Proof Frontier Project: Shaylyn Marie

The Enchantress: India

Shaylyn Marie takes Proof along on a trip discovering the many exotic and chaotic backdrops of India. Enjoy, as Shaylyn tells the story of her travels...

I’d long sought the enchantress that is India.  

Her chaotic cities, vibrant markets, and people were the initial draw. From the stories I’d been told and the images I’d seen, it sounded like the ultimate travel dream. Although, I was not naive enough to assume travel in-country would be relaxing, per se.

My first trip to this massive continent-sized country took me through the northern state of Rajasthan. Home to over 70 million people, the legendary tomb that is the Taj Mahal, and other Indian charms and delights, it felt like the right place to wet my feet. It turns out I was right.
This is my India adventure. 

When I first arrived in Delhi, I was surprised at the lack of culture shock. In fact, I felt none at all. As seems to always be the case, the anticipation of an event is always much more overwhelming than the event itself and my arrival to India was no exception.  

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to navigate the route from the airport to hotel with ease. I’d been fraught with anxiety about what turned out to be an easy 15-mile trip, and needn’t have worried. Once settled into the backseat of my police-controlled pre-paid taxi, I rolled down the window and let the scorching heat warm me from the inside-out, gazing into the haze of an unknown skyline. 

The first thing I observed about India was the heat. Granted, I did decide to visit at the onset of summer (something I probably wouldn’t recommend), but I had no idea it would be that hot. My second observation was that there is an incredible amount of history. Driving through the city of Delhi it isn’t uncommon to see crumbling fort walls just alongside the road from centuries past, or the distinct shape of minarets and domes on the skyline. My third observation was that traffic is crazy! Travelers beware: the streets and smaller alleyways are often chaotic and busy. Be wary of where you walk. 

An aspect of this trip I was particularly excited about was our ability to stray from the beaten path. We had the opportunity to visit with local people and artisans in rural villages, help out in community kitchens, and support small businesses in various communities throughout the trip. Travelers don’t always have the privilege of doing this, and so I felt tremendously grateful to be able to do so.

Local artisans and people I met while in these different communities.

And of course, what trip to India is complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal. Unpopular opinion: while a stunning architectural wonder, the Taj Mahal was absolutely not my favorite historic site I visited while in India. In fact, it might have been my least favorite, simply due to the astronomical number of people there. I can’t imagine what it would have been like during peak season. That said, the Taj Mahal is a wonder of the world for a reason. It really is beautiful, and when you learn the story behind its inception, it becomes even more of a romantic landmark. If you are in Rajasthan, you can’t miss this historic tomb.  

 One thing people may not know, though, is that India has an impressive amount of wilderness areas. While I only spent time in Rajasthan, visitors -- if they are there long enough -- have the chance to traverse dense jungles, sunbathe on tropical beaches, and ride jeeps through arid desert. And, as you might expect, among these different geographical regions is a high degree of biodiversity. Leopards, tigers, crocodiles, elephants, and more call India home. I was lucky enough to take an evening safari through one of Rajasthan’s best-known wildlife areas called Ranthambhore National Park. And while we didn’t see any tigers (which is the park’s primary draw) it was still exciting to see such a beautiful landscape. 

India will shock the senses. You will be bombarded by smells, sights, textures, and colors you aren’t likely accustomed to. This fact is what sets India apart from so many other countries, and the reason I so cherish my time spent there.  

It will change you, and you won’t even realize it until you’ve returned home. What I will miss most are the burnt oranges and reds, (of which you will notice are everywhere). I’ll miss the spicy chai tea, the dals, and the curries. I will miss the architecture and learning about the history of a land I hadn’t previously known much about at all. And I will miss the people -- for their smiles, and their willingness to teach us about their culture and their country.  

I will be back.  


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