“India, incredible India” proclaims the advertising slogan for the Indian National tourist bureau. For once the hype is matched by the reality. India is a truly incredible destination. In describing travel destinations I have often referred to various countries as diverse. But India brings new meaning to the expression. She has been called the world’s most multidimensional country. India is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural nation of varied geological landscapes. One can hope to do little more than scratch the surface in a single visit. In its introduction, the Rough Guide to India describes her in this way: "It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues. Every aspect of the country presents itself on a massive, exaggerated scale, worthy in comparison only to the superlative mountains that overshadow it. It is this variety which provides a breathtaking ensemble for experiences that is uniquely Indian. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than to be indifferent to India would be to describe or understand India completely. There are perhaps very few nations in the world with the enormous variety that India has to offer. Modern day India represents the largest democracy in the world with a seamless picture of unity in diversity unparalleled anywhere else." In three decades of international travel I have frequently been asked my favorite travel destination. The answer to that question has always and unequivocally been India. India is, simply put, the richest travel destination I’ve had the privilege to visit. But I have always struggled to explain my preference. India defies easy explanation, perhaps any explanation at all. I am again reduced to relying on someone else’s eloquence. Keith Bellows of the National Geographic Society has expressed the experience of India better than any other I’ve encountered. He wrote: "There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. . . I had been seeing the world in black & white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."
Lest we get carried away with richness of the Indian experience, it bears noting that India is a difficult place to travel. Beyond the fact that India is the archetypal non-western experience the abject poverty and lack of cleanliness are unavoidable. Beggars, open sewers, and garbage are a part of every street scene. Furthermore, the touts, merchants, vendors, and rickshaw drivers are ubiquitous and relentless in the pursuit of your Rupees. In short, India is for real travelers – those who can look beyond the unpleasant veneer and embrace the richness within.
Here at Imprint Tours we have always sought to connect our travelers with the cultures we visit. We work very hard at removing anything that insulates us from authentic local experiences. But India creates her own rules of engagement. This is a country that requires some insulation. And although we generally encourage and facilitate independent travelers, India is a country that necessitates an organized tour (whether Imprint or another tour company). Therefore, our challenge as we create our India tour (in process right now) is to strike a balance between creating authentic connection experiences and providing sufficient buffers from the excesses of Indian society to insure a enriching but still comfortable travel experience. We encourage you to check out the newsletter in coming months as we describe how we plan to accomplish this goal.