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.
- 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…
- 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”.
- 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).
- 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!)
- 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!