Sensory Overload in India: Challenging The Extreme

I just wrapped up one of the most interesting, fascinating, and toughest trips that I have ever taken in my life, a  15 day trip through Rajasthan.  The main reason to visit India wasn’t only to experience one of the most varied places in the world, but also to see the viability of opening a business here through my Day Trading Academy.

I have been in India for nearly two months now exploring the entire northern region with side trips to Mumbai and Goa.

How could someone come to India and not experience Mumbai and Goa?

I always try to arrive at a new destination with no preconceived notions but that couldn’t be possible in India.  Being heavily entrenched with day trading and new international investment ventures it was going to be nothing short of captivating to experience one of the largest emerging economies in the world.

There has been nothing short of amazing experiences  as I continue to explore the country.

Much of the content I have read about India has been nothing but positive reviews and comments about how amazing it is (excluding the infamous Delhi Belly).  I perhaps have experienced something a bit different than most or other travelers just focus on the positive aspects of the country.

I am now roughly two thirds into my trip through India and what I have experienced is an extreme case of travel on both ends, positive and negative.

People of India

Meet my home boys, Rajeesh and Prajeet

There apparently is no middle ground in India; things either work or they don’t, its first class or backpacking, things are either spotless or filthy.

In India everything is magnified; everything from the culture, diversity, and colors, to the poverty, unpleasant smells, and the filth.

India is what I would now describe as a 4th world country.

I have been living overseas in so called 3rd world countries a large portion of my life being born in Venezuela, living in Sicily (a 3rd world state in a 1st world country back then), and on this current trip around the world living in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Kenya  and Ethiopia.

The people of India have been nothing short of curious, welcoming, and intriguing at every turn.

It seems there is an infatuation with those of the fashionable pasty white skin from the west.  Anywhere I have visited, whether it be the financial capital of Mumbai, the beaches of Goa, or the desert of Rajasthan, I have been stopped continuously by the locals to have my picture taken.

Kids and teenagers have wanted to shake my hand and at times there were entire groups of school kids and families that would stop for a picture of me.

City Gate Jaipur

The city gate to the old city in Jaipur, India also known as the pink city

It may be my oversized build, the wide shoulders I received at birth or the extending waste line accentuated by my American habits.  Most Indians are just curious to know where you are from. They are extremely friendly people with a basically passive nature.

I have stayed in numerous hotels ranging from 5 star palaces previously owned by kings to hotels owned and operated by locals.  The differences in amenities and quality is quite drastic.

In the west there is a standard of service that if a hotel doesn’t provide it will soon find itself out of business.

In India the 5 star hotels offer all your common western conveniences like hot water, running electricity, internet, and edible food.  All at once.

Once released from the careful care of 5 star expectations you no longer can expect these modern conveniences.  Hot water will either work, be available for a lengthy 5 minutes, or not be available at all.  But what am I thinking, we don’t need those modern western conveniences.

We can take cold showers, we only use internet for Facebook not getting any work done, and we don’t really need electricity now do we? Even the driver that was in charge of touring us around  Rajasthan even commented on many of the memorable breakfasts that were provided.

Any traveler that chooses to come to India should know that the standard of service is much lower than most 3rd world countries.  I normally wouldn’t talk about this aspect of travel but in India it is part of the charm of visiting the country, said no one, ever.

The sites, aromas, history, and people that you will encounter will simply astound even the most experienced traveler.

Local shop in Udaipur

New friend in Udaipur, India

The smells that arise from the endless array of spices and tea as you walk from neighborhood to neighborhood will captivate your imagination.  The sites of what seems the brightest colored clothes (women usually wear the customary Saris) will beg the question of how they find such bright colors which happen to be all natural.

The food which at its rawest form are basic ingredients of potatoes, wheat, and rice, are brought to life by the variation of spices used throughout the country.

The intricate details of architectural work throughout the many forts & palaces is unfathomable.  The endless fields of yellow mustard flowers in the countryside will contrast ever so slightly with the goats, cows, and women working in the fields.

