I live in Nepal and I love it (well, often). But if I’m honest, I only ended up here because I was aiming for India and landed a little too far north of Uttar Pradesh. There are many similarities between the two countries, as they have a lot of shared culture, but there are also significant differences than generally fall in Nepal’s favour. I don’t regret that I ended up in Nepal, because things tend to just be a bit more relaxed here than in India–the people, the climate, the general way of life. But nowhere excites me as much as India does. Even after six or seven trips there (I’ve honestly lost count, as most of my visits have been for several months at a time), I am still always excited to go back.
There are so many parts of the enormous and diverse country that I’ve never been to, or barely scratched the surface of. With the exception of Kerala, I’ve hardly been to the south; I’ve never been to the east coast or the north-east, and there are huge parts of the middle that I haven’t even passed through. Like I said: I can’t wait to go back.
I also have very little patience with the ‘India is dangerous’ hysteria. Everywhere is dangerous, but by the same token, nowhere is dangerous (except active war zones). The people in India are generally the same as people everywhere–they mind their own business, have better things to do than interfere with a tourist, and are usually helpful when you need them to be. I’ve only ever been groped in India while in the presence of a male travelling companion, and that has also happened to me in Italy, New Zealand and the UK. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not the end of the world. India certainly has some serious domestic and caste-based violence problems, and my insistence that it is a safe destination isn’t intended to diminish those terrible truths. But Nepal–a country that has an overwhelmingly positive reputation among travellers–has serious domestic and caste-based violence problems too, and you don’t hear or read the same kind of racist hysteria about this country. The truth is, as a tourist, you are unlikely to be affected by that (which is not to say you shouldn’t educate yourself about it). But the poverty, the corruption!? people cry. I welcome them to come to Nepal and witness the industrial-scale poverty and corruption. (Honestly, I’m not bashing Nepal. I’m requesting a little perspective).
Why this rant? Well, it’s a topic I could probably rant about all day. But also because I just had a piece published on the Matador Network (my first there in a while) titled: ‘Everyone thinks India is dangerous. Here’s why I can’t wait to go back.‘ Read an extract below.
Everyone thinks India is dangerous. Here’s why I can’t wait to go back.
India doesn’t have a great reputation for safety—especially women’s safety. While it’s true that the enormous country does have serious problems regarding violence against women and patriarchal social structures, as a foreign traveller, you’re unlikely to encounter the worst of this. With a few common-sense safety precautions that you’d take in any destination—not walking around alone at night in unknown places, erring on the side of modesty when it comes to clothing, and trusting your instincts when it comes to men you’ve just met—India can be one of the most exciting and rewarding travel destinations.
I’ve been seven times in eight years, and am always looking for another excuse to plan my next trip to this colourful, crazy, beautiful and hospitable country. India is hands-down my favourite travel destination in the world. Here’s why.
1. The helpful people.
Sure, many people in the big cities like Delhi can come across as abrasive. But the same can be said of big cities everywhere—do New Yorkers have a reputation for friendliness? Not exactly. Travel around India and you’ll find the majority of people are very friendly and welcoming of foreign tourists, and will go out of their way to help you.
In Gujarat—a ‘dry’ state, meaning you can’t buy alcohol—my boyfriend and I were invited back to a guy’s place for ‘a drink of milk’! While taking a fifteen-hour train trip across the country, an elderly man made everyone in the compartment move over so that my boyfriend and I would have more space. Why? Because we were from New Zealand, and as a former employee of India’s dairy development programmes in the 1960s, he appreciated all the help New Zealand had given India at the time. He wanted to repay the favour. Only in India!
Read the full article here.