I loved backpacking in India. I love it even more now that I’ve left. I sit and think about all of the challenges we faced travelling around India as a family for six weeks and I smile a satisfied smile. If you can go backpacking in India you can do anything in the whole wide world.
India is one of those places that constantly takes you by surprise. Just when you think you are used to sharing the road with cows and eating your dinner with your fingers another little foreign custom pops up and you are back to square one.
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I’m a bit of a romantic. Or so my kids tell me anyway. “Stop making out you enjoyed it,” my Son says to me when I start reminiscing about our backpacking adventure. He’s probably terrified that I’m going to take him back there. And leave him.
I remember vividly the things that each one of us went through while we navigated ourselves around the country that is India – how could you forget an experience like that? And I thought it might help you if you are planning on visiting this wonderful country, what to expect. Below is a list of things you will never say while backpacking in India.
5 Things You’d Never Hear me Say While Backpacking in India.
1: Put the Radio On. It’s Too Quiet.
India is noise. Wherever you go, noise. Whether it’s the morning prayers being broadcast over the tinny tannoy, or the tuk-tuk drivers shouting in your face about how they have the cheapest fare. You can’t seem to get away from it. I’m surprised that I loved it so much, being a recluse who loves to spend hours alone with her dog, but I did. Six weeks was probably long enough though.
2: I Bought too Many Clothes with Me.
You put something on in India and within twenty minutes it’s filthy dirty. Yes, you can send it to the washerwoman and have the bamboo scaped out of your best cotton top with a rock at the side of the river but other than that, best to have a nice big supply of clothes. Or at least bring enough money to buy new once you are here.
3: I Don’t Miss Wine at All.
Bloody hell. India was the one country where I didn’t drink one drop of wine. What with the religious taboo surrounding alcohol and the fact that we tended to eat at local joints where a plastic jug of lukewarm tea was standard, I remained wine free for six weeks. I wish I could tell you that I felt better for it but I’d be lying. Apart from saving money in India, there is nothing else good to say about not being able to indulge in a glass of your favourite tipple.
4: Let’s See If We Can Find a Mall.
I despise Malls, so India was perfect for me. The closest we came to a proper shop was a fabulous Indian department store that resembled Grace Brothers from ‘Are You Being Served’. I bought a pair of purple pants from there that Brian thought were hideous.
5: Could I Have a Knife and Fork, Please?
What can I say? I was the only one in our family who actually loved eating with their fingers in India which is pretty ironic considering I’ve spent the last sixteen years telling my kids to use a knife and fork and keep their fingers out of their food. Every Indian eatery provides handwashing facilities which I thought was so hygienic and I loved feeling the texture of the food in my fingers. Even if I did end up with half of my dinner on the floor.
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5 Things You’d Never Hear my Husband Say in India:
1: This Google Maps App is a Waste of Time.
How did we all manage without google maps? In places like Rajasthan where the streets are a labyrinth of squiggly lanes I cant think how we would have found our hotels – that were always some dodgy deal down a side street. If you haven’t got this app get it now. And if you are travelling with your husband be prepared to never, ever get to use it.
2: I Shouldn’t Have Bothered Bringing my Reading Glasses To India.
If you’re over 50 and you are travelling the world, bring your glasses. Nobody likes to see a squinter. But, if you forget to pack them and find yourself in India wondering around like Colonel Blink, know that glasses and contact lenses are extremely cheap and excellent quality. We ordered two new sets of glasses and six months worth of contact lenses and the cost was less than one pair of reading glasses in New Zealand.
3: I Like Being Sober.
Of course, being a man, Brian could quite easily have ordered a couple of Old Monks and got away with it. But there was no way that was going to happen. Bad enough that I have to have cold tea with my curry without watching my husband getting plastered on rum beside me with all the other males.
4: Turn the Aircon Off.
You don’t need me to tell you that India is roasting hot. We went in January which is winter time in India and the temperature was still pretty intense. We emigrated to New Zealand almost ten years ago so we are quite aware of how hot places can be. We are travelling on a tight budget so the places we stayed in never included air conditioning. Apart from the one posh hotel that we splashed out on in Agra while we were visiting the Taj Mahal nowhere else included air conditioning in the price of the room.
5: Let’s Ask Someone for Directions.
What is it with men and directions? I had no problem whatsoever with going up to someone in the street in India and asking, ‘train station please?’. The people in India are incredibly friendly. Yes, they will stare at you with their mouth wide open as though you are from out of space. Yes, they will ask you for a selfie and invite their extended family and the butcher to be part of it and yes, they will want to know if you are a doctor or a YouTube sensation and inquire as to how much this trip is costing you and how on earth you can afford it. But. At least you get to know where the train station is.
Here’s a short cinematic that we made of India. If you have any doubts about backpacking around this country watch this video.
