Visiting a new place is like seeing the world for the first time. Your eyes search high and low following the natural lines and movement, your heart beats a little faster everytime you feel a new vibe and your nose, hands and taste are in pretty much sensory overload for the entire duration of exploration. But what does it all actually mean?
“All this scrambling around
Hunting high and then low
Looking for the face love
Or somewhere to go
I hardly have places that I need to go
‘Cause you’re the places that I wanted to go”
– Modest Mouse, People as Places
Whenever I visit a new place, be it a different city or country, my experience there is generally based upon the faces I meet. No matter how high or low my senses are explored, my memories of the landscapes and scenery are captured through endless photographs but the feeling within my heart of wanderlust of a certain place is due to the people I meet along the way.
Quite frankly I cannot believe that after five years I’ve finally had the chance to travel back to my favourite place, my beloved India. As I sit writing this in the moon light of this vibrant country, I remember the one question I get asked by locals and foreigners all too often “why do you love India so much? “.
The unique culture, the food, the vibrancy, the feeling of being somewhere completely foreign, the noise, the landscape, the history are generally the responses travellers who loved India will give. On the other hand you get those travellers who completely loathed the place for those reasons.
However for me, the answer is simple, it’s the people. Once you fall in love with the people you notice every detail of the landscape and culture and that’s when you really experience and fall in love with the country itself.
The hospitable nature of Indian people is indescribable. It’s one of those things that I can’t ever find the words to properly explain. It’s only something you can choose to fully embrace if you allow yourself to be in situations where you can openly interact with the people. I don’t believe in travelling where you stay in fancy places, with on site restaurants, tourist agency organised shuttles and tours. If you really want to experience the country, do as the locals do and go where the locals go.
As overwhelming as that sounds, because I can assure you that you are literally throwing yourself in the deep end, the experience you gain will be nothing short of an adventure.
I’ve had the opportunity to do some pretty crazy things in India ranging from living in the desert with the most beautiful family to running a guesthouse in Agra. Travelling by third class seating in trains to riding on the back of a new friends motorbike. Eating lunch within the homes of new faces is always something special to me and the offering of tea by strangers is always welcomed in my hands. Over the five years since my last stay I’ve come to love this place for countless reasons and this trip has been no different. I really don’t even know where to begin because although I’ve only been here two weeks the stories are numerous and I’d be writing for days. I’ve been lucky because my searching high and low, while met with unforgettable landscapes, architecture and cityscapes of India have actually been obscured by some beautiful faces that I have without a doubt fallen in love with over the past weeks.
Although my experience in 2016 is every ounce unique and different to my first in 2011, my memory of India hasn’t waivered, it’s only made me realise that this is the place I’m always meant to be, because the people for me are the place.
Ooty, India || February 2016