I’m not the sort of traveler who buys a ticket, steps off the plane and just lets it happen. I have a hard time imagining that such people even exist, but they really do. I was told recently by someone during a job interview that she took a trip to Europe with no plan, no itinerary and was just going to wing it. Not me, not ever. It would be my luck that “it” wouldn’t happen at all or might happen very, very badly. After all the money I’m going to spend to get there, luck isn’t going to have anything to do with what kind of a trip I’m going to have. I spend a lot of time planning my trips, to make sure I have a fabulous time.
Last year I came across a fantastic website that pushed me closer to planning a trip to India: IndiaMike. It’s a place where Indiaphiles gather to chat endlessly and happily about their trips, offer advice to others who are planning theirs and share photographs. And not just travelers frequent the site: Indian nationals and Indian expats are there, too, giving invaluable insights and advice. The place is a gold mine. I lurked there for about nine months, taking it all in.
Any doubts I had about traveling in India alone for the first time were quickly put to rest. I now had the motivation to really go, after years of idly dreaming about it. I just wasn’t sure when.
After a fantastic trip to Ghana in 2009 by private car and driver, I decided I’d like to do the same in India if the cost was within my budget. Some more time spent crawling through IndiaMike forums yielded the name of a tour company that got loads of recommendations: Namaste India Tours.
After thoroughly checking out their website and their Rajasthan tour, the decision made itself. Their itinerary had everything on it that I wanted to see, plus some things I hadn’t known about that I definitely wanted to see! The only change I’m making is the time frame. The standard Namaste Rajasthan tour is for 16 days. I’m going to do it in 28. More time for photography, aimless wandering and shopping, less rushing.
That doesn’t mean I’m done planning. I’m still researching the places on the itinerary so I’ll have a better understanding of what I’ll be seeing. I’m also finding out about other things to do and see in the same area that the itinerary doesn’t cover. I’ll be going over that with Namaste in September when I actually book the tour. Even for them, now is a bit too soon to book! A preliminary email to them about a month ago gave me an idea of when I should start finalizing plans for the tour and when to think about buying a plane ticket.
The most important planning is done, though: deciding where exactly I want to go, what to see, when to go and when to finalize plans.
The when part was decided once I found out there’s an annual elephant festival in Jaipur in March. A parade of elephants decorated from trunk to tail in paint, bells and tassels files through the city to mark the beginning of the festival. This I had to see! And photograph!! It was too soon to do it this year after my Ghana trip in September of 2009, so I had to plan my India trip for March of 2011.
You can see why this just-let-it-happen philosophy doesn’t work for me!