“When I say I want to travel I don’t mean I want to stay at resorts and go on tours with tour guides or buy key chains from souvenir shops. I don’t want to be a tourist. When I say I want to travel I mean I want to explore another country and become part of it. I want to discover small coffee shops in Germany and Italy and France. I want to walk on beaches in Australia and browse the book stores of England. I want to hike the Great Wall of China and go cliff diving in Hawaii I want to meet people who are not like me, but people who I can like all the same. I want to take pictures of things and places and people I meet. I want my mind to be in constant awe of life on earth. I want to see things with new eyes. I want to look at a map and be able to remember how I was transformed by the places I’ve been to the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. I want to come home and realize that I have not come home whole but have left a piece of my heart in each place I have been. This, I think, is what is at the heart of Adventure and this is why I plan on making my life one.”
If there is one thing I wanted to do when I decided to travel the world, it was to immerse myself in the culture of my destination. For my first trip abroad, I chose the vibrant, and culturally rich, country of India, and based myself in Delhi, with a volunteer company (International Volunteer Headquarters). True to the quote above, I was transformed by this beautiful country- I was humbled by the happiness people felt despite having so little, I was overwhelmed with the hospitality and kindness of each person I met, and above all I was in awe of the beauty I saw with every corner I turned.
With that being said, here is what I saw and did while in Delhi during my orientation week with the volunteer company.
Day One– I arrived late in the evening and was picked up at the airport and transported to the first homestay, in Faridabad, in my two week stay. Breakfast was served the next morning- traditional, home cooked meals prepared by the homestay’s cook- and we had a meeting with those who would be guiding us during our stay. Then the rain came, and when it came, it poured. As I went to India during monsoon season, the rain didn’t surprise me; what surprised me was the amount and the flooding (pictured above). The roads were completely flooded with water, in amounts that would have had people back home refusing to leave their houses, but people carried on with their day without fail! And, by the time I left this beautiful country, this seemed to be rain/flooding on a good day. Once the rain stopped, my fellow volunteers and I took to a local market in Faridabad, where we purchased saris, fresh mangoes, and clothes, and also saw monkeys! And……. our tuk tuk broke down… Luckily, our ‘house mom’ came to our rescue.
Day Two– Next up, was heading out to New Delhi to see the sights! A home cooked breakfast and lunch on the go, then we were off into sweltering, unforgiving heat! We visited Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, and the Lotus Temple. The Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world and the second highest minar in India and was started in 1200 AD. Humayun’s Tomb is the tomb for Mughal Emperor Humayun and was built in the 1500s. The Lotus Temple, perhaps my favorite stop of the day, is home to the Baha’i House of Worship, probably one of the most interesting religions I have learned about; the Bahá’í religion emphasise that it is a place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions.
Day Three– The following day was more relaxed. We, the volunteers, got a glimpse into the Hindi language and learned useful phrases to help use through our volunteering time then were taken to see a Bollywood movie- Sultan. The movie was completely in Hindi, and yet still quite easy to understand! Afterwards, we were given traditional Henna
Day Four– Next up on the itinerary was visiting Old Delhi- Red Fort, a spice market, Raj Ghat, a Sikh Gurdwara, and the India Gate. The Red Fort, my favorite location of the day, was home to the Mughal Emperors from the 1600s to the 1800s and the spice market was right down the street, located in the busiest market in Delhi! Taking an autorickshaw through the bustling market was so much fun! Raj Ghat is the memorial to Mahatma Ghandi. The Sikh Gurdwara we visited was beautiful and very cool to get a glimpse into Sikhism. And the India Gate, also known as the India War Memorial, was built as a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in World War I.
Day Five– Another Hindi lesson and relaxing day to prepare for the following day… a drive to Agra to see the Taj Mahal!
Day Six– We woke up early to drive to Agra, a three hour drive at that. Upon arrival in Agra, we had breakfast at a restaurant, then headed to the magnificent building. It is situated on the bank of the Yamuna River and was built in the 1600s. The Taj Mahal is the symbol of love- a mausoleum constructed by Shah Jahan in memory of his deceased wife, a Persian princess, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. The sheer size of the building is amazing, but my favorite part of the Taj Mahal had to be the small details laid in the marble.
Day Seven– The final day of the week was an overview of the Hindi lessons we had, heading to a local shop to get a few basic toiletries and snacks, then heading off to our volunteer work placements. It was a bittersweet day, leaving my fellow volunteers, but I will certainly never forget the memories we created together in this week together between late night card games, indulging in ice creams and sodas at the local McDonald’s, and seeing some truly amazing sights.
Thanks again to the International Volunteer Company for their amazing orientation week, their informative guides, and an unforgettable experience!
Over to you: where are some of your favorite places in Delhi? In India? Comment below and let me know!