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10 Things I Got Totally and Utterly Wrong About India

How was I supposed to know??

With a forecast of 30°C, I thought I’d be sweaty AF. Not the case. Rajasthan enjoys a dry heat, which means sweat is not a havoc-wreaking, holiday-fashion-killing travel culprit. Well, at least not in March; I can’t speak to monsoon season.

Naturally, I thought I’d get sunburned (here’s looking at you Thailand). In fact, I did not get sunburnt, which makes India the only foreign country I haven’t been burnt in.

The driving distances between cities are lengthier than they appear. With roadways filled with massive lorries, errant cows and highways that bottleneck at random villages, those kilometres start to feel like miles. This is helpful to know when planning to travel Rajasthan by car versus train.

I kind of thought I might die in India. I mean…at least in a car crash. There were several instances when we were speeding toward what was surely an imminent head-on collision. Then, before certain death, we’d pop back into our own lane, hearts pounding away in our throats. For the record, I did not witness a single collision in the 1,251 kilometres we logged between New Delhi and Udaipur. (How is that even possible?!)

I was bracing for the crippling anxiety of maneuvering in a crowd of one billion people. As in, the type of anxiety that has you hyperventilating into your purse. It just didn’t happen. Sure, the streets were crazy busy and the gullies were narrow, but I never got carried away or separated from Greg. Hell, I didn’t even get groped in a crowd.

I thought that I was going to be assaulted by abject poverty and gangs of pimp-organized child beggars.* Sure, it exists, but nothing came close to the child begging in Cambodia – where, true story, some kid in Sihanoukville once cursed my first unborn child.

*I can hear the Internet trolls right now, “Awe the tourist thought poverty would make her uncomfortable, how inconvenient for her.”

Not sure why, but I expected India to be quite…’fragrant’. Actually, the putrid smells of Beijing’s public washrooms and squatty potties plague my memories.

Before India, I thought monkeys were cute. You know, cheeky and animated photo subjects. I was wrong. They are assholes who take great offense to a lens pointed in their direction.

I definitely thought I’d suffer some Delhi Belly. While I didn’t eat much street food, I enthusiastically consumed local fare every day of the trip. And happily, my digestive system was up to the task.

I expected to get scammed. I think this stems from our 2012 travels through Southeast Asia, where we and a litany of other backpackers suffered a host of scams, theft and hassles. As we flew home from India I reflected – rather incredulously – that we travelled without any incident at all.

What perceptions of India do you hold? I want to know. Comment below!



  1. I agree with the smells – I never found them that bad. It was no better or worse than wet garbage in the streets in Seoul.
    However, the worst form of pollution I found in India was the noise. Constant yelling, honking of horns, and just city chatter. When I flew back I had a layover in Seattle, and I couldn’t get over how quiet the downtown was. (I was also very confused by crosswalk lights. You mean I don’t just have to run, close my eyes and hope for the best?!)

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your trip!

    • Jenn says

      I remember feeling that way when I came home from northern Vietnam. I was like, “Can we stop horning for no apparent reason?!”

      Haha – critical to the success of many backpackers is the essential skill of locating a local who also wants to cross the road, standing next to them, and matching their stride.

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