a break from the hectic city. A few hours of wifi and a Starbucks Green Tea did the trick!

Sometimes you need a break from the hectic city. A few hours of wifi and a Starbucks Green Tea did the trick!

  •  We still need vacations – After a couple weeks treading water through Maharashtra we arrived in Goa. Our planned 1 week stay quickly became 3 weeks as we rested and recovered from the huge culture shock. At first I felt guilty, like we were wasting time and not experiencing our real trip, but afterwards I realized that those three weeks in Agonda saved our trip. It allowed us the time we needed to collect ourselves and properly prepare for the remaining 2 months through India. (We ended up taking a similar ‘vacation’ during our Morocco stop in the awesome town of Essaouira).
Ahhh Agonda, how we loved you!

Ahhh Agonda, how we loved you!

  • The 1 Month Theory – After speaking with a lot of travelers along the way we developed a theory about independent travel through India. We’re convinced that most people who come to India for less than 1 month end up hating their time in the country and those who stay for 1 month+ like their time, or at least look back fondly on it once they have returned to the comfort of the developed world. For the most part, we found that at about the two week mark most travelers, including ourselves, hit the ‘culture shock’ rock bottom. Wherever people seemed to be around that time was without fail the place they hated most. Obviously there will be exceptions (Andy), but across the board we found this to be true among the dozens of travelers we met on the road.
  • Not everyone gets sick in India, hah! – I’m not sure how we managed it but we made it through India totally unscathed and stomachs intact. We’re convinced this had to do with the fact that for the first month we religiously took our anti-malarial pills (doxy), which also happen to be a mild antibiotic. While we became lazy about it during the second half we think that getting through that first month gave our stomachs the chance to slowly ease into India. Whatever the reason was, we are the proof that Delhi-belly is not an inevitability! (As I upload this post, 3 months later…I know we suck at keeping up with the blog…I’m proud to report we are still on a roll!)
We ate on the street and in local spots and never got sick. Take that Delhi Belly!

We ate on the street and in local spots and never got sick. Take that Delhi Belly!

  • The people are the best part – Whether it’s locals or other travelers, everyday we meet someone new. We’ve (mostly) only crossed paths with amazing people and have really enjoyed the time we got to spend with them. While more often than not they turn out to just be ‘single serving friends’ we’ve been lucky along the way and have developed some true friendships. Plus with Facebook it’s so easy to keep in touch and it’s really fun following along on their adventures. It’s funny how fast people can go from being total strangers to lifelong friends!
The staff at Simrose in Agonda were amazing and we are happy to call Ajay and Dinesh friends!

The staff at Simrose in Agonda, Goa were amazing and we’re happy to call Ajay and Dinesh friends! Hopefully we’ll be invited to Nepal soon for a wedding 🙂

Not only were Mike and Madison the first Americans we met in India, but they also got married at The Winfield Inn...how crazy! They will definitely be long time friends!

Not only were Mike and Madison the first Americans we met in India, but they also got married at The Winfield Inn…how crazy! They will definitely be long time friends!

We got to spend the day with our driver's family. It was great to meet them and see how they lived.

We got to spend the day with our driver’s family. It was great to meet them and see how they lived, plus the lunch they served was delicious!

We also got invited back to one of our tour guides home for some delicious tea. The whole family came out to see the white people :)

We also got invited back to one of our tour guides home for some delicious tea. The whole family came out to see the white people 🙂

We met this couple from Mexico on a market tour in Mumbai.

We met this couple from Mexico on a market tour in Mumbai.

We first met Marion and Kevin on the front porch of our hotel in Fort Cochin. When we randomly ran into them again in Udaipur we decided to play Holi together :)

We first met Marion and Kevin on the front porch of our hotel in Fort Cochin. When we randomly ran into them again in Udaipur we decided to play Holi together 🙂

Deepak was our tour guide in Delhi. Despite being young (early 20's) he was so smart and grounded and we loved spending the day with him!

Deepak was our tour guide in Delhi. Despite being young (early 20’s) he was so smart and grounded and we loved spending the day with him!

We clicked immediately with Andy and Michelle at our Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh! Even though they're from Canada we still count them as friends :)

We clicked immediately with Andy and Michelle at our Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh! Even though they’re from Canada we still count them as friends 🙂

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