This summer I was fortunate enough to spend one glorious month in India completing 2 weeks of veterinary research and 2 weeks of travelling around Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. My travels started by taking me to the wide, rice paddy field expanse of the Kanha National Park tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh. For 2 weeks I was based in the village of Behrakhar, travelling from village-to-village and door-to-door approaching confused locals and quizzing them about their cattle vaccination protocols and disease awareness. I was fully immersed in local life, speaking in Hindi to locals from my questionnaire script and gathering enlightening details about their beliefs and practices. My results were extremely revealing and I was surprised to find that so many farmers here still believe, despite the scientific advances of Western medicine, that spiritual practice and herbal medicine provide better disease prevention than vaccination. The second part of my trip allowed me to satisfy my hunger for culture and experience the challenges and joys of navigating the Indian railway and it’s vast diversity of beautiful cities. I started in Varanasi and from here travelled to Agra, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Delhi. Each city bought it’s own architecture, monuments and local life to the table and refused to let me rest when there were so many hidden streets and bustling markets to explore.
Initially, when planning my trip with my Lonely Planet book in hand, I felt full of confidence and excitement about the adventure I was about to have. However, shortly before jetting off halfway around the world on my own the nerves started to kick in. My main concerns were about the success of my project – particularly how accessible and understandable my questions were going to be for the illiterate rural folk I was going to be interviewing. Beyond this I was worried about navigating the railways and the vast, bustling cities of India on my own. What if I fell very sick on a long train journey with no one else there to ensure I left at the right stop and didn’t end up halfway down the country? When I arrived, these worries were quickly extinguished as I was guided through my research project with the help of the wonderful vets and researchers at The Corbett Foundation – a charity I was working with who provide veterinary and medical outreach services to remote areas of rural India as well as carrying out vital environmental conservation work. With regards to travelling solo, I found it nothing short of wonderful! Travelling under my own steam from place to place as and when I wanted to was truly liberating and the friends who I made along the way – locals and other curious travellers alike – provided me with varying and interesting company. Many of these friends I know I will keep in touch with for many years to come.
This adventure to India gave me a rich cultural experience and allowed me to explore my own limits and capabilities, really stepping outside of my comfort zone and everything I’m used to in terms of climate, culture, social customs and food. I have seen first-hand the hardships of some of the world’s poorest people and it taught me never to take simple pleasures such as toilets and running water for granted. My yearning to go back and explore the rest of this incredible country with its vast array of cultures and scenery will hopefully take me back here in the future.