But unless you contract the luxuries of a private car you will be smitten by the efficiency of a 4th world country.  I have experienced both ends of the spectrum and have to say that in the end India is nothing short of remarkable.

In order to see what the country has to offer there will be an endless array of surprises that most travelers never talk about.  As a traveler myself I would want to know what I am getting myself into.  On the positive end of the scale I can describe the landscapes, history, people, and culture of India to the time I first visited Machu Picchu or the Perito Moreno Glacier in Calafate Argentina.  Even though the pictures are plastered all over the internet when you see the scale of these tourist attractions you hesitate for a moment, take a deep breath, and only in a small whisper say to yourself WHOA.

No picture, detailed account, or video can prepare you for what you are going to see in India.  It also seems that no travel guide or firsthand account will also highlight what you will have to go through to actually see some of the most beautiful & incredible things you can find in our modern world.

It is truly Incredible India.


  1. Nicely written and very convincing to say the least. One of your best articles so far. Thank you for sharing those powerful words and enlightening the world about India!

    1. You’re an idiot if this is how you describe India, I am from NY and spent a month there and if you travel first class you get an experience in luxury and culture like nowhere else… you need to stop pedaling your business and tell people how it really is… I am sure you won’t post this

    1. It is definitely true. i miss India whenever i manage to get out of the country. Being an Indian it continues to surprise me every time I get out of my corporate life and venture into smaller cities of India. I did a post on this some time back will post a link if I can find it. Anyways patience and sense of humor will get you a long way in India.
      Here in India we accept what happens and then try to work best with it. You will find all kinds of contraptions and transport. India can really get your inhibitions out of you.
      Have a great time traveling.

  2. I have to be honest. I’ve never been drawn towards India or have had much interest in visiting. I’ve seen pictures and I admit it looks beautiful but just not something I want to put on the top of my list.

    I do however feel like you’ve shed a different light on the reality of how India is. haha I’m actually more curious about it now. Great post, looking forward to what may ensue if I make my way there someday!

    Happy travels!

  3. Marcello, I couldn’t agree more. Having just finished up a 10 day trip through Rajasthan a few months ago, I know EXACTLY what you mean. I’ve tried to describe it to people who haven’t been there, but really, I can’t. The best I could come up with was “It’s absolutely amazing when you’re above the street level. The palaces, fortresses, and monuments are amazing. Eating dinner on a rooftop restaurant is amazing. But when you’re on the street level, it’s absolutely crazy, stressful, and taxing.”

    Most of the times, they still don’t understand, which makes it all the nicer to talk to people who have been there. Loved susip’s quote!

  4. Hi Marcello! Remember me, Luzvienne as you call me, from the Philippines. You describe India in a superlative form…seemingly not being able to really describe it… That simply makes India amazing! I’m following your travel. Hope you get to post it in LinkIn.
    Take care always when you travel. God bless you more!

  5. You could’ve visited Kerala too. Even though it’s in India, the conditions are pretty different. I’m not saying that it’s same as western countries, but it is more developed than other Indian states.

  6. I must say i have travelled to over 80 countries and although
    i was in india 20 yrs ago it will always stand out as one of those places
    you can never explain unless you were there almost like a dream or a
    live cartoon.Also if you meet someone that was there you both have that
    instant universal look of aww

  7. Thank you for the enlightening article on India… it is on my To Do List of places to see! 🙂 I like your down-to-earth outlook on the places you visit… it gives me even more of the travel fever than I already have! Thanks, Marcello! 🙂

      1. Marcello, your article is interesting but only partially true. Your experience is based on knowing one guy who toured you around is my guess. In India, its all about getting the right connect, and you will be amazed. I travel more than 100 days every year all over the world, and the service level in India is far more than in Europe or US, even most places in Asia. Just guess your experience is different than mine.

