Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Travel in India for the uninitiated will get you out of your comfort zone like nothing else will. You will be confronted with sights, sounds and smells which you have never before encountered. And many of them will not be pleasant. 
Different sets of travelers will have different experiences, based on many factors. But one thing which all should bear in mind is that India is a challenge, and a state of mind. 

India does not exist to suit you. If you want to embrace India, it is your duty to accept that this chaos is a way of life and way of thinking that you, the foreigner, must learn to live with in order to get to India’s blessings.

People will stare at you...

Boy at a Chai Walla (tea stall) in Mumbai
Sometimes they will look like they want to eat you alive. This can be very disconcerting. But generally, this is simply their way of expressing curiosity. Believe it or not, many (yes, even in major cities) have never met a westerner. All they have been exposed to is television and film portrayals of western society. No wonder they think we are oddities! 

Curious Boy in Rural Rajasthan 
 Some will approach you, ask what seem like inappropriate personal questions (again, this is an expression of curiosity), and ask for your photo. Be aware that agreeing can mean posing with every member of the family, multiple times! 
[Single women, be aware that men may try to touch you (they seem to think we don't mind...let them know clearly if you DO mind).]
This Young Mumbai Shopkeeper Called Out "Take my photo, Miss!"
Be curious back. Ask questions. 
Try to learn a bit of the language and culture. 
Learn the value of the currency and local going rates!
Don't be afraid to make stupid mistakes (this one is particularly difficult for me).
Rajasthani Men at Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan
And for goodness sake, keep your sense of humor! You're going to need it!

All images copyright Tammy Winand.