You hear it time and time again: Travel changes your perception of the world. Recently, I was struck once again by just how true this is.
My perception of India has been gleaned from fellow travelers and several acquaintances that lived in India, mostly in large cities. Having never visited, I lived vicariously through those who had. My image of India was a patchwork formed from their stories, and photographs of bustling city markets, throngs of people along the Ganges, streets packed with cows, carts and scooters, arid landscapes, dense jungles, obscene luxury and striking poverty.
For all I knew, all of India looked something like this. The very last thing I had come to expect to see in a photo from India was a wintry scene with Tudor Revival architecture and mountains decked in snow dusted firs and pines. With the click of a mouse, though, I was reminded that it doesn’t matter what I expected to see because there, on (the now defunct) BarrelHopping.com, that’s exactly what I did see.
At first glance, I assumed it was a quaint European city square. The caption, however, informed me otherwise: It’s the Christ Church of Shimla in northern India. In disbelief, I went straight to Wikipedia and then to pages by and devoted to the church. Delighted by my “discovery,” a new destination was entered in the notebook that passes as my “travel bucket list.”
For me, that’s the very point of travel, whether first hand or vicariously: Discover the world as it is. Not as you imagine it to be. Not as you expect it to be. Let it shake and shape your perceptions. Let it delight you. Let it leave you thirsty for more.