  8. Hey there! Didn’t know you were in India! This seems like a pretty balanced article on India although I’d have liked to see some of the stuff that worked and some of the stuff that failed miserably (I’m sure running hot water is a very … basic example, there are far more ridiculous things happening in India!). On the other hand you have online cab booking and stuff that works like a breeze in New Delhi and feels very first world.

    India is a country of massive contrasts. I like to play on the ‘Incredible India’ tagline by saying ‘Incredulous India’.

    Also, that blue sky in Jaipur looks very good. I haven’t seen a day like that in New Delhi for a long long time (courtesy: horrendous air pollution).

    There are certain kinds of things that you can do in India with great ease and certain others which will result in you getting reduced into a puddle of frustration. Want to sell cupcakes on the street ? No problem, just go out and do it! Want to start anything that requires any kind of license ? Good luck with that bro 😛

    Here’s something I recently posted on my facebook status regarding India:

    Here’s a conundrum!

    Born in Agra, don’t have my name on by birth certificate.

    Want to get it amended.

    Called a lawyer.

    Lawyer said, send me a scanned copy. Sent it.

    Called back and lawyer says. Can’t do your work.

    Why not ?

    Your birth certificate has a military address on it.

    So what ?

    Well, the municipality doesn’t work without bribes, but they don’t accept bribes from military personnel.

    But, I’m not from the military. And if they won’t take a bribe, why don’t they just do it without a bribe ?

    They just don’t do stuff without a bribe.

    Well, so how can we do it right ?

    There’s no way to do it right, you don’t have any option, you have to come here in person and spend a few days here.

    But can’t you help in any way ?

    No, please, I can’t work with you, sorry, thank you, thank you.

    Oh come on, what’s the problem ?

    I don’t know you, I’ve never met you..

    I can come and meet you..

    No, no, please, thank you thank you *click* disconnects the phone.

    So I can’t get my birth certificate amended via legal means and because of my military background I can neither do it via illegal means. But the Agra municipality only accepts illegal means….


  9. Born in India and having spent 8 years in the USA (and visited over 20 countries), i can safely say that India is Incredible!!!

    It has the most varied sites in the world in one country (forests, deserts, snow mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches, spirituality, festivals, history i.e. forts and monuments; wildlife and people!)

    Guaranteed you cannot see it all in ONE lifetime…….

  10. i found India incredible, dirty in lots of places but our accomodation was always clean and good.
    food fantastic sometimes like in Varanasi by the Ganges you could feel sick but acccomodation overlooking there fabulous. Jaipur fantastic incredible, Goa fabulous New Delhi best food but dirty , Mumbai a busy colourful city not to be missed. on the whole if you are a traveller not a tourist you will love it vibrant exciting.

  11. hi marcello,
    i got sensory overload when i saw the photos you took in india.i hope to travel there sometime
    also! incredible also! thank you!

  12. What a coincidence because I’m heading to India for a month at the end of June! One of the area I wanted to visit was Ladakh up north in the Kashmir region but have yet to decide where to spread my time with my remaining 3 weeks. Have travelered extensively by myself all over but India was one country I was hesitant to do alone. But my sweet husband forgot that bit of information when he bought me this surprise but will not be joining me. Any recommendations on how to spread my time for 3 weeks would be greatly appreciated. And what advice for female traveling alone. Thank you! Maybe our paths may cross if you’re still there.

  13. Hello again Marcello,
    I continue to read your blog with interest, and especially now that we are literally within a couple of weeks away from being in India for the first time. I have to admit to both anticipation and trepidation. And while I have been to many 3rd world countries, I think that India will probably top the list as one of the most challenging destinations in the world.
    Thanks for your insights, and hope to cross paths with you on the road one day.

