India with children...? I know what your'e thinking, and some of us would never dare attempt it. You may change your mind after reading this beautiful story.
Introducing avid traveler Rachel Glasby, 36 year old mother of two daughters, Luna Indigo and Zaala Zahara (both under 5). Rachel and her family venture to the motherland twice yearly for photography assignments and to source treasures for her online shop The Silk Road. She also leads small bespoke journeys to India, for mothers and daughters. Today they share their travel tales…
Autorickshaw in Jodhpur
There’s always flowers on every corner
What was the penny drop moment which had you first packing for India?
I first landed on the streets of India through family. My daughters Grandpa was born and raised in North-East India and my brother in law’s family are also from India, so I had travelled there a few times before Luna and Zaala were born. When it came to travelling there with the girls, there was never really a penny drop moment. There simply was never any question that taking them to India couldn’t be done! They’ve now learnt to crawl, walk and talk in India over the past five years of Indian journeys.
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Where did you travel within India?
With the girls alongside me I have travelled extensively through North India, mostly in the states of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujurat. These are our most-loved places in India and have become like a home away from home. I feel such a sense of homecoming when I arrive back. Over the years we’ve made good friends and there are many familiar faces who wholeheartedly welcome us back each time.
What was the most rewarding moment of your journey?
I think for me as a mother it is seeing the girls interact with people from all walks of life and noticing that they simply do not see differences from one human to the next. It makes it so glaringly obvious that we as adults create these barriers, sometimes even unconsciously. Children’s eyes simply don’t see them, and this is something I want to ensure stays with them. I know as they get older it’s inevitable that they’ll intellectualise that ‘differences’ exist, but my deep wish is that these early-life experiences will allow them to acknowledge these differences for what they are but only pay heed to the fact that our humanity unites us, and that this comes before anything else.
and the most daunting?
Extricating yourselves, your kids and your luggage from an autorickshaw and making your way through the crowd to find your seat on a train at any Indian train station can be a stress like you’ve never experienced! We learnt very quickly this was not a place to assert our travel independence by saying no to the porters. Negotiate a fair price from the get-go, and they will safely deliver you and your luggage to the exact platform and carriage for any route you could possibly throw at them. If your train hasn’t yet arrived, they’ll stand you in the exact spot you need to be and you’ll be stunned when your train arrives and realise that they’ve dropped you within one metre of your carriage door.
Puja’s in Pushkar with a Brahmin priest we have now known since the girls were babies
Train journeys to the border of India and Pakistan
Where did you stay in each region?
Over the years of many hits and misses, I now have a few firm favourites that never fail to make us feel at home. In Udaipur, we have always stayed at Dream Heaven Hotel. It has a gorgeous view over the lake, it’s very low key, the kitchen is wonderful and the owner is one of the best guys in town. In Jaipur, Umaid Bhawan is beautiful and peaceful. In Pushkar, you can’t go past everyones not-so-secret favourite, Inn Seventh Heaven. Anoop has become a dear friend and will always go above and beyond to make sure our stay is wonderful, even if he is not in the country.
Spinning around at the Taj Mahal
Did you have any sicknesses on the road and how did you avoid this?
India and varying degrees of an upset tummy go hand-in-hand for probably 99% of travellers. Even the most seasoned traveller with a cast iron gut is still not immune. I find if you’re travelling during the cooler months you are far less likely to get sick. In the summer months, with soaring temperatures and frequent power cuts, you might as well start taking your anti-nausea medications as soon as you swallow your first mouthful of Biriyani…We’ve all been sick at one point or another and you just have to ride it out, unfortunately. That said, Indian food is absolutely sensational and if you stick to vegetarian food, busy restaurants/street vendors and eat where locals eat, you’ll have a far better chance of staying well and finding the best food India has to offer. My best meals in India have been at the simplest roadside stalls, hands down.
When you close your eyes and think of your trips, what do you see, smell, hear? Take us there…
Every possible hue of colour as I walk through the flower market with mountains of flowers overflowing from bundles made of old saris. Swirls of jasmine incense drifting through the air mixed with the omnipresent smell of cow dung and an open sewer. Sunset in Pushkar with the evening Aarti bells ringing in slightly uneven unison across the lake and the roar of a gas flame as it gets turned up full blast under a pot of sweet chai. And incessant car horns….They’ll make you lose your mind and once you have, you’ll learn to drown them out. Chaos and bliss, India is a constant juxtaposition.
Cuddles at the Taj Mahal earlier this year
Your one word of advice for families traveling to India this would be?
With kids, aim to be as light and mobile as you can. In my experience, India is not a place to travel with prams or car seats. If you’re travelling with a little one, get them used to a baby sling of some kind (We have worn-out three amazing Ergo’s.) Travel light and you’ll be able to get around in autorickshaws and trains with far more ease. You’ll also be swept up into the fabric of everyday India far more this way than if you are travelling everywhere in a private car. You simply won’t hear, feel or bear witness to the thundering heartbeat of India with the windows rolled shut.
Rachel will be journeying to the south of India on a photography assignment for The Birthing Kit Foundation of Australia in a few weeks time. When she’s not travelling, Rachel works as an emergency department nurse in Adelaide, SA.
Follow along her journey for more of India and learn about this amazing organisation! @thesilkroad_ and @rachelgatsby