I surveyed the menu; I felt as if I was under a lot of pressure to choose exactly the right dishes. After all, a big life decision would be made based on this meal specifically. My youngest niece, Erin, was choosing her destination for her Niece Project, the very last Niece Project. She had the benefit of all of the nieces before her to pick her destination and what kind of travel she wanted to do.
“I don’t want to go lay on the beach all week, I want to go somewhere different and see a lot of different things and meet locals like Evie did, “ she said to me as we looked at the world map. Evie is her older sister who traveled with me to Vietnam. Of course I was happy to hear this because this is exactly how I love to travel, so I was feeling a bit relieved. But the world is big and this is a big decision for a 17 year old who has only been to Mexico so far in her young life.
Don’t know what the Niece Project is? Find out what it’s all about here!
There were two countries that were in the running for her decision, but one was pulling at her more. However, there was one problem, she was worried she wouldn’t like the food and couldn’t fathom being somewhere for a couple of weeks where she hated the food.
It’s weird, in all of my travels I don’t think I’ve ever even considered not liking the food before, and certainly not ever to the point that I wouldn’t go somewhere because of it. In fact one of my favorite countries is Mongolia, but I also believe it’s the country with the worst food. I love it so much that I just put up with the food. But, one of the things I love about these trips with my nieces is that is brings me new perspectives, and a younger one at that! So, there’s only one way to solve this indecision about food, let’s go to an Indian restaurant and try some!
I ordered samosas, aloo gobi, naan, lamb masala, and dal.
She didn’t love everything, but she didn’t hate anything. Success! She loved the naan, aloo gobi, and dal – and decided if she had to survive for 2 weeks on those things only – she could!
It’s official; my last Niece Project is going to India!
First Time in India
I can still remember when Erin was 12 years old she would always ask to see my pictures from India. I have no idea why. Maybe it was the colors, the kids, the exoticness of it – I’m not sure. But ever since I can remember she has had an interest in it. Plus, there’s this weird competition between my nieces as each tries to outdo the other on their trip. I’m pretty sure that’s how we got to India; it is probably the most exotic and challenging place to travel on this planet. It’s good to know that the competition gene has been handed down.
Where did my other nieces go?
If you aren’t familiar with my past writing about the Niece Project, this is a great place to start overall. Want to know where each niece went?
But quite honestly, India takes a whole new level of guts. On my first career break travels I left India out of my itinerary because I thought it was too hard and I just wouldn’t be able to deal with it. I honestly don’t think I’d recommend to many first time travelers. I think everyone should go, but it’s a bit easier if you ease into it.
I eventually did add India to my travel itinerary by starting out volunteering in Delhi in 2007, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Then I returned in 2014 and did the unthinkable, drove a motor rickshaw for 2000 miles across the whole country with my friend Charlie. The country that once scared me now enthralled me.
With all of this in mind, for the first time in Niece Project history I had to get very, very honest with Erin as she considered India. Normally I’m not one to dwell on the negative of a country, but I was going to be traveling with a 17 year old for 2 weeks through India as her first international trip and I needed to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into. I’ve dealt with plenty of motion sickness nieces, altitude sick nieces, and ones that were scared of bugs (in all honestly I’m a little scared of bugs too!). But I didn’t really think I could deal with a niece that decided she wanted to go home after a few days because she didn’t like it.
It was time to give Erin an idea of what traveling in India was really like.
“You will have days where you hate India, and days where you love India. You will see things that surprise and disgust you, and things very, very different from our culture. You will be on hot trains with smells that you won’t like. You will see poverty that will break your heart. You may see dead people in rivers or at temples. You may get sick or have diarrhea. People will stare at you and make you feel uncomfortable at times. You will be so hot at times you will think you are melting. You cannot drink the water…not even to brush your teeth. You will meet incredibly kind people. You will see and experience a whole different type of world and way to live. And did I say that people will stare at you…a lot. We aren’t vacationing in India, we are traveling in India.”
She listened, paused for a bit, and looked a bit scared. For a moment I wondered if I had gone too far. But then with some trepidation she said, “That’s what I want.” Followed by, “I just don’t know if I will like the food.”
Ok…apparently the food was the scariest thing that was weighing on her after all of that! I’ll never be able to predict teenagers!
The India Dream Team
Once we had the destination, I knew exactly where I had to go to figure out a plan – Intrepid Travel. I love Intrepid’s style of small group travel for these niece projects (and here’s why). Three of the five completed Niece Projects so far have been with Intrepid. Plus, I know they will provide a very authentic ‘close to the ground’ experience allowing us to travel deeper than most tour companies. Intrepid thrives in India and have a bunch or great itineraries that intertwine you with locals and places that are lesser known. In fact, even though I’ve done a lot of India, there are many places on the itinerary that I’ve never been to!
We’ll be doing Intrepid’s Classic Rajasthan trip. You can see our complete itinerary here. This is a super trip for a first time visitor to India!
When Are We Going?
We will be traveling from July 29 to mid August. Summer isn’t exactly the best time to travel to India, it’s HOT and humid. And to top it off, July through September is the monsoon season, with rising humidity and heavy rains in July and August. So this isn’t necessarily the best time to go, but we have to go in the summer when Erin is out of school. And I actually enjoy embracing the less than desirable weather in a country because it’s a chance to see how the locals deal with it. After all, it’s not a vacation it’s travel.
Preparing To Travel In India In The Summer
We are in full swing prep mode with only a month before we leave! Erin is working on vaccinations, and her visa, and we are now starting to talk about packing. India poses some special considerations when packing; you have to pack with modesty in mind. Especially when you are traveling with a cute 17 year old blonde girl who will just naturally attract a lot of attention. It’s necessary we have things to cover up from the stares, for the temples, and just to protect ourselves from the sun. In addition, since it’s monsoon season, that means the likelihood of more mosquitoes that carry illness. I’m not a huge proponent of malaria meds due to side effects, and there are no meds for dealing with Dengue Fever, instead I try to really be diligent about bug repellent.
I called upon the travel clothing experts, and one of my favorite companies – Exofficio. They could help us solve our need to be modest with lightweight clothing layers that are great for putting over tank tops, and are easy to wash up and dry fast. In addition they have a Bugs Away clothing line with InsectShield; providing another layer of bug protection. The built-in insect repellent Permethrin provides a worryfree outdoor experience, allowing us to focus on our Niece Project adventure, not the bugs. I’ll let you know how well the clothing works!
I have a lot of mixed feelings going into Niece Project 6.0; I can’t believe it’s the last one. I honestly have no idea how it went that fast. And if I think about it too much, I’ll start to cry. I still remember after the first Niece Project I wondered if I really had the stamina to make it all the way through 6 nieces over the next 8 years! So it is with a little sadness that I’m going into this trip. Yet at the same time, I’m determined to soak it in savor each India moment with Erin!
I’m also anticipating really enjoying traveling with Erin. I have always had a special place in my heart for the youngest nieces because that was my spot in the family tree. Erin is really athletic and a competitor, so I think she has the mental stamina to make it through India. She’s kind, easy going, and always laughing, and who doesn’t love that in a travel partner. I can’t wait to get to know her better in India through all of the good and bad!
We are going to rock India…and eat daal, naan, and aloo gobi the whole time!
If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to go to India for the first time and see it through a newbie’s eyes, then follow along on Niece Project 6.0 India starting July 28th!