I'm from San Diego. While it is hard to choose, my favorite trip so far has been India.
I have traveled to 15 counties and counting, 10 of those have been with my boyfriend.
I went to India with my boyfriend, Donald.
We've been to a few countries now but I think the one that has stood out the best was India. I really didn't know what to expect even though I read countless blog posts, watched videos on youtube and did tons of research. What I took out of all that research was that you're either going to love or hate India.
In my case, I absolutely loved it.
Back home, people asked:
To which I just responded:
I’ve always wanted to see the beautiful architecture, I mean... the Taj Mahal is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen in all my travels. The colors of India alone are worth the trip. It's a sensory overload.
After spending nearly two weeks there, I now have a better, deeper understanding of why. There are 1.2 billion people in India that probably couldn’t be more different than me… than you. There are 1.2 billion people here who don't believe in what you or I believe. 1.2 billion people who don’t agree with the way we live. 1.2 billion people who don’t have the same opportunities as most of us back home have.
1.2 billion. That’s nearly 4 times the population of the US.
There are also 1.2 billion people here that in some instances, are exactly the same as you and I. Strip away the beliefs, strip away the language barrier, strip away the monetary and cultural differences and at the very core, you’ll notice that despite the differences, we all feel exactly the same.
We laugh, we smile, we dream. We get angry, annoyed, impatient. We get saddened, we grieve, we mourn. We sing, we dance, we cry.
We live, we learn, we love.
We’re exactly the same in those moments. And for me, that’s the beauty of travel. A wave hello in India probably draws more smiles then anywhere else in the world.
I want to continue to experience a world different than my own. It’s a reminder of not only to be grateful for my world, but also a reminder that in the grand scheme of life, not everyone is going to agree with who I am and what I believe and the best I can do is understand and respect these differences and live my life with as much gratitude as possible.
So India, thank you for the amazing journey and experience of a lifetime. Thank you for reminding me that life is bigger than one self.
And so to answer,
BEFORE YOU GO
I recommend going with a tour company to India if you aren't an experienced traveler or backpacker. It just makes it so much easier having everything already set up for you. It costs a bit more to do that vs. doing it all yourself but it saved a lot of heartache and most importantly time since we only had a little over 2 weeks there. I know travelers who have spent a month there and that makes sense to do it on your own but if you have a limited amount of time, it's best to go with a tour company to really maximize your time.
As far as food, you definitely have to be weary. You can't just eat street food from anywhere (even thought street food is on of my favorite things to eat when traveling). Water there can be tricky and you don't want to drink any water unless it's from a reputable store or hotel and is sealed.
One thing we did experience was Ranthambore National Park, home to these majestic tigers. The thrill of the hunt to see them was nothing like I had experienced.
There's just so much to do and see in India it's hard to talk about without typing out an essay. One thing I will say though is that what struck me to the core was the Taj Mahal. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life and literally almost cried when I saw it. It's a literal symbol of love and photos and videos do not do it justice. It was just breathtaking.
Lastly if it's within budget, plan a quick trip to Maldives afterwards. It's just south of India and has the most gorgeous water you'll ever see. Some of the photos here are from Maldives.
Because India isn't known for it's equality with gays and lesbians, they do have a scene there although we didn't really care to check it out. India can be corrupt. We were stopped for a traffic violation although we didn't break any rules. The driver paid off the police officer and on we went. He said if he didn't pay him off, he would have received a ticket and that would have resulted I him loosing his license for a month or so which means he would not be able to make money. We ended up paying our driver back what he had to pay, he was so thankful. So with that said, they have gay cubs in India. I've read what happens is that police raid the club at a certain time and the club owners just pay them off. No one gets hurt or in trouble and the police get paid. With all that said, I would not recommend showing any signs of affection in public. We were there to experience a world different than ours and soak all that in. We were, however, comfortable requesting a single king bed at the places we stayed (which were not hostels and more like 4 star hotels). Also, little boys and sometimes men are known to hold hands. It's not weird to them like it is in US. They seem comfortable with their affection.
We've been to a few counties where homosexuality is illegal and other countries where they were/are the pioneer to gay and lesbian rights (like Iceland, Netherlands, Belgium). Part of me is like, why would we want to even set foot in those countries that frown so heavily on LGBTQ, while part of me just understands and accepts the world has a long way to go with acceptance. The amazing thing though is that even in those countries, they still have a gay population and still have gay culture. They've got a long way to go but it's a start.
Check out #hellomikeeinindia to see more pictures from their adventure! All photos by @hello.mikee.