I landed in Delhi on October 2, 2008 for my first India Big Trip and met Ganesh, my tour guide for the first two weeks through Northern India and Nepal. As a guide, Ganesh was professional, knowledgeable, and calm. His guidance and our adventures showed me that I was beginning down the right path.
He led twelve nervous Westerners overland through rickshaws and rhinos, scams and sweets, death defying bus rides and Durga Puja festivals. As a new friend, he was always up for adventure and took us where tourists dare not go – back-alley nightclubs in Kathmandu, jungles, and a TGIFriday’s in Delhi. On quiet nights, he held late night philosophical discussions over flask-poured whiskey.
Traveling is not just his job – it’s his passion. He works to travel and travels in work. Ganesh is a veteran of several Big Trips to Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Middle East. I asked Ganesh about his trips and what went into planning them and share his answers in this article.
The good news, for us, is that he’s back in India and running his own travel company.
Check out Wheel Life Travel.
Tell us about your Big Trips.
Most of my big trips have been for a period of 4-6 months. I went to Cambodia and Indonesia, which was 4 months of travel. It was about traveling to various places to see and experience the culture and its people.
To any country I travel I like to cover it all, from the tourist bits to the off beaten small, not so significant places. I started in Thailand and crossed overland border to Cambodia.
Why these trips?
Travel has been a part of my life for long time. I’ve always been curious about the world. The very general questions of life i.e. what, why, how etc… I try to understand how people live around the world and what ancient civilizations achieved. Most of all, I try and improve my life with a better perspective about the planet, people and geography.
What were some of your favorite experiences?
There are plenty to pick from after four months but some of the best were:
- Experiencing Angkor Wat at a planned time when not many other tourists were around -dawn and dusk.
- Going up to North Eastern Cambodia and doing a jungle trek for two days.
- Following Ho Chi Minhs trail and discovering how the guerrillas hid their weapons.
- Motorcycling through the Madulkiri district and exploring the plantations around this area and seeing people smuggling animals.
- Exploring the ancient ruins at Jo Jakarta like Pramanand temple and Borobadur temple.
- Tasting spiders and realizing this is what people had to eat during the time of the Khmer rouge genocide out of desperation.
- Experiencing an emotional time at the killing fields in Phnom Phen and getting to fire Kalashnikovs and Ak47s at a firing range.
- Nervously walking up to the active volcano Anak Krakatau.
- Getting stuck in the middle of the ocean in a small motorboat trying to call frantically for help from passing fishermen.
- While having a meal along the streets and riding on local transport I was always entertained by local buskers, young guys jumping in with a guitar and their voices.
- Exploring the limestone caves of southern Cambodia and enjoying the beaches of Shinoukville, and seeing the killing fields of Phomn Phen.
- Camping along volcanic lakes and enjoying the sun drenched beaches in Kanawa Island and snorkeling and diving in its clear water with beautiful marine life and corals.
- Most importantly – having Indonesian women and men falling in love with my long nose. Women clad in Niquabs calling me Shah Rukh Khan, nearly getting married away on a bus to someone’s daughter. For an average looking guy it was too much to handle!!!
What advice would you give someone who wants to take a similar Big Trip?
- Travel because you enjoy it and not to tick places off a checklist.
- Travel for yourself and not just for dinner table conversations.
- Roughly plan your budget and stick to it, allowing for emergencies.
- In regards to itineraries have a rough one in mind but keep it as open as possible.
- Read up about the places that you are visiting and have a general talk to other travelers and do not let them completely dictate your plans and perspectives.
- Be street smart and respectful of the local culture especially in terms of dress code.
- Just go there and see the world.
What was your most challenging time?
Having to come home to reality!!! The only motivation for me was to earn more money for future journeys.
In what ways has this Big Trip changed you?
My outlook towards a certain group in society had changed and I realized that they are a lot more open and broadminded than the media makes them out to be, or a few fanatical people make them out to be.
Falling in love with volcanoes. And realizing furthermore that being patient and content with what you have is of prime importance.
Is there anything you would do differently in planning or during travel?
Plan for a longer journey! Probably much longer time in Indonesia as I was not aware of all the Islands and had not read up on how difficult it would be to get to them.
Thanks Ganesh for this interview, advice, and for being the first, best guide in India. Don’t forget to check out Ganesh’s travel company: Wheel Life Travel.