  14. Hi thank you for the compliments on my country. I hope you did get the chance to visit Kerala, the north east like Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim which are heaven on earth with no dirt and filth, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir and Spiti which are also astoundingly beautiful………

  15. hi! I recently spent 6 months in India traveling from a base in Delhi. I went to Jaipur, Agra, Kashmir, Rishikesh, and Dharamsala. I agree with you that things are either good or bad, with no middle ground. There’s a lot I enjoyed about the culture and the people, but equal amounts I began to discover that were not goofat all. Glad you had your experience 🙂

  16. Hey Marcello!
    Great to see you having fun whilst seeking to open up an academy in India! I love the true and gritty write up! Its exactly as you decribed it and being an Indian Westerner born in Kenya, I love my culture and country! :-), India is as enchanting and diverse as its cultures and people, it is amazing!

    I would most definitely be interested in being apart of the DTA India. I have crossed many emails with Lindsay Duff as I was thinking of coming over to Columbia to do the course or, do it online. But I have decided to travel a bit first and will be in Mumbai my self from 12 November for 6 weeks travelling tthe south… May hit Sth America from February onwards

    Who knows we may cross paths …si dios quiere! 🙂

    Un abrazo y gracias por haber compartido tu experiencia!

  17. Those who I’ve known to have traveled to India have had some of the same experiences. Due to what it has to offer provides a different travel experience.

  18. Love this article and the blog as a whole! My 16 year old daughter and I are going to India in 3 weeks, by ourselves. People think I’m nuts! I think if we are careful and prepared, we could have an amazing, maybe even life-changing experience!

  19. Dear Marcello,

    We just returned from a brief tour of India (the Golden Triangle) and found your descriptions in this and related posts to be spot-on. The best, the worst — no middle ground.

    When we have recovered our senses of humor and thickened our skin a bit to be able to stand being outright cheated, ever-so-politely lied to, and assailed by the sights of pitiful street kids, stray animals and slums, as well as the smells (this sounds unduly negative, I know) we will try again — doing as you did, hiring a driver and probably a guide and staying only in 5-star hotels bearing in mind your cautions. It is a fantastic country and we want to explore it.

  20. Dear Traveler,

    You said india is 4th world country. on which parameters you said? I think you are wearing spectacles of ‘westerner’ and seeing eastern world. We live in diverse world and india is diverse country, just imagine we indian people managing almost 5000 languages, N number (might be 1000s of different cuisine , chicken tika is not only the dish of india!!!) of foods, every 50-100 km language and customs differ in india above all billion plus people living with almost all religion.

    Every 12 year we are managing world largest human gathering that can be seen from even moon!! your first world universities like havard and other doing reaserch on it.

    India is first country in the world which send a satellite to Mars in first attempt (and you ignorant westerne said its 4th world country)

    See, people in india having smile all the time that doesn’t mean they are curious to westerner. In our culture guest is God( atithi devo bhava) so we welcome every one, its not about ‘white skin curiosity’ we give same treatment to people from Africa as well.

    Street view is not actual depiction of india!! India is most dense place in world so we have to live with such chaos street.

    Smile and happiness matters in india whether person rich or poor.

    india is not for vacation (go hawai for this)!! India is for learning and exploration!

  21. Please don’t leave India without going to see Mother Teresa’s House. I have heard that it is a life changing experience. You will always be able to say that you actually went to the place that Mother Teresa started her ministry in Calcutta.

    Contact Information

    Many people have found volunteering to be the experience of a lifetime. Volunteers are welcome to help the sisters in their service to the poorest of the poor for a week, a month, or longer.
    For those wishing to volunteer in Calcutta, please write directly to Sister in-charge of volunteers, who is presently in charge of the volunteers at our Motherhouse:
    Missionaries of Charity
    Sister in-charge of volunteers
    54/A A.J.C. BOSE ROAD
    CALCUTTA 700016
    Or call: Tel : 91-33-2249-7115 or 91-33-2217-2277

  22. Got to agree that India is a country of extremes. Now I’m not sure about 4th world country. If so, then what are most of African countries? 5th, 6th? To me, India is much much more developed than most African countries. It takes time to get accustomed to it, as culture is very different from western one and overpopulation makes it hard in the beginning, but once you get used to it, the country reveals a lot of beauty and conveniences that you can’t even dream of finding here in the West.

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