Your first trip to South Asia
When you sit down to plan your first trip to South Asia, the enormity and diversity of the region will baffle you. The region is one of those parts of the world of which much is still unknown though accessible. The amount of information on the internet skims only the surface and it is difficult to choose where to go and what to see based on that.
As humans, whenever we are confused like this, the easiest way out is to look at what are the more popular destinations in the region. If lucky, the places would suit your interests and you would love them. If you are not, you will either close the tab and start considering a different destination for your holiday. If you are really unlucky, you will force yourself to like the sights and sounds that you see.
But South Asia is a behemoth and the flip side to the confusion is the numerous options for travel and the possibilities that you can explore. They will make you wonder, inspire you, and even have the possibility of sparking something inside you.
There is a way to discover these destinations and these possibilities. The road essentially starts from your heart. A few tips will help you discover your own South Asia that would and should be different from the Joneses.
There isn’t a wrong answer.
Just because there are highlights, it is not necessary to visit them. You will not be sued if you do not see the Taj Mahal and you will not return home with a heavy heart if you miss out on the 10th Fort. There are places in the country that would be equally beautiful and equally pristine. The best moments that our guests remember are not of seeing the grand sights of the region, but of the wayside experiences that they have had or the people that they would have met.
Choose who you want to travel with.
A journey should be designed based on who you are travelling with and the other way round. If you are travelling alone, you would love the crowds as much as the ability to be one with yourself. If you are travelling with a loved one, you would like to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the country and reconnect with your partner. If you are travelling with children, a journey should be such that everyone can get their hands dirty and be a child again. If you are going with a bunch of friends, you need places that everyone can enjoy. Your destination in South Asia should depend on this.
Choose when you’d like to travel.
While South Asia may seem to be more of a tropical destination to be visited only in fall, spring winter, there are numerous pockets that are accessible and great during the summer months. The Northern Himalayan regions of Ladakh, Zanskar and Spiti are one such. North-East Sri Lanka is another.
Go with your hobbies.
If you are runner, wouldn’t it be great to run along some of india’s great expanses or rural countrysides? If you are an artist, wouldn’t the Kangra miniatures be extremely interesting? If you love food, wouldn’t you like to know how Nepali cuisine tastes with a chef who can take you through a journey? If you are interested in textile, wouldn’t it be great if you could learn a new weave in a new country? Such possibilities do exist in the region and are only waiting for you to explore them. If you have a hobby, wouldn’t it be amazing pursue it while you travel in the country? Why should your travel be restricted then?
Read before you go.
South Asia is not just a different culture. It is a mix of different cultures. So read before you travel. While basic dos and don’ts are readily available, you can grasp some of the nuances of the culture if you read some Indian fiction based on the culture. Most of the fiction is based on regular lives and lifestlyles and there is no better way to grasp them than through a book.
Whenever you embark on a new journey, there would be enough indicators to prevent you from doing that. Your job may have higher priority. You may want to go at a different time. Myanmar may be quite far away. News coming out of the region may not make it look too good.
These challenges will remain even if you look at other regions in the world. If you are too scared to travel out because of that, you will always repent. So go. Go now. And don’t look back.