Today (July 30), we are one week into our two-week tour. We left the hotel in Varanasi this morning at 4:30 and are on a six-hour train ride towards the border with Nepal. We will catch a bus for another six hours or so before reaching our next destination.
This is not a luxury trip by any means. We have stayed in comfortable hotels each night, but we have endured the heat, dust, long train and bus rides, cultural experiences that have simply overwhelmed us at each turn, blackouts in dark alleys, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, trains that stop for hours without explanation, the constant threat of pickpockets, lugging our heavy bags to a new location every day or two, persistent vendors who will not take no for an answer, unbelievable poverty and children begging for food at every destination, not to mention bedbugs, diarrhea, headaches and more. Oh, and even though it pales in comparison, the inconsistent wi-fi does not help.
Despite the challenges of travel in India, I have not heard any complaints from any members of our group. In fact, many of us have said that we are extremely pleased with how our group has gotten along. There are eleven members on this tour, ten from the United States (Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island) and one Canadian, ranging in age from 23 (whose birthday we celebrated last night) to fifty-something. There are two couples, one mother-daughter team and five solo travelers. Ten are teachers, from elementary to high school, teaching art, social studies, science, language arts and special education. Some have extensive travel experience (Julie has the record with 30 countries) while others are on their first big trip.
Traveling with a group like this, you would expect to have some occasional friction (Doesn’t every group have a whiner, a crier, a person who’s always late, someone who never stops talking, or someone who expects everything to be just like at home?) Our group really doesn’t. We do not always do everything together during our free time, but we work well together and support each other. Everyone faces the challenges of this trip with a great sense of humor. We laugh a lot (about our experiences as well as at each other) and wake up each day knowing that the adventures to come will be well worth the effort. I could easily imagine working with any of the teachers on this trip. For many of us, this has been a pleasant surprise to have such an enjoyable and efficient group.