By Lynda T., 10-time traveler from Vadnais Heights, MN
Heart of India was the fourth O.A.T. trip that my friend Beth and I have done together. We love traveling together because we both have a spirit of adventure and are usually pretty chill with whatever we happen upon. Beth's husband is a more "traditional" traveler, so she has his blessing as we set off on new adventures. It can be hard for friends to decide where to travel because we have limited financial resources and we all have different interests. In our case, we ask each other, "Where's the next adventure?" and sometimes we have to compromise on where we want to go. Neither of us had India on our bucket list, but after I watched a six-hour special about the historical, cultural, political, and spiritual aspects of India, I convinced Beth that India should be our next exotic adventure.
One of the highlights of the trip was when our Trip Experience Leader, Balbir, took us to a Sikh temple in Delhi and some of us made chapati (Indian version of tortillas) with local volunteers. I loved talking with the Indian college student sitting next to me, who said that she volunteers for an hour every day after her classes.
The O.A.T. Trip Experience Leaders are fantastic, and they seem to love to share stories about their lives and homelands with others. Beth and I have been impressed with their knowledge and professionalism, but even more by their kindness and their care of the travelers, and most of all by their sense of fun! I'm always drawn to people who don't take themselves so seriously and are open to experiencing whatever presents itself, especially when it involves talking with or learning from the people we meet along the way.
Sometimes there are experiences that are so foreign that it's good to have someone you know to share them and process them. Our first evening in Varanasi was by far the most sensory experience of the trip. We walked through crowded streets and saw many things that were new to us, including the cremation ghat and the Hindu Thanksgiving ritual and the ceremony that puts the sacred river, Mother Ganges, to sleep. It was beautiful and for some in our group a very spiritual experience. That evening, we had a long conversation about belief and the importance of believing in something greater than ourselves. I have traveled alone, but it's just more fun to have someone to share it with. It also makes it more fun to remember the trip when you have someone to say, "Remember when ... ?"
When Beth and I travel together, we try to give each other space—in other words, we don't do every activity together or sit together at every meal, so that we are better able to meet and get to know our companions on the journey. We also laugh a lot at the crazy mistakes we make and by now, we're used to the little idiosyncrasies that each of us has. I guess it's working out alright, since we have booked our next O.A.T. trip together—Beth's choice was Sicily!
Make memories of your own, whoever you choose to travel with, when you join O.A.T.’s Heart of India adventure.