How To Avoid Hitting a Traveler’s “Wall” in India
Generally, 2 -3 weeks on the ground is a decent time-frame to expose oneself to the captivating surroundings of India. Some tourists pop in just for a week, while others move in for 2, 3, even 6 months. One thing I know about most travelers to India, there comes a time when you hit a mental wall. You’re no longer interested in the food, you can’t bear to hear another note of Bhangra, and you’re plain ole tired of people staring at you.
Short of calling the airlines in the wee hours of the morning to reschedule your return ticket, when you’re most vulnerable, sit down with a nice cup of chai and a regroup session. The success of a trip to India requires some forethought. Ask yourself, what do I most want out of this trip? If it’s a great tan and parties, then your ticket had better be to Goa. If you’re on a full-service organized tour, refer to your travel agency for any tips they may have for you. Guide books, review sites, and advice from past travelers are always great assets for filling in itinerary gaps.
Why Did I Come to India?
- Recall the effort it takes, both emotionally and physically, to travel to India. Some tourists spend just a few hours on one plane, while myself, it takes 3 planes and nearly 24 hours to reach the Indian soil.
- What was it you most wanted to see?
If you haven’t already written this, do so now. Then ask yourself, have I seen this yet? Is it possible to see it? What steps have I taken to see this?
What is My Biggest Irritant?
- Are you homesick?
That’s completely normal. Take inventory of the people and things that mean so much to you in order to appreciate them more on your return.
- If traveling with a companion, are they not what you had hoped they would be as a traveler?
Find a time to share this with them. Most likely they are feeling the same but afraid to approach you. Be open-minded, both of you are in foreign territory. International travel sometimes brings out the worst in people.
- If traveling solo, are you not finding companionship along your way?
Nearly every large city or popular tourist destination has that one cafe or hot spot targeted toward FOPT’s (Fresh off the plane tourists). Find these places by way of guide books or word of mouth. I actually love these places. It brings a sense of security in new surroundings, a chance to make new friends, exchange helpful tips on where to buy TP or pot, and of course, where to go! Plus, you’d be amazed at the stories people share with you regarding their life.
How Am I Traveling?
- Did you book an organized group tour?
There will be people in a group tour, who, unfortunately, can be irritants not just to you but an entire group. So they’re not you’re cup of tea, move on. You paid too much money and traveled too far to let them spoil YOUR experience. Worst case, tell them how you feel. Maybe they just need some attention.
- Did you book an organized tour through a travel agency?
Indian agencies have a very good sense of what tourists are interested in as well as how many activities to schedule in a day. Is the pace moving too slow or too fast? With rare exceptions, your driver and/or travel agent will be more than happy to adjust the rate of sightseeing. Add more places to your list, skip the preplanned sites (knowing you may lose out on some prepaid entrance fees) or if needed, stay at the hotel for a rest day. Do not feel obligated to maintain a pace that does not best suit you. The travel agent wants your complete satisfaction, his referrals depend on it.
- Did you come to India with an open ticket and no itinerary?
Tourists arriving with an extended schedule are more likely to enjoy their stay with an itinerary that involves more than a few “must-see” locations. First things first, learn the bus system as well as the rail system. Once that is figured out you can navigate your way across the country with ease. This is a sweetheart chance to see more than any Indian will in their lifetime. Use the time wisely, research the places to see and nearby extensions which enhance the main experience. Learn to haggle on budget hotel rooms. Find like-minded friends who can share tips and travel successes. But do one thing above all. Don’t arrive with time to kill and no plans. You will hit a wall in no time. And remember, it’s always best to leave a place wanting more than to overstay potentially fond memories.
Helpful Ways to Get Past The Wall
- Tired of Indian food every day?
No worries, there are scores of restaurants around the country catering to multi-ethnic cuisine. Be sure to eat some comfort food along the way, or, pack snacks from home.
Take it easy. Drink plenty of bottled water. Bring along a 5-day course of Cirpo or other prescribed medication from your doctor. Lay low in the hotel until you’re on your feet again.
- Too hot?
Buy lighter weight clothing in the markets. Be sure to have a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. Ask the driver to use the A/C.
This is a must. Bring a pen and notebook. Get those thoughts, impressions, and ideas out of your head. Nothing wears a traveler out faster than an overactive mind.
How Do I Get Past My Wall?
I find a great hotel in the next city which can be a homestay or luxury property, take a hot shower, find a great meal of one of my favorite foods like aloo dum or malai kofta, pull out my guide book, and plan a full day of sightseeing for the next day. If I already have an itinerary planned, I add one or two new things in place of sights which may have lost my appeal since the beginning of my trip. I review my photos, make notes of what shots worked or didn’t work, and a list of what shots I’d like to have yet. I walk the market toward dusk when the merchants are packing up the road displays. I watch for the cows and stray dogs to gather near the vegetable stalls in hopes of a few precious scraps. I find an STD/ISO phone and call home (forget a mobile, nothing beats the crackle of a call made from a black-marked stained phone booth as the paan chewing attendant listens in). And then I fall asleep to the vanishing beeps and honks from the road outside knowing tomorrow I will be back to normal.