Earlier this year, Bella Stevenson joined Flash Pack on a whirlwind trip to India (having previously been part of our Sri Lanka escape). Here she explains how the experience led to a fresh appreciation for the relationships that count
They say “be careful what you wish for” but when it comes to your travel adventures, my advice would include “be careful who you share your passion for adventure with”.
In March 2019, I joined a Flash Pack tour of Northern India – somewhere I had wanted to visit for as long as I could remember. This particular trip I had booked well in advance and I was excited about the sights, sounds and experiences that would follow.
Part of the excitement was knowing that I would meet like-minded travellers who would be just as intrigued to visit such a fascinating country.
Via a well thought-out Flash Pack WhatsApp group, four of us were able to meet at Heathrow (being on the same flight) and share our reasons for booking the trip. There was no awkwardness, just sheer excitement that in eight-and-a-half hours’ time, we would be landing in Delhi and putting names to faces that had been set up via modern technology.
Arriving in Delhi was overwhelming, but in a really magical and dazzling way. This was further emphasised by the amazing walking tour organised for the next day around Old Delhi, exploring temples, mosques, spice markets and racing through the streets on rickshaws. We experienced a real bombardment on the senses, as the street traders prepared for the upcoming Holi Festival – an event that adds even more colour to the vibrancy of this incredible region.
Being in India during the Holi Festival was wonderful, especially being hosted by a local family who welcomed us with astounding warmth and generosity (and endless food and drink!)
It turned out to be an exhilarating experience as we stopped along the way to feed cows, visit the Krishna Temple and participate in a hilarious but life-affirming “laughing yoga” session in the local park. Sitting on a rooftop in the city centre, sipping my Masala Chai (a newfound love), a real sense of peace descended on me.
A few days later it was time for me to return to the UK, having made wonderful new friends and with a passion for how inspiring India is as a country.
About a month after returning from India, my open-minded/open-hearted enthusiastic self thought it would be “nice” to start dating again. It wasn’t long before I met a man who was originally from Mumbai. We fell for each other really quickly, bonding over our love of Masala Chai.
In hindsight, the relationship moved too fast and I became overwhelmed by the intensity of it. On reflection, it was perhaps our love for a particular type of tea is all we really had in common. As I tried to share my experiences of India, they became quickly overshadowed by his version of the country that he had left 12 years ago.
I started to feel that my experience of his country was insignificant and my memories were becoming distorted. I allowed my vitality, confidence and energy levels to quickly plummet.
The relationship did not last, and I recognised that I had to try and get off the emotional rollercoaster I had put myself on.
Needing to be around people who really know and love me, I recently went to dinner with my sister (who is in her forties and has three daughters). We spoke about India at great length. I had totally forgotten that she had visited Northern India in 2001, when I had just started university.
She was intrigued by my trip and shared her experience of India and how much she loved it. We shared so many laughs and stories that evening that it reminded me about the real connections you make via travel tales.
My sister has said that she would love to go back to India one day. If she decides to use Flash Pack for her adventure, I think you know who will be helping her husband with the babysitting while she’s away… !
Images: Bella Stevenson