My Most Extreme Adventure: India

One of my favourite quotes is from the travel writer Tim Cahill.

“An adventure is never an adventure when it happens. Adventure is simply emotional or physical discomfort recollected in tranquillity.”

The most extreme emotional and physical discomfort I’ve endured was the month I spent blundering through northern India. And since anywhere outside of India is an oasis of tranquillity in comparison, I can now safely indulge in a spot of recollection.

The culture shock I experienced in India was akin to being frazzled by an electric chair while receiving periodic lightning bolts to the head. It didn’t help that I was utterly and hopelessly unprepared on every level – my first lesson was that this is not a country that should be winged – but even so, there is no escaping the fact that India is a world of its own.

The basic rules of human interaction, which I had dutifully nurtured my whole life, suddenly meant nothing. I was a bewildered child again. I would emerge from a train station, hunched under my ridiculously oversized backpack, and before I’d even had time to blink at the smoggy sun, a tsunami of wide-eyed men would crash into me, tugging at my arms and pleading with me to take their tuk-tuk, or rickshaw, or to simply “Follow me.”

Even then, as first-time gapper, I wasn’t naïve enough to assume the confrontational nature of the people in these situations was a cultural quirk. Clearly it was the result of poverty and desperation, and while it was a fleeting novelty for me, for them it was life.

But it was crushingly overwhelming regardless. I had grown up in Britain, a country obsessed with personal anonymity, where something as trivial as slightly prolonged eye contact can be interpreted as an act of aggression.

Like most people who have set foot in India, I could produce several tomes of observations and anecdotes, but that’s not what this post is about. The point is that an adventure is any experience out of your comfort zone, and the further you are from your comfort zone, the more intense the adventure.

For me, that was India.

Weirdly, I can’t wait to go back.

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