India is a place that both filled my heart to the brim and broke it in a hundred different ways and even sitting down to write this piece I feel conflicted about how to share my experience.
"A stint in India will beat the restlessness out of any living creature" - Yann Martel, Life of Pi.
I have a confession to make.
Although fortunate to experience many different countries and cultures across the world, for the first time ever I found myself voiceless (literally) standing on the smog of Delhi, alone, and ready to make that call, book that flight and run back with my tail between my legs to the place I safely call home.
Upon months of reflection I now completely understand when people say there is NOTHING like the functioning madness and enchanting beauty of India.
That India will get inside you, turn everything upside down and rip it right out of you.
Just when you thought you had worked through so many things on a personal level, perhaps you thought that you had developed patience, you will be put in a situation that makes you question everything you thought you knew about patience and everything you thought you knew about yourself. When you normally don’t sit in the emotion of anger, yet you find these feelings bubbling just under the surface and are unsure how to proceed with them for fear of exploding. When you thought you’d seen it all and shared all the compassion and empathy you could muster, something will be around the very next corner that will tear your heart in two and re-teach you everything you had begun to understand.
The colour in everything will never look the same. Taste and smell will be intertwined in the sweetest and deadliest way. Your hands will be dirty, your hair messy, your heart full. You’ve never been overloaded with information for every single second of every single moment like this before. Yet staring into those eyes deeper than the ocean, marvelling at that architecture and the ancient intricate designs, feeling the warmth and blessings coming from every direction will completely overwhelm you. Engulfed you. Consume you.
You will feet the heat (both in the country and in the food) the cows will wander beside you, monkeys will cheekily entertain you, the streets are rich, smelly and noisy; a feast for all of your senses. You will become lost beside millions of people in the crowd and you will feel like an outsider, yet transported to that familiarity of “home” in a mere moment.
Because you’ve never seen beauty like this before. Never felt that chaotic in your heart, mind and soul, yet so genuinely calm at the same time.
This is India. A place of vibrant explosion of colours and tradition, an oasis of culture and heritage, that will complete you and destroy you simultaneously, but keep you salivating for more.
Intrepid; fearless, adventurous, unafraid.
I am inspired to live an eventful life and I believe that’s something you need to work at constantly, to LIVE INTREPID. Live with an openness and bold curiosity, to discover new cultures with a healthy respect for difference.
By aligning myself with incredible organisations, who are committed to responsible travel, like Intrepid Travel I have been given the opportunity to head fearlessly into the unknown, to explore a place so different to everything I’ve ever known and to give back.
After six weeks on the road of exhilarating, but exhausting travel, I was met with so much kindness, amazing generosity and humility, which reminded again that human resilience; we can live in spite of our circumstances. From the North to the South, where smiles and gestures transcend language barriers, where the colours, sights and sounds ooze beauty in the most raw and totally bizarre way.
Months later I can still see the opulence and splendour of ancient ruins and stunning temples, the pale dusty sunrises and sunset, taste the spicy curries and sweet chai teas, smell the exotic bazaars, hear the morning calls and sounds of the wild jungle, the beaches and backwaters, and the lush landscapes that make up this intriguing and incredibly stunning sub-continent.
A land full of contrasts - definitely not the India you see on all postcards.
There is no other country on the planet that forces its way into your heart, like India.
Thank you Intrepid Travel for the most unforgettable journey.
To my travel companion, and beautiful friend Camilla -- thank you for meeting me on a whim, travelling with me, waking up at crazy hours of the morning for photos (and helping me with them), enduring those long overnight train rides, for all the sing-a-longs, the burst of spontaneous dancing, sharing all the meals, all the local buses, tuk tuk rides and boats, for the sunrises and sunsets - you were by my side.
I am so grateful; India wouldn’t have been the same without you.