Most western travelers tend to avoid southern India for arguably good reasons. It’s difficult to move around, it’s chaotic, it’s messy, and you’re constantly outside of your comfort zone. Doing it on a tight schedule like the one we’re on adds more challenges into the mix, particularly because transit between most cities requires multiple hops by train, bus, or plane, frequently with long layover gaps and big distances between connection points, meaning logistics and planning requires constant thought and effort. But if one of your life goals is to the see the world, then you have no choice but to plow through the challenges, expand the boundaries of your comfort zone, learn how to deal with uncertainty, and most importantly, learn how to go with the flow. The experience of going through this process over and over, learning to deal with different cultures and overcoming challenges in diverse places, seems to fundamentally change people. This is why you find that experienced travelers almost universally tend to be easy going, patient, unusually tolerant and open minded, have an ability to see things from multiple perspectives, and are able to remain calm in almost any stressful situation – all traits generally helpful in life, not just while travelling.
Eli and I have been thinking about all this over the past week as we’ve maintained one of the fastest paced and most logistically challenging travel schedules either of us have ever experienced. Our ambitious schedule is due partially to the NGO visits we’ve had scheduled around southern India, and partially because of the sightseeing we’ve been sneaking in over the weekend. We’ve gone from Goa on the west coast of India to Bangalore in the center, to Madurai in the South, back to Bangalore, and continued 500k north to Hampi, all within the past five days. We’ve done this using almost every imaginable transportation option: a mix of planes, trains, busses, taxis, rickshaws and motorcycles. Hotels have become almost totally unnecessary, their function replaced by sleeper class services on trains and busses for three of the past four nights… there’s simply no other way to cover these distances on this kind of schedule during daytime hours. And though it’s felt chaotic at times, we’ve managed pretty well to stay on schedule, remain calm amid the chaos, and most importantly, enjoy each moment.
As we type this we’re finishing up an incredible two day whirlwind tour around Hampi and its surrounding areas, an ancient city of ruined temples, endless green rice fields, a gorgeous river valley, and the most stunning landscapes we’ve seen so far in India. Despite the difficulty in getting there, we can’t recommend this stop highly enough – an enormous prize for expanding the boundaries of your comfort zone.
Our hectic journey now continues, as we get ready to board an overnight bus to Mumbai back on the west coast, where we’ll connect by plane to Jaipur in northern India’s Rajasthan region tomorrow morning. Our NGO meetings continue there on Monday, and our lcoation there will also conveniently bring us within shooting distance of the iconic Taj Mahal in the neighboring city of Agra…. there’s a sunset photo op there we refuse to miss, and we’re hoping the weather cooperates.