This is a guest post from Emma Holliday on India. I’ve yet to visit India and honestly, I am not sure I want to. It continues to rise and fall on my ‘travel list’ for various reasons. What do you think? Have you been? Here’s Emma’s take on how hard it is to describe:
Frequent travelers will probably agree that “how was your trip?” is a difficult question to answer. Often the questioner will be satisfied by a response like, “oh, I loved [insert lovable place here],” but I don’t enjoy giving vague answers. And then, of course, some trips are harder to describe than others. Last month, I spent three weeks traveling around northwest India on a tour organized by Wandering Earl, and I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more difficult time summing up an experience.
Lisa even emailed me asking me to describe India in one sentence and I completely ignored her question because I just didn’t have an answer (Sorry Lisa!).
Maybe I’m the only traveler who struggles with this. Maybe I’m just not a succinct person. Maybe India refuses to be described in brief. Maybe I should get on with it and tell you something about my trip?
India was loud and crowded and there were days when walking down the street amazed me, and days when it overwhelmed me. Sometimes the autorickshaw drivers weaved in and out of traffic so recklessly that I gasped audibly. I used to make fun of my mother for doing this when she was startled, but apparently, I’ve now picked up the habit.
I witnessed beautiful, sacred moments — a family setting a boat made of banana leaves and filled with flowers adrift on the Ganges River. And I witnessed beautiful, profane moments — a monk walking down the street with his dog. And sometimes moments refused to be just one or the other — my tour group was enjoying lassis topped with fresh fruit and nuts when a group of men walked by carrying a body wrapped in an orange shroud down to the river to be cremated.
Traffic in India really does stop for cows, although not everyone reveres them and I saw more than one person smack the animals to get them to move. I found out monkeys look cute from a distance, but have shriveled, sly faces when you get closer. I even saw an elephant on a street corner in New Delhi, but I was so shocked I didn’t get a photograph.
I saw the most iconic building in India, and it’s as beautiful as you’ve always heard. It’s also as full of tourists as you’ve always heard, but that shouldn’t deter you.
Sometimes India made me laugh. Sometimes India made me think. On more than one occasion, India made me sick. Over the course of my trip, I took nearly 2,000 photos of architecture, people, food, animals – beautiful things and ugly things and things I don’t remember why I thought to photograph.
As I’m sure you’re aware, India is an enormous country and I only got a taste of it in 3 weeks but, all the same, I’m hopeful that my introduction to India can also serve as your introduction to India. Unless of course you’ve been to India already, in which case, let’s hear you describe your experience in one sentence in the comments. For the rest of you, I’m writing two more posts about India for LLworldtour, so maybe by the time I’m done with them you’ll finally know how my trip was.
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Emma Holliday is a freelance writer and travel blogger who likes drinking tea, petting puppies, and analyzing representations of women in media. When she’s not busy wishing she were a polyglot, she’s backpacking Europe, working on an organic farm in Hawai’i, or planning her next misadventure. Read more of Emma’s writing on her blog, An Opportune Moment.
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You are not alone with these feelings. I’ve been to India 10+ times and have spent over 2.5 years there and still, there is no way I could describe this country in one sentence. However, that’s also what makes this country fascinating in its own way…there is no one way to describe it because the experiences that any traveler has will always be so diverse in every aspect and if you were to return, you’d have completely different experiences as well. So it goes with India but it does make one think and thinking about life and how others live is certainly healthy.
On a side note, it was certainly a pleasure having you on the trip and those lassis look even better than I remember!
It was a pleasure to be on the trip! Thanks for leaving this thoughtful comment. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels at a loss for how to describe India, although I can’t say I’m surprised. India definitely made me think and I do hope to go back and have more diverse, confusing, wonderful, etc. experiences there. Thanks for introducing me to your favorite country!
It’s always interesting to me to hear everyones “take” on India. But apparently, I’m still scared to go! The most common sentence I hear is “it’s an assault on the senses.”
The truth is I only asked Emma for a sentence because I knew how busy she was having just returned. And I didn’t want her to feel obligated to write a bunch in an email to me since she was about to write a series of posts on it for me! 🙂 I’ve trained myself to stop telling people about my trips because ultimately they can read about it!
That makes perfect sense, believe me and for most countries on the planet, we could all come up with a sentence to describe it. And I’m sure some people can for India but in a way I’m glad that Emma couldn’t…that just means she had a more complete experience because the more you see and experience over there, the more confusing it gets!
If you ever do decide to go one day, definitely let me know and I can help out with any questions you may have 🙂
I know you only asked me to describe India in one sentence because you didn’t want to give me more work to do. The question stumped me though, and it ended up inspiring this post, so, thanks for that!
It’s been 3 years since I was in India and I STILL have trouble summing it up for people. She is an enigma to be sure.
An enigma, indeed. Good to know I’m not the only one who can’t summarize India!
Emma I loved reading this, and you’re definitely not the only person who has trouble being succinct (how can I describe a country, city, anywhere with one sentence?). I haven’t been to India, and like Lisa it’s kind of gone off and on my radar for a while. I can’t wait to read about the rest of your experience there. I’ve heard India isn’t the easiest country to visit, so I would imagine trying to write about it can’t be easy either.
Wow! This really says it all and shows what a wonderful trip it was, “Sometimes India made me laugh. Sometimes India made me think. On more than one occasion, India made me sick. Over the course of my trip, I took nearly 2,000 photos of architecture, people, food, animals – beautiful things and ugly things and things I don’t remember why I thought to photograph.”
Maybe I just needed 4 sentence to summarize this trip! Thank you for leaving such a nice comment — it’s always flattering to have your article quoted back to you 😉
My husband and I recently spent two weeks in Rajasthan and Delhi (my blog posts: http://www.unearththeworld.com/category/countries/india/) and it was truly amazing. Although India was one stop on a 9 month journey, it is there that I experienced my trip’s highest highs and lowest lows.Great post and beautiful pictures!
I haven’t gone to India but reading your article I now have glimpse of what is the life there.
I’m glad my article served its purpose and provided a glimpse of India, however small.
Mary @ Green Global travel
It is always so intriguing to hear people describe their experiences in and relationship to India which so frequently seem to be intense and even passionate, and often like yours in that they are very mixed. India sounds as though it is different , if always profound, for every person and in every moment!
Loz in Transit
In a particularly challenging place a local once told me “It’s an adventure isn’t it?”. When I nodded in agreement she added – “and we’re all on it!”.
This interaction I think best sums up travel and life. I’m sure it sums up the Adventure that is India also.
Wonderful photos and a lovely written post!
I found this site when I was searching for some tourist feedback on India for a local magazine that I was working it, and this post amazed me.
You are not alone when you are at lack of words to explain India. I was born and brought up over here(22 years and still counting!) and still I am not sure how to define it.
India can be quite overwhelming to the tourists and sometime, even to the locals. We are ourselves not sure why somethings happen when they do. We are wired in our own way and sometimes reading someone else’s opinion about our country can give some insight to what we really are.
So thank you for your lovely description. It definitely takes a lot of patience to understand a country and its values that are truly different from yours.
It is very difficult to describe India. India is one who is a combination of Most traditional and some modern culture.