October 8, 2016 5:55 am
A part of me is always reluctant to return to a country when we live in such a vast world. Each trip seems like a perfect opportunity to tick a country off my ever-growing list. However, when planning this trip, there was no doubt that we would be heading to India and I’d be spending at least 6 months in a country that I had previously visited.
India was the country where I cut my travelling teeth. It was my first trip outside of Europe and its sheer intensity blew my mind, and by the end I knew that travelling was going to be a huge part of my life. After that I became completely captured by the diverse subcontinent, almost too much in some cases as Rosie always likes to remind me of the times just after we met where I started almost every story with ‘This one time in India…’. So my choice to return was not purely based on the super cheap cost of travel and the fact Rosie hadn’t been before, but more that I had always known that I would return, to explore the places I missed and to experience the country again without any time constraints.
The destination might be the same but over the 3 years since my last visit I’ve changed from a naive but curious introvert to a much more open and adventurous traveller. And India, a country which never seems to stay still for a second, is ever-changing. I was excited to see how my relationship with India would develop this time.
India’s Hostel Boom
The first thing I noticed is that India has undergone a travel revolution over the past three years. As it’s slowly becoming a more established destination for western backpackers, combined with a huge growth in young domestic travellers (usually Mumbaikars), a new hostel scene has literally exploded. Three years ago there were only 2 hostels in India, both in Goa, but since then there has been a development of hostel chains, such as Zostel, and now there’s a hostel in almost every city. Although a part of me is sad that these hostels are now the go-to choice for travellers over family-run guesthouses, nothing is permanent, and the social aspect that hostels provide can be something special.
Embracing the chaos
Delhi can be an intense city on first visit, but after spending time in other crazy cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Manila I almost enjoyed the chaos this time around. Not being phased by its vivacity, on my second visit I was able to see the beauty behind the blaring horns and the smog, simple things like an old smiling Punjabi man sat amongst a crumbling house or sleeping rickshaw-wallah. For me these are the things that make India special and they’re so easy to miss.
Connecting with the local people
In india people are everywhere and so many of these beautiful people have stories to tell – it’s all about daring to ask. Travelling has helped me lose a bit of my innately British conservatism and made connecting and talking to the people of India that we meet on the street something we do now without question. The stories we hear and the photos we take are the inspiration for our #LocalFaces area of this blog.