Things You’d Never Hear a Teenage Boy Say in India.
1: I Hope it’s a Squat Toilet and Not a Western Jobby.
India. And the toilets. What can I say? It’s no secret that it’s often hideous, especially on trains, and don’t get me started on public toilets. You just… don’t. Just hold it in. But the hotels that we stayed in were all western style toilets, and very clean. Of course, there is no toilet paper, just a tap and a bucket. And your hand. If you are staying somewhere slight;y upmarket you will be rewarded with a bum wash spray. A word of advice. Don’t do what I did in Sri Lanka and wear your yoga pants to the squat toilet. It was not a pretty outcome.
7: I’m Just off to Clean My Teeth.
Teenager sons and teeth are a battle at the best of times but take a 16-year-old to India and tell him that if he puts the tap water in his mouth he will become seriously ill then you may find that the teeth take a back seat. Cleaning your teeth in India requires a little effort. The teenager must pick up a bottle of water and pour it onto his toothbrush. How can he do this when he is holding his phone?
9: I’m Just Going for a Walk Around by Myself.
My 16-year-old is a bit of a loner and loves time by himself. which might explain why he is going slowly insane being trapped with us three for 24 hours a day. Sonny attempted to escape a couple of times while in India, but on each occasion, he was met with either the offer of marriage, the offer to start a hotel business or the offer to sit on a tuk-tuk drivers knee. Personally, I would have taken all three gladly. He found it a bit unnerving though.
11: Can we Take The Sleeper Bus Tonight?
I honestly thought that my teenage son would love the adventure of the Indian sleeper bus. I was wrong. This form of transport is hell on earth. You do not sleep. Not one tiny bit. If getting inside a giant tumble drier next to a man with a bucket full of urine is your idea of comfort then you may enjoy the India sleeper coaches. My son? He’d rather fly first class.
You Don’t Need to Hotspot Me. It will Use All of Your Data.
Lucky for my teenage son, India is pretty good when it comes to wifi. Every hotel that we stayed in offered free internet. Not like Sri Lanka where the internet would last about 5 minutes and then just turn off without notice. Never to be seen again. Moblie Data plans are cheap in India.
Things You’d Never Hear a Teenage Girl Say in India:
1: I Love the Way Everyone Stares at Me.
This drove my 13-year-old daughter absolutely insane. Yes, Indian men will openly stare at young foreign tourists. It’s probably because they are genuinely curious and intrigued but all the same, it can be off-putting and rude. Especially for young girls. Whenever I spotted a group of guys staring at my girl I would walk over and give them the stare. The stare that middle-aged Mothers are really good at. The one that would melt ice. That one. This was guaranteed to send them running to the hills in terror.
2: Shall we Just Walk?
You can’t walk in India. Well, you can, but you will be sharing the road with lots and lots of other people. And cows. Add to this the hustle and bustle of tuk-tuks almost driving into you, men hoiking up spit in front of you and stray dogs weaving their way in and out of your path and it left my teenage daughter willing to sell her iPhone for the chance to jump into an Uber. I loved it. I adored the madness and the noise. Tessa? Not so much.
3: Can I Buy a Sari?
The joys of travelling the world for a teenage girl is the promise of being able to indulge in some retail therapy. Indian clothes didn’t tick the boxes for my 13-year-old. And the clothes that she did buy ripped in about a week of wearing them. Yes, the clothes are super cheap but unless you are a middle-aged hippie wannabe like me, teenagers won’t be that impressed.
9: Can I Have The Aubergine Curry?
My girl is a big carnivore and this proved to be a problem for her in India. Due to a large number of Hindus in India, whose belief it is that the cow is sacred, along with her mothers’ paranoia over the freshness of what little meat was on offer, my daughter spent 6 weeks being vegetarian. I wish I could tell you that she flourished through this diet and all was well. Unfortunately, she lived off fried rice and chow mein and sent me into a fit every time she said paneer cheese was disgusting.
11: I Think I’ll Wear my Short Shorts Today.
Coming from New Zealand where every young girl lives in sandals shorts and a vest, my teenage girl found Indias dress code challenging. By travelling the world as a family you get to learn about, and respect, the traditions and beliefs of each country. It’s all part of the fun, but this was sometimes frustrating for my teenager when it was boiling hot outside and she had to wear long trousers and a sarong to cover her skin.
You are going to LOVE India. Especially when you get back home! I really believe that doing it the rough way and going down the backpacking route is the only way to experience the country for the first time. Imagine what stories you are going to be able to tell over a good bottle of wine when you return. And remember, if it was easy, everyone would do it. And they don’t.
Because they have got their heads screwed on.
If you have been to India, please let me know some of the things you never said or maybe some of the things that you always said! My contact details are on my about me page. Just saying. In case there’s a spare glass of red wine that you need to get rid of.