Admittedly, India was not the highest on my list for places to visit in 2017. Heck, it wasn’t even near the top of my list for places to travel in my life time. The common descriptions of India that I had heard from friends and family who had visited were these two sentences, “It’s dirty” and “You’ll poop yourself.” That’s why, when I received an email from Scott’s Cheap Flights alerting me that flights to Delhi were now $660, even I was surprised that I bought a ticket on such a whim.
When I called my Dad to let him know what I had just done the first words out of his mouth were, “Why would you want to do a crazy thing like that?” Honestly, I didn’t really have an answer for that at the time, but it was a new part of the world that I wanted to explore and explore it I shall. I recruited one of my close friends, Mollie, to come with me, who’s done some traveling herself, but had never been to the subcontinent either, but like me she liked to travel on a whim.
It’s a good thing I didn’t listen to my friend’s and family’s description of India, because India blew all my expectations out of the water.
Normally, I’m a very prepared traveler whenever I go on a backpacking trip. When I backpacked Europe in 2012 I had researched every city I was going to, hostels to stay in and read all the reviews, looked over the train schedules and how long it would take to get from city to city, and even the various scams that I might encounter along the way.
For India, I did none of that.
Mollie and I had figured out a route that we could conceivably fit into our two week schedule and see as much as we can, but the process of researching train travel and cities just either seemed too daunting of a task, or maybe just everything people had told me about India made me apathetic towards wanting to do research. Regardless, I was going into this trip more with the mindset that we would just try and figure it out along the way and hope it all worked out well.
The route we decided to go would take us across Northern India in the Rajasthan State: New Delhi to Jodhpur, Jodhpur to Pushkar, Pushkar to Jaipur, and then from there to Agra and back to New Delhi for our flight home.
The morning of our flight, I was still putting things in my pack and deciding what to bring and what not to bring. I always go with the strategy of overpacking just a little and figuring out what I didn’t need once the trip is over. In the end, I decided upon:
- Two pairs of hiking pants (I like the zipper pocket on the leg, it helps to hold money)
- A bathing suit and pair of linen shorts
- 5 shirts (3 quick dry, 2 cotton…and of course one of those was a cat shirt)
- 2 pairs of socks
- 2 pairs of underwear
- Hiking shoes
- Travel journal
- Cannon PowerShot
- Charges and converters
- Tons and tons of stomach medicine
- Tree of Smoke by Dennis Johnson (This book will be the death of me)
On the way to the airport, I think Mollie and I were both feeling a little nervous about the trip ahead. I felt nervous just because I felt unprepared and worried about the go with the flow game plan we had decided upon, and I assumed Mollie was also, but when I asked her she said, “I’m just worried I’m going to hate you after spending two weeks with you.”
Her concerns were valid.
Our flight was at 3:00 p.m. At the airport we had ourselves a couple of beers, settled in at the gate, and went over the itinerary that we had laid out and hoped that everything would work out for the best. We would arrive in Amsterdam 9 hours later, at 6:30 a.m. Amsterdam time, and have a 9 hour layover to go out and re-visit the city I started my backpacking trip in in 2012.
Once we arrived in Amsterdam, I found that I was still able to navigate throughout the town just on memory from my time there four years prior. It was actually pretty remarkable. I found the hostel I stayed at, the Flying Pig, and was able to take us to the city center and palace area with relative ease. Since it was still early, we had the unique opportunity to watch as the city woke up and everyone went about their daily routine as the city became alive. Little did we know, coming alive for the restaurants would take until about 10:00 a.m., so in the meantime we walked around for a bit exploring the canals and side streets, but eventually we found a little place to rest near a busy intersection and watched bikers as they made their morning commutes.
It was truly wonderful just sitting there and watching people from the other side of the world go about their daily routine as if we weren’t there. We must have sat there for a good hour, waiting for the coffee shops and restaurants to serve breakfast, just watching the world go by. Overall, it was just nice to stretch our legs before the next 8 hour leg of our journey.
We ended up having breakfast near the Red Light District, at a small cafe that offered croissants and coffee and still a spectacular view for people watching. After an hour of sitting there we decided it was best to get back to the airport, and took the train on the 20 minute commute back where we went through security again and proceeded to our gate.
Over the course of two weeks, Mollie and I transversed across the northern part of India by all modes of transportation: trains, planes, and automobiles to discover just a small glimpse of the beauty of India and what it had to offer, but more importantly, we discovered just how wonderful the people of India were throughout our entire trip. Everyday we discovered that the people more than anything were truly the most amazing part of our adventure, and showed more kindness and generosity than we had ever expected.
Next stop, Delhi.