Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India

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Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover

India is indeed a masala of many wonderful, interesting things. However, for the first-time traveller, the variety of elements you have to deal with could be a little dizzying. It is, therefore, road-smart to equip your backpacks with these useful travel buddies. So as not to send you into tilt or derail you from making happy holidays, let’s stand by what #Rover Recommends.

India, like this fish thali that I had in a restaurant in Goa, is indeed a masala, a mixture of many elements.

Photo of Miramar, Panjim, Goa, India by Unshod Rover

The variety of colors, as this pookalam (flower decorations) during the Onam Festival, may overwhelm the first-time traveller.

Photo of Thondiyil, Kannur, Kerala, India by Unshod Rover

1. Water Bottle. While it’s general travel wisdom to keep oneself always hydrated, it is doubly important to always carry with you a bottle of water anywhere in India. That is, water that you are already used to. Bottled water is available everywhere as well as those in jugs with a common glass readily offered to random passersby. However, your system may not be as ready to take in different types of water. So, better safe than sore tummy. [One curious detail though is my preference for that warm, pinkish water that they usually serve in Kerala homes. This ayurvedic mix is made by boiling water along with the hard part of the sappan wood or East Indian red wood. It is said to be both a purifier and a cure for many diseases. But then, again, it needs some getting used to.]

My favorite Kerala "pink water"

Photo of Peravoor, Kerala, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Peravoor, Kerala, India by Unshod Rover

2. Wet Wipes/Toilet Paper. Okay, let’s start from the beginning of the digestion process. Most of the time, you would be taking food and meals using your hand. Therefore, it is always wise to wash your hands or in the absence of water, use wet wipes. By the end of the process, repeat step one. Trust me on this. Like, really. Sometimes, clean water and soap may not be available, and many times, toilet paper is still scarce. That leads me to these amazing…

3. Green Pearls. A very concerned friend suggested it to me in one of my earlier travels around India. These are wonder gems made mainly of Pudina Satva that provide quick relief from stomach ailments. I’m not sure yet as to how medically safe they are, but for sure, they have helped me keep the toilet away, which may not always be around the corner anyway. Especially during long trips with irregular meal schedules, these green pearls come in handy along with candies, dark chocolate, and light biscuits. [Personally, I have been war-trained by my grandmother not to eat during a trip. And so, I could actually survive an all-nighter without eating. But that’s just between me and my grandmother.]

Some trips would take 8-10 hours, some overnight.

Photo of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India by Unshod Rover

4. Sturdy Sandals/Chappals. They help you walk the talk. There’s a lot of walking (and sometimes running and pushing and shoving) involved here in India, and on roads less travelled or badly beaten at that. Shoes are fine, but with the weather varying around the subcontinent, an ever reliable pair of sandals could be one small step for man, one giant leap over potholes and dead animals sometimes. Rain or shine, chappals could be your stepping-stone to wanderlust success.

Photo of Old Goa, Goa, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Kovai Pudur, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Miramar Beach, Panjim, Goa, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Miramar Beach, Panjim, Goa, India by Unshod Rover

5. Neck pillow. When you are not walking, most likely you are on a bus or on the train. You might as well keep your neck relaxed and secure, whether on sleep or sightseeing mode. India is big. A three-hour ride is near, eight-hour trips are normal, and hope springs eternal.

6. Blanket/Towel. Please refer to number 2. Well, seriously, your modest accommodation either on the bus or train or during your stay may not provide for these two important pieces of cloth. AC buses or trains could get exponentially cold, while open-air transportation could be a little, well, breezy and/or open to air. Also, you don’t want to catch yourself after-bath without a towel.

A bag of essentials always come in handy.

Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover

7. Mosquito repellent. Quite simply, to repel mosquitoes unless you intend to spend most of your time body-clapping.

8. Water-proof Things/Bags. Aside from the sporadic rain, be ready for your bag to also get sweaty, moist, sauced, etc. There’s also a lot of sweating and washing involved, so a ready water-proof bag for wet clothes could prove to be the hottest deal.

Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Unshod Rover

9. Books/Music/Movies. Please refer to number 5. Aside from long rides [which I really, really like, by the way], you will always have some spare time while waiting for your flight, bus, meal, service, etc. So, while trying to learn the ropes tied to the Indian sense of timing, you can read a chapter, listen to an album, watch an episode. In case, these do not suffice. You can go back to sightseeing and people-watching.

My growing stack of journals that I bring with me (and sometimes buy) wherever I go (Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Thailand, India).

Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover

10. Camera/Diary. Despite the difficulties and the inconvenience, travelling around India could prove to be the deepest and most enriching human experience one could ever have. It is for me. I have never felt so close, elbow to elbow, with humanity, the essentials of life. It has a way, sometimes charming, sometimes confusing, of keeping yourself grounded. Of course, without much exoticising or dramaticising one’s experiences, you’d thank me later for having told you to keep some memories through photographs and writings. Besides, who knows other people outside of your family and friends could also benefit from your travel stories. Take my word for it, literally.

11. Family Picture. As a family-oriented and friendly bunch, Indians get really curious about your age, your work, your social status, your family background. Showing them a picture of your family is like welcoming them into your home back where you come from. And since all of a sudden you all become one family, a new family selfie is also required. And the whole world becomes one big happy family.

Even among newfound friends, it is normal to be asked about your family, your social status, your work, even your salary.

Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Engapuzha, Kedavur, Kerala, India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Kottiyoor, Kerala, India by Unshod Rover

12. Smile. Again, despite the difficulties and the inconvenience, a smile is your map, guidebook, and welcome and parting gift all in one. It will lead you to open arms, and doors and homes, and maybe wrong directions, but still more smiles and even lasting friends. With a smile, come an open mind and a happy disposition. Then, beyond money and/or any other material remuneration, a smile could prove to be the best gift and greeting you could give and leave a host or a stranger. In a world of walls and borders, it is the most effective icebreaker, to begin with.

From product promotions to Mahatma Gandhi, who many consider as the nation's father, there's always a reason to smile here in India.

Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover
Photo of Top 12 Travel Buddies when in India by Unshod Rover

So, let’s get this packing started. //

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