March 2010 Maha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar-Rishikesh-Gwalior-Orcha-Khajuraho-Allahabad-Bodh Gaya-Sarnath-Varanasi-Delhi .
India is not a trip. It is an experience. Everything here is pushing your senses. To say, “I did India” and have in mind a tourist trip where you see the sites and nothing else is impossible. The Indian life enters your skin, your body, in your breath and in your mind like nowhere else in the world. India is a place like no other on the beaten, or even unbeaten, path. In no other place in the world you live symbiotic, like it or not, with your travel destination. India is wearing you out like no other destination. As I noticed first time in Bangkok 15 years ago you could tell in a crowd who was the guy coming from India after a long stay. They look different, tired, weary, exhausted but in a mental way and all the travelers I spoke with confirmed it. This does not mean a bit that they hate it, They are coming every year and stay for quite long hauls, traveling from North to South, coming and going to Sri Lanka, Nepal, etc, but always spending the large part of the time here. They were before and will come again next year but they face the reality that the experience is tougher than in any other parts of the world. A lot of them stay in ashrams for a while taking yoga classes. Here life is different, easier sometimes than the one “on the road” but it has the stricter requirements of the secluded life. Some are forgetting themselves in Goa, Andaman Islands, Shimla, Manali, etc. but no matter where they go and stay, they will always be awed and horrified in the same time. For travelers less exposed to the sheer reality, maybe first time here, who started with a long stay plan, time drags along. They know that they will not extend their stay so they take it easy and stay as comfy as possible thinking about the time when they will be back in their own country. Because India is the only country where you are not regretting that the vacation is over and you are looking forward to return to your country where, after a short while, you will start again dreaming to return here, to India.