George Harrison or some famous person connected with the Beatles said, off-hand, “India will change your life.” Perhaps many people have voiced that thought. The idea of India and inner life has remained with me for a long time.
Years before I had the opportunity to visit India, my friend Craig and I visited Indiana. I smile now at the irony of comparing India with Indiana. Although the changes in my life were on different levels, they were perceptable and life changing. Indiana was the right place to visit at the right time in both my friend’s and my life. Both of us had just gone through some deeply serious, personal losses and were ready to move on with our lives.
Our main destination was Santa Claus, Indiana. The mainstream oriented “Holiday World” theme park was the perfect place to let go of our worries. We felt like boys in a toy shop as we took in the rides and attractions.
From Santa Claus, we took up Craig’s brother’s invitation to visit his home in South Bend. The three of us traveled south of the city to “Potato Creek Park”. It’s one of those “typical” state parks many Americans are familiar with. We had borrowed a small motorboat for the weekend and spent our time boating, getting sunburned, and then hiking on some nature trails. Craig’s brother is an accomplished outdoorsman, so I learned a few things about Indiana’s outdoors environment. In a personal way, all three of us shared two very meaningful days together.
In the late 1990s, I met and befriended Graham from the UK. For a few years, we became travel partners. I visited him in London, twice. He visited me a couple of times in Nebraska. It was with Graham that I visited India.
India did not disappoint me, but many of my preconceived notions about that country turned out not to be true. India is more modern than many Americans suppose, and it is more harsh and difficult in many places than I had imagined. Ultimately, India did change my attitudes about life, but in ways I could never anticipate. It is a country I dearly want to revisit.
I’m thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had to travel around the United States and internationally. Regardless of the destination, a part of me positively changed. Better yet, I made some new friends.
My idea of tourism is “personal tourism”. That is, go somplace and develop a friendship while you learn about a different place. I’ve never stayed in large, Americanized hotels and resorts. This is partially due to the fact that I’m not wealthy. Also, in my opinion, if I want to stay in a westernized locale, why bother to fly overseas? If I want to visit an American resort, I’ll go to Fort Lauderdale, not Mumbai.
Again, that’s only my opinion. Some people prefer package tours and find great pleasure in that type of tourism. Perhaps I’ll try that mode someday. Yet, there are many places on my bucket list. I hope to visit them and make new friends with “personal tourism”.
Today is World Tourism Day. The event commemorates the adoption of the outline of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, on September 27, 1970. The stated purpose of the UNWTO is to advocate for and raise awareness of the role of tourism. The hope is to improve social, cultural, political and economic values around the world.
It will be interesting to find out how global tourism will adapt to meet the challenges of global climate change. Such areas as sustainable travel and lodging, preservation of biodiversity, and ethics will undoubtedly need to evolve. The UNWTO will be exploring these and other issues in the coming year.
I hope that if you are planning a vacation trip near or far, that you will include opportunities to expand your awareness of people and places in the world. India and Indiana aren’t the only places that will change your life.