This trip will be different for me in several ways. First and foremost, I will not know the language at all. The closest I’ve come to his was in the Gaeltacht in Ireland (where English could still be heard, and I had a guide) or in Turkey (where I couldn’t eavesdrop on local conversations, but my English, French and Arabic were more than enough to understand others and make myself understood.) I will be accompanied by representatives of Kerala Tourism who speak English so I am sure all official events will be translated for me, but the window for spontaneous local interactions outside if the mold has gotten that much smaller. This means I will have to devote more energy than usual towards putting myself in a position to see beyond the veneer and meet regular people.
Speaking of the veneer, this trip will be quite unlike what most people experience in India. For one thing, I will be in the richest state in all of India, a place where even major cities feel small and familiar. There will be less crime, fewer people, and a generally different vibe than most people associate with the subcontinent. Beyond that, I am going to be on a government-sponsored tour with the intent of promoting tourism. Their goal is for me to have a wonderful time and tell everyone in the world about it, which means that they have a vested interest in keeping any unpleasantness away and keep everything in line. That being said, I’m used to state-sponsored trips and funding the real beneath the veneer.
I plan on talking about their attempts to keep the veneer intact. That’s their job and there’s nothing wrong with that, but my job is to dig deeper and be upfront wig my audience about all my experiences. Additionally, in my opinion, the logistics of being on a sponsored trip are a major part of this experience, so you can expect to hear about them, good and bad. I feel that transparency is the least I can offer to all of you who are not only readers, but supporters who voted and promoted me into this trip in the first place.
In light of that, here’s another dose of transparency for you. Many people have been asking me what it means for the trip to be sponsored. Answer: they’re paying for me to be there. But how exactly does that work? I don’t have all the details yet (that seems to be the trip motto) but here’s what I know so far:
What Kerala Tourism is paying for:
- Half of the cost of my round-trip flight, up to 700 USD (to be reimbursed)
- On the ground transportation (coach bus)
- Transportation to and from the airport
- Entrance into various attractions
What I will be/have been paying:
- Personal expenses like souvenirs and booze
- If I were traveling solo before or after, that would be on me.
- The other half of the round-trip airfare
- My medications (ugh, antimalarials, how I loathe you)
- My visa (10 year, multiple-entry tourist)
I mentioned that not only do I think the mechanics of a sponsored travel blogging trip are interesting, but I feel I owe it to my supporters to be really up front about everything, since I wouldn’t be going on this trip without all of you. To that end, while I have said thank you in person, on facebook, and via text to everybody who let me know they voted or promoted me, I’d like to send all my supporters a little slice of India in the form of a postcard as a way to say thank you. So, if you supported me and would like to recieve a postcard from my trip, send me your address! You can use facebook, DM on twitter, text me, or if you don’t actually happen to know me all that well (internet strangers and future in-laws, I’m looking at you!) you can email it to me at harrington [dot] delia [at] gmail [dot] com. I’m looking forward to getting to thank you all personally and to navigating the Indian postal system!
Some people have voiced concerns that this trip could be an elaborate hoax, or could go wrong in some way. Honestly, most trips can and do go wrong in one way or another, and that’s often when they’re the most interesting. I’m quite used to getting myself out of tricky situations at this point, so I don’t think there’s much I can do other than hiding my emergency cash and keeping my head on a swivel. I also think worries like this overstate the safety and predictability of other kinds of travel. A big university name can do a lot of things, but it can’t change whether or protect against pickpockets, no matter how reassuring the study abroad website is. And you wouldn’t want that, anyway. Life without complications and intrigue would be completely boring. Personally, I think it’s when we assume nothing could possibly happen to us that we are most at risk. That’s largely formed from my experiences and those of people I know, that most thefts abroad (and at home) happened when people were in traditionally safe tourist situations and let their guard down because of it.
Of course, if someone were to run a scam or otherwise mess with us, doing it to 27 people who spend their time writing on the internet is a terrible idea. What, like we’re not going to tell everyone about it, complete with pictures and video? I actually think most businesses and employees we encounter will be bending over backwards in hopes of a good, high-traffic review, to the point that all our reviews will need to be taken with a grain of salt since I doubt we’ll be treated like average, anonymous travelers. If something weird does happen, I can always just leave. I could fly back home, hang out with the other KBXers or go find Janine or several of the other amazing people in nearby areas who have offered to put me up if I come through their way. After all, life is a grand adventure or nothing, and I’m going to choose the grand adventure every time.
Now you guys know everything I know about this trip. I fly out of Logan on Friday evening, stopping in JFK and then Dubai. I’ll be posting short updates to instagram and twitter until I get my hands on some wifi, when I’ll be able to update this blog and my brand spanking new facebook page. If you are interested in my writing (here or otherwise), photography, or travels, please consider liking the page.
See you on the other side!
Top image is via Kerala Tourism