Not every baby boomer is able to travel — yes, we recognize that there are nagging little issues like money, and time — but for those of you who can, why stick to the standard fare? Keith Hicks and his wife Ina didn’t; they opened their minds and went halfway around the world from their home near Washington DC and haven’t regretted it for a moment. Keith’s advice to readers at BoomerCafé? Open yours.
If you’re a baby boomer with the time and the means to travel at all, there is no reason you can’t travel to faraway places.
My wife Ina and I earlier this year visited India and had a wonderful time. But I offer a word of caution — you must travel with an open mind. If you don’t like the idea of seeing poor people living in makeshift homes built with scraps of material, or couldn’t tolerate seeing litter strung across the roads, or wouldn’t be able to look at beggars asking you for money, then I suggest you skip India and focus on the midnight buffet offered on the typical Caribbean cruise.
But if you think you can abide all of that, India is a fascinating place with a diverse culture. Most group tours, including ours, made up primarily of baby boomers, will visit the capital of New Delhi, the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, and the “Pink City” of Jaipur. New Delhi offers everything you’d expect in a big city, including terrifying traffic. More and more citizens in this city of nearly ten million souls own cars and the road infrastructure just can’t keep up. If the street has three lanes, expect the local drivers to improvise and turn those three lanes into at least eight.
We learned that Indian drivers need three things to successfully drive: 1) A good horn, 2) Good brakes, and 3) Good luck. We were so happy to have a tour operator providing local transportation, and I won’t complain again about the traffic in our home area of Washington DC.
Every good tour to New Delhi will stop by the Birla House, where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948; obviously an important sight within the city. However I enjoyed our visit to a Sikh temple the most. After extensive European travel, I was expecting something similar to a cathedral – an altar of some sort, a place for worshippers to pray, etc. But our guide also took us behind the scenes to the massive kitchen where more than 500 midday meals are prepared each day, free for anyone regardless of religion. Walking among the huge kettles where the vegetables are cooked and seeing the volunteers prepare the breads, I was impressed. Sikhs, we were told, believe that everyone, regardless of income or class, has something they can contribute to the temple: money, food, or time.
In Agra, the Taj Mahal is THE iconic image of India. I consider this beautiful building to be the ultimate photo op. You just can’t stop taking pictures. Expect large crowds any time of day, so don’t imagine having the place to yourself.
Jaipur is a city that probably most people outside of India have never heard of, but it offers a great deal to the inquisitive mind. Jaipur is home to the world’s largest stone sundial, accurate to within two seconds. That’s awesome. Even more awesome though is learning that the sundial, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in 1738, about the same time that Benjamin Franklin, then a British citizen, was a young man printing newspapers in Philadelphia.
If you’re a boomer, expand your horizons. Go where you never thought of going before. Open your mind and a fascinating nation like India will astonish!