As I’ve been navigating some of the most massive cities in India in recent weeks it is just mind blowing how vast, spread out and diverse each place is. It certainly is a country of immense contrasts. I’ve miles of urban sprawl and see the most elite shopping centers with slums just around the corner. Major variations in language, religion, culture and geography are just a lot to take in. India offers so much it is possible to be overwhelmed, so it is good to go with this in mind so that culture shock won’t paralyze your trip.
Get used to big
As I began to navigate cities like Mumbai and New Delhi I thought I was pretty well prepared by having been in Beijing and other immense Asian cities. The size factor is even more amazing still. India’s major cities are vast and logistics like sidewalks and walkable distances are always different. I found good metro and railway transportation in all the major cities with much more in the works. At the end it takes a lot of time to come and go from your hotel to various attractions so I’d recommend settling on just a few that you really want to see and plan around those. Travel time was tiring and longer than I expected, so it seemed better to spend more free time relaxing and taking advantage of the excellent hospitality offered hotels here.
The impressive wealth and the levels of poverty are some of the most extreme I’ve seen anywhere on the globe and to see them side by side is even more shocking. Even when I mentally prepared myself, it really captured my attention. Many tourists to India are unsettled by what they see and I was no exception. At the end I decided that I have one of two options, let it bother me and ruin the trip or accept what I see and participate in development in my regular experience as a tourist. What do I mean by this? If I turn my trip into a guilt ridden reflection I am doing nothing to solve the insurmountable issues that are surrounding me. A trip to India is not a show or tour of poverty, the people you see already have enough problems than for tourists to come, watch and feel sorry for them. I said to myself: “If you want to make a difference focus on the opportunities you are bringing and the jobs you are creating for hard working Indians in the hotel, transport, shopping and other service industries you are making use of.” As a regular tourist you and I are increasing the level of prosperity in the country as a whole. Just as it is impossible to see everything in a trip here, it is impossible to help everyone. So I recommend see the things you want to see and assist in development by being an engaged tourist.
The development you choose to promote
Unequal distribution of wealth, overcrowding and other societal problems are certainly a cause for concern in India as they are for many other places on earth. Most of us with the opportunities to travel are bothered by chaos and injustice because we know places where things are better. It is one thing to wish it were so here or to think that simply giving away money will change people’s lives. I will never have enough time or resources to educate and elevate the poorest from their lifestyles. I can however empower those who are already helping themselves. Those in the service industry, especially here where virtues of hospitality, humility and friendliness are so prevalent. I am glad this is how I chose to experience India, to take advantage of the new visa regime which is bringing millions of dollars of revenue in tourism into the country. To enjoy the luxury hotels and fantastic airlines which cost a fraction of what they do elsewhere in the world. India is more things than anyone can possibly experience in a lifetime, but choose the best ones and they will impact your life as I know they have mine.