As a kid, after hearing to the stories of my grand father and his adventures in India, I always wanted to visit it. My grandfather was posted in the British Revenue Services and had served in various location across India. He always used to tell me about the beautiful times he spent there and the adventures he had there.
He knew a lot of Hindi and Punjabi, and so we had his Indian friends as guests at our home. Jedburgh is a small city in Scotland where I belong to, but is known for its history, especially the differences between the Scottish and the British. Coming from such a place, I was attracted to culture and history, and grandpa was a part of it.
As I grew up and became a nurse, I was nurturing this idea of travel to India. I somehow found some like-minded colleagues at the hospice and we began planning. They were excited after I narrated them my childhood stories. I wanted to be there as early as possible to see the places where grandfather had lived more than sixty years ago. In his narratives he once told me “I was posted at Amritsar a holy little town with beautiful people. It was too hot in the summers and biting cold in the winters. This part of India was so fertile that the farmers used to reap three crops a year.” So Amritsar was surely on my list.
In another story he told me about the Himalayas and his stay at Yol Cantonment near Dharamshala, which is now famous for Dalai Lama. He used to get very excited and happy recalling his times in India. He also told m about his trip to Jeypore and its nearby forests where he went for ‘Shikaar’ or game hunting (now it is illegal to hunt in India). He said- there is no other city in India as beautiful as Jeypore and the people of the city are so hospitable.
Grandpa’s list of cities gave me a fair idea, that I was visiting Northern Part of India. Me and friends started searching for a nice trip to India. But first we had to decide a suitable time for it, and plan our leaves. After much consideration we got our leaves in March. To our surprise one of our friends told us that there will be a big festival of Holi in the same month. Now was the task to find a suitable trip.
We all started searching and found nothing very encouraging or covering the cities that we wanted to visit. One of my friends wanted to go to Goa too. Now this made it even more complicated. Dharamshala right in the North, Jaipur in the center and Goa to South. The worst nightmare was to find flights that would take us in and out of India, without much of criss-crossing the whole country.
I was hopeful that we will find someone who will have such a package. Time was running out, and to increase the complications, we had the taxation time coming up, making us short of funds. So now the idea was to either cancel the trip, shorten it or find something that fits into all our parameters.
We thought of doing an in-depth research. We went to travel agents, travel shops and met some friends for references. Jedburgh is a small city, so we did not have many options. So we tried searching it over internet. What we found initially was the things travel agents told us. Very similar to what all people usually do. But our search was on. The passion was built and we wanted to do all things with our pocket size.
One day, I found an interesting blog about – Youth travel in India. This was the thing I was looking for. Complete experiential travel and very much for a budget traveler. I spotted some references there ans keywords to search on google.
We made a list of seven organizations and started sending them inquiries. This was not the usual thing many people do. We had a thumb rule – we will do a background check. Out of the seven four replied us within 24 hours. Not bad! this was a good sign. We told them our requirements and they supported us in the initial inquiry. Three of them told that since it is a customized program it will take them some time to get back to us. Another organization just had it the way we wanted it to be- their name was Active Internationals.
We were amazed, on the very first moment we knew we are travelling with them, but we stuck to our thumb rule- background check. We made some calls, asked people and read some forums. These guys were clean and good. Almost all of them had great reviews about them.
Above all the prices were so good that we had an excess budget of some shopping in India.
The itinerary was named- India 360. Well it was indeed a 360 degree itinerary. There were some great observations in it. I am so satisfied, that I want to share it to all but will do it with my journey details.
We landed in New Delhi, and were joined by other participants from Netherlands and Denmark. This seemed to be a good group. Our schedule was to see Delhi, push off to Agra to see the Taj, visit the deserted capital of Fatehpur Sikri, stay a little longer in Jaipur and do some social work. Now this was definitely interesting. We then went to Pushkar a holy little town, and to the tiger reserve in Ranthambore.
After all this two of our Dutch partners went back home from Delhi. Yeah, it was flexible to leave after the first two weeks. We had more time and we had taken the full package. Via Delhi we went up North, first to Amritsar and then to Dharamshala. The two places which were the highlights of my grandpa’s stories.
The Himalayas were beautiful. Then we came down to Delhi again to board a flight to Goa. Ok, here was another opportunity to leave the group. But all of us were going to Goa. Some time in Goa and then to Mumbai, this was the best conclusion of any trip one can have. It was so convenient to take a flight back home from Mumbai.
I believe we got the best deal and the best planned trip of our lives that too in our budgets. It was so interesting to notice that we got three chances of doing social work in Jaipur, Pushkar and Palampur. We also got special walking tours in Jaipur and Pushkar. We travelled by train, bus, taxi, tuk-tuk, camel, elephant and aircraft. All the things in just one trip. We saw the indo-pak border and we saw Dalai Lama’s temple. We had a leisurely time Jaipur, and spotted tiger in Ranthmabore. Lazy times in Mumbai and to top it all – The Taj Mahal.
I just can’t believe that I am back in Jedburgh and we talk about our trip almost everyday. The hangover is still there.
I wish all of the readers can read this and can enjoy this beautiful trip. We strongly recommend that everyone should explore India, and our vote is for Active Internationals. They made the best travel program one can imagine. We would love to share the link of the program we bought – India 360.
We are thankful to the people of India, who were very hospitable and warm. The food was just out of the world and above all I knew what my grandfather would have felt while he was there.