Magical, mysterious, complex and culturally rich, India has seduced travelers from all over the world to her shores. Some set out with a pilgrimage in mind — a place to seek answers to life’s complicated meaning. Elizabeth Gilbert, the famed author of Eat Pray Love, went to India after upending her life in New York hoping to explore the root of her difficult life questions in an ashram. The Beatles went on meditation journeys during the ’60s in Rishikesh to examine the essence of the mind. Undoubtedly an ancient and spiritual place, this is one of India’s mysteries that will continue to take lifetimes to unpack.
India in many ways is a paradox where extremes have coexisted side by side for thousands of years. On one hand, there are incredible feats of architecture and wealth, such as the Taj Mahal, commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife. To modern-day business moguls who are predicting a billion-dollar tech boom in India. And many millions of people who continue to live pastoral lives, without access to education, clean water or have food security — and struggle with challenging social norms like the rights and roles of women and girls. The legacy of British colonialism has also left a complicated mark on India’s past and present. There is no shortage of historical and contemporary issues to reflect on when framing an opinion of what India has become in modern times.
Too big a place to “see,” an adventure to India is often described as one of those life-changing experiences that touch your heart or challenges what you “think we know” about the world. Travelers usually set their sights on the Golden Triangle — the route between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Places that offer incredible and distinctive cultural sights as well as unique natural environments. All three are easy to access by the extensive rail network and have been set up to handle throngs of tourists. While worth the visit, many other travelers wishing to avoid tour groups and aggressive street vendors opt for more remote destinations, which really just means a town or village that takes a bit more effort to reach. Hubs of wellness, spirituality and quietude. Make no mistake, there are very few places in India today that travelers can’t access with a flight or a train. It’s just about what length you’re willing to go get to your desired destination.
India is beautiful, and once you visit, the experience is never forgotten. When planning ahead for your adventure consider what is calling you to this place. Take time to read about the history and contemporary issues within the cities and communities you’re interested in. And most importantly arrive humbly — with a willingness to awaken to sensory experiences that will completely engulf you. Have fun!