40 Things I Learned Backpacking in India

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a 2 part series about our travels through India and the Middle East. Travel articles will come about 2-3 times a year. In the future I’ll break down the economics of the trip and offer suggestions for individuals looking to see the world without spending millions.

Every time I travel I learn something new. Sometimes it is about the country or place I am visiting. But often, it’s about myself. For most of my life, I haven’t been much of a writer but occasionally I’ve taken some time to write my thoughts in the moment. The list you see below was written on the airplane ride home from India after backpacking with my wife and one of my best friends. I’ve curated it over time but some of the rawness and emotion still shines through. India is a majestic place and I was able to make a lot of observations even after traveling for a only few weeks.

40 Things I learned Backpacking in India

  1. Negotiating is exhausting when doing it for prolonged periods
  2. The more members of your group the less walk away power you have in any situation
  3. Pollution is undervalued
  4. Clean air and clean water are under appreciated
  5. Having too much can make you unhappy, not having enough can also make you unhappy
  6. Awareness breeds safety
  7. The worst Americans have it better than the most of the rest of the world
  8. You compare yourself most with your neighbors and friends
  9. Your stomach will not make it the whole trip
  10. Food is cheap when labor approaches  0
  11. Smiling is contagious; not smiling is also contagious
  12. Negotiating is more difficult without full information
  13. Rich tourist in poor countries change the economy, but for the good?
  14. Trying crazy food is harder to enjoy when you are in less than comfortable situations
  15. What we want (or don’t want) is way more important than what we have
  16. Clean means different things to different people
  17. When you are not interacting with interesting  people, the allure of happiness from stuff is much greater
  18. People are judged on how the look and present themselves everywhere
  19. Knowledge is the power, knowing your next best alternative, and being in a position to walk away
  20. When traveling in poorer countries and only going to the tourist spots you only get a feel for the people who are desperate or make money off tourist, a bad cross section of the population to judge a country by
  21. Car crashes make you rethink everything
  22. There are a lot of people that are really devout to religions other than Christianity
  23. There are good people in every country; there are bad people in every country
  24. My wife doesn’t like feeling dirty
  25. People can adapt to riches or filth very quickly (cold showers and luxury hotels)
  26. People will pay for ease and convenience
  27. American girls are the prettiest in the world
  28. Competing for resources make it more  important to extract maximum value from all transactions (or tourist)
  29. Other people can teach you a lot, quickly
  30. The color of your skin is still important
  31. Is the right context people will go out of their way to help you, in another context the same person may take advantage of you
  32. America is spread out
  33. Touching other people and being touched is an adjustment
  34. Expectations are the framework through which experiences are understood
  35. It is good to know English
  36. I am married to a girl that is the envy of 99% of the guys out there in the whole world
  37. I have more than I need
  38. Often, being honest and doing good deeds are not rewarded immediately
  39. A good night’s sleep is vastly underrated
  40. Home is good; wherever you make it

I love to travel. Looking back, I’ve learned so much from other people and cultures. Let me know in the comments if anything stands out or if you can identify with one of the statements. India is a crazy place and traveling there will give you an appreciate for almost 1/3 of the world’s people and culture.

5 thoughts on “40 Things I Learned Backpacking in India

  1. I think those are pretty accurate. 3&4 are pretty forgoten about in this country. #8 is very true – The comparison is based in an almost unsatiable desire for more and better (regardless of what you have).

    Out of curiousity how many people did you go with to India? and how long were you there/where did you go? I was born in Nepal while my parents were there with Peace Corps/US Aid, but don’t remember it at all. I did spend a summer in China though and got to do some cool stuff while we were there including backpacking parts of the great wall. It sounds like we expieirened similar situations though when going to the “tourist” areas thought.

    • I think for most Americans it is very difficult to understand how good we have it. I know this was the case for most of my life. It was simply what I was exposed to when growing. I have a long post I’ll put up Thursday with all the details of the trip and some good pictures.

  2. 17. When you are not interacting with interesting people, the allure of happiness from stuff is much greater.

    This is so true. It is so hard to explain to people at work how to live below your means, but this sums it up in a nutshell. I don’t need the stuff, I need the company! Well said.

    • Thanks. I know this is true for me. I find that when I’m in good company I’m not constantly looking to find happiness in stuff. I also notice too how much more important relationships are in countries that are not as affluent as the US. I see so many people chasing wealth that they neglect their families and relationships all for the pursuit of something that will not leave them fulfilled.

  3. Pingback: India: The Beauty and The Mess - A Backpacker's Adventure | Simple Economist