Travel can be one of those things that we always promise ourselves we’ll do, but far too often it’s a promise we break…
We put travel on the back burner then, years later, wonder why we never made the time when we had it. After all, there’s always a good enough excuse to justify why next year will just be better. Unfortunately, “next year,” is a mindset not a time frame.
To me, travelling is the pact you make with yourself to ensure you don’t let life get away from you. It’s the privilege you get to be able to watch the news and challenge someone’s biased opinion on a nation they’ve never been to which you know personally.
Just a little while back, I got to be a part of Intrepid’s 15-day Delhi to Kathmandu tour. This is a trip that offers you the opportunity to wave goodbye to your comfort zone, while linking arms with your fellow participants, and an incredible tour leader. This trip facilitated the perfect opportunity for personal growth on a number of levels. Let’s not forget, travel is powerful.
I’d never been on an Intrepid tour before, nor done any major group travel at all, so I was a bit apprehensive – but I quickly learned there was no need. Intrepid’s philosophy is all about authenticity, and that’s right in line with mine as well.
Now, it’s easier to never get on that plane – from Toronto, in my case – and find out for yourself what a place an ocean away from you is all about. But the easy path isn’t always the right path. It was John Shedd who so wisely noted, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
Meeting new people
In our minds, we face obstacles alone… but often that just isn’t the reality, and especially not in the case of an Intrepid tour. I found that my group mates become something of a family while we were experiencing India and Nepal together. There’s a bond that everyone has in facing the same challenges and basking in the same beautiful moments. I’ve travelled solo extensively in my life, but I’ve got to admit, there was something special about seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time and knowing I could look to my right and left and see a new friend’s eyes, equally in awe.
I also loved that there was no prototypical “Intrepid traveller.” My group mates were of all ages and from all over the world. There were couples, fathers and daughters, solo adventurers, and everything in between. It was an eclectic and enjoyable mix to say the very least!
Honestly, within 24 hours, these “new” people don’t seem so new at all. To loop back to that initial analogy, you’re all aboard that same aforementioned ship, and you’ve got the best captain possible, in the form of an Intrepid local leader. My tour leader was named Chime, and she was full of warmth, kindness and knowledge – the trip simply wouldn’t have been the same without her.
A long way from silken bed sheets
I, for one, don’t have silken bed sheets, but if I did, I’d probably miss them on the overnight train from Orccha to the Ganges. One thing about Intrepid that I genuinely respect is that the experience isn’t buttered up. What I mean is that with Intrepid you’re going to get authenticity, and that means you’ll experience the country from a variety of angles. Real angles.
I’m not a small man, and the overnight train was a tight squeeze for me, but I would never have removed it from the tour. In fact, I look back on that experience fondly, as I recognize that it offered me the opportunity to get to know the real India. Where else could I have had that experience?
So too with camping on the banks of the Ganges River. We had our respective tents which were pitched on the river’s edge, with nothing but sand all around us. The sand, of course, was properly indented from our impromptu cricket match early in the evening. Was it the most comfortable sleep I’ve ever had? Well, probably not, but how many sleeps have I had at generic hotels which were “comfortable” that I’ve already forgotten.
There’s no use taking a plane halfway across the world if, when you arrive, what you experience is a falsified replica of where you just left. It’s worth noting that we also had some downright lovely accommodation throughout the trip, but it was all real.
Forget getting your toes into the sand; sleep atop some.
Experiencing new beliefs
In religious cities across India and Nepal, it’s incredible the passion and tradition that you’ll be a part of. In Kathmandu and Lumbini, the colourful player flags wave and play in the wind, and it’s hard not to be swept up in the beauty. However, it’s in Varanasi that you’ll truly be exposed to the full breadth of the Hindu traditions that date back to time immemorial.
Varanasi is a city where you walk around and you know you’re in the epicenter of something, but you’re not sure what. In a sense, that’s the magical part of it all. What is apparent is the strength of belief, which will leave you in awe. At night, the fire-lit ceremonies are beyond moving, regardless of what you may or may not believe and where you might be from.
Going to places like Varanasi is about finding what is the same in all human experience when we’ve been taught to focus on the abject differences. It was Robert Louis Stevenson who so aptly noted, “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
Why is it worth all the trouble?
Going to places like India and Nepal are going to be starkly different from your daily life, but isn’t that the point? There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking time off on a beach for a week and forgetting the grind of life, but that’s “vacation,” not “travel.”
One of the primary tenets of travel is about challenging yourself to open your mind and broaden your perspectives. This can be a trying process at times, but shouldn’t it be?
Real growth requires growing pains, and there’s no shortage of opportunity for growth in India and Nepal. While the living room couch may be the most comfortable place we know, it’s not where lifelong memories are made.
Ready to get outside your comfort zone on a trip to India and Nepal? Check out Intrepid’s Delhi to Kathmandu adventure.