Being an adventurous traveller my whole life, a trip to India was definitely on my list. However, it wasn’t near the top. In January last year, two friends of mine who I had not travelled with before suggested a trip to India on a group tour in the summer. Usually, I’m one to have my travels planned out a year in advance, although this year was different. My parents were going on their yearly Florida trip with my aunt and uncle, I was also newly single, therefore I wasn’t going to be travelling with my then-boyfriend and a lot of my friends were either saving for a house or had other plans to travel with family or their other halves. It was the first time in a long time that I had no set plans or any of my regular travel buddies to go with.
After doing my usual research into a new trip I suddenly felt overwhelmed with so much information on India, mostly mixed reviews. My two main concerns, Delhi belly and travel sickness. However, after two long months of researching and asking everyone, I knew on advice, all I got was “go for it” so in the end I eventually decided to go for it.
Fast forward to June, it was the big day. My friends and I travelled to Dublin to catch our flight to Heathrow then from Heathrow onto New Delhi. When we touched down in Delhi, it was hot, 45 degrees hot. As we walked through the airport to the exit to find the transfer to our hotel we received constant stares, from men and women. It was slightly uncomfortable although nothing we were not warned about. When we arrived at our hotel there was nothing we wanted more than a good sleep.
The next morning, we got up, dressed and took ourselves to a room on the 3rd floor to meet our tour guide and tour group. The tour group consisted of many women from all over the world, two English, three Australian’s, one American and two from Northern Ireland, which made a total of five Northern Irish girls including myself and my two friends (typical Irish I suppose) and last but not least, there was one boy. Daniel from Canada, and what two weeks he had as the only boy. But thankfully, our tour guide Joy was there to help give him a much-needed man to man chat when he needed it.
Giving his introduction and an overview of what we will be visiting on the tour, our tour guide Joy said one thing that stuck with us all. “If you have no patience you will not enjoy your time in India, but with patience, you will have the greatest time” This was something we all could not quite understand until towards the end of our trip.
Starting in the madness of Delhi, our first day consisted of a walking tour to visit India gate. The following day we then headed to Pushkar, a beautiful desert city where we opted for a camel ride into the desert that afternoon and enjoyed entertainment, dinner and my new favourite hot drink Chai Tea. The next city we arrived too was Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and also known as the “Pink City” where we enjoyed sightseeing around Amber Fort and the Palace of the Winds. From Jaipur, we then headed to the Muslim city of Agra home to the Taj Mahal. Our tour guide insisted we go at 3 am, to catch a glimpse before the thousands of people descended in. This was by far one of the highlights, seeing this magnificent landmark of architecture in the sunrise and feeling like we were the only people there. That night, 13 hours later on an overnight train we arrived at the last and final stop of our trip of India, Varanasi. Home to the sacred Ganges River. Our time was spent touring along the Ghats and the old city, exploring temples and an afternoon boat tour where we got the opportunity to witness the candle flower ceremony.
When people ask me now why I was so scared about booking India, I cannot seem to answer them as it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It honestly changed my perspective on life, what I was grateful for and what truly mattered. Throughout the tour we saw people with absolutely nothing, living in the slums yet they were the happiest, kindest people you will ever meet. The food, which I was so worried about became some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. To our amazing tour guide and group, the crazy commutes, the lack of personal space and the chaos, oh the chaos. It was everywhere, on the roads to the streets there was so many people, animals and rickshaws. Yet everything was so surprisingly functional and worked well in the Indian way of culture. The sights alone are enough to travel to India, from the Taj Mahal to the Ganges River. It truly is a land of beautiful animals, history and desert landscapes. Last but not least, getting to know life in Indian time meant having patience and learning to relax and go with the flow, something that everyone should learn to do when life gets a little overwhelming.
Kirby Axon is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram: Kirby-Axon and LinkedIn: kirbyaxon