What is in your opinion the best thing you can learn on a long trip to India?
This isn’t some random esoteric question that involves long hours in contemplative meditation, but a question instead on what you can literally learn whilst travelling, or the practicalities of choosing a course to take whilst in India.
We all know the benefits of expanding our skill sets whilst travelling, from adding strings to our bows, expanding our minds or even bolstering our CV, but which ones to choose?
India is so vast, and so varied, that the possibilities are almost limitless.
So tell me what you have learned from your time in India, what your favourite courses have been if you have taken them, what did you learn from them and if you could only pick one thing to do whilst in India, one cultural gem, one course to take, one piece of knowledge to take back to your civilian life, what would it be? And why?
Would it be learning to horse ride in Udaipur’s surrounding countryside? Would it be taking an Indian cookery course and learning how to make your favourite curry yourself? Maybe it’s taking a course in Yoga? In meditation? Massage? Or maybe it is something less specific and more of a general personal and spiritual growth, maybe by soaking up information/skills/knowledge just by being somewhere that assaults your senses constantly, Anything else?
Let me know! (We may as well jump on the Indian question bandwagon and get some decent discussion going!)
Best is one of those relative things. Each of us has our ideas of best. So I suppose giving my reason(s) would be the more appropriate.
I`ve grown up with the idea of helping others – my mother was a volunteer for over 30 years, so when I got to the point where I could do that exclusively, I went looking for the “best” place to do that. I found it in India (apologies, but I never mention the name in public forums). So for much of each year I work with an org that does the majority of its work in a 250,000 pop. slum in Ahmedabad.
As an offshoot, since many know what I`ve just said in the previous paragraph, those that can find me privately ask for my assistance finding volunteer opportunities mostly in India. In the last 4 years or so I`ve helped many dozens of people in this regard.
And since I spend a bit of time each year outside of India, I also work with animal welfare orgs in Switzerland.
I also like to meet people. And one of the “best” things that has come from this (besides meeting many many people) is that I`ve become very involved in the Indian classical music scene, meeting and seeing performances of a large number of world-class artists.
Some come to India for temples, or Goa – I`ve seen some temples and go to Goa each year. But for me, having the time to become part of the communities I visit is a most important part.
Everyone is different… That`s a lucky thing.
I’m lucky enough to travel regularly to India with work – which I’m very aware is an enormous privilege. I think what’s most intriguing about it – at least to a Brit – is the combination of the really, really ‘foreign’ with the very (often decontextualised and befuddlingly) familiar. From elaborate turns of phrase to guards dressed decidedly like British policeman, things crop up constantly to remind you of the influence that has passed between the two countries. But for me, it’s the food I love to learn about. So completely central to Indian hospitality, there’s an immense generosity in sharing the experience of food and recipes, an infectious enthusiasm for trying new things and a great respect for something simple done well. My favourite part of any trip is being treated to homecooked food, picking up tips, then trying to recreate at least the spirit of it back at home. It’s never quite the same, or quite as good, which I can attribute not just to my lack of skill but also to the absence of that typically Indian pride and passion which is undoubtedly the secret ingredient.
Well said Pirate, I couldn’t agree more. Everyone is very different, it is discovering and understanding those differences that is often part of the fun,
But the classical music scene? Nice. Have you ever learned an instrument in India?
Claire, great post! The unique ‘British twist’ is decidedly fun, familiar, welcoming and baffling all at the same time for us Brits, I totally agree! It is definitely a part of India’s attraction.
I know what you mean about the food, I took a specific course there myself, but my naan bread has never tasted anywhere near as good when I have tried to recreate it here than it did when that little old woman was showing me how (okay, pretty much doing it for me!) ha!
“But the classical music scene? Nice. Have you ever learned an instrument in India?”
Naw, I`ve played guitar forever. The friend that introduced me to this is my silversmith in Udaipur. He had been studying the veena and has changed to sitar. He gets to play publicly with his guru from time to time, but he`s introduced me to the cool ones. Stunning stuff.
Literature. More of a self-learning thing, but important nevertheless. On my trip through India I read plenty of books that related to the regions I visited, and discovered some great works and writers. Especially Salman Rushdie, Rudyard Kipling and Khushwant Singh impressed me. It helps that books are quite affordable in India.
Self learning is as important as taught learning jeroenvanmarle. That’s a great way to connect with the places you are visiting.
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