Travel Tips: An India Primer For The IPC
A Brief Introduction for Permies and Other Responsible Travelers
Many people are starting to make their plans for the next International Permaculture Convergence(IPC), which will happen from 25th November to 1st December, 2017 in India. There are a few things you might find interesting to know beforehand – especially if you’ve never been to India before.
In the following series of articles, Rico Zook and Nina Osswald will offer insight and advice for both the experienced and first-time visitor to India. Rico has been traveling and working in India for the past 13 years. Nina has lived and worked in India for many years. They have worked in remote Himalayan villages, and on the foreigner-saturated beaches of Goa, traveling by plane, train, bus, auto, motorcycle, cart, and foot all over India. They have done wetland restoration for wildlife and worked in slums and intensive urban settings. Together they bring extensive experience and knowledge to this series of articles. Nina and Rico are currently organizing a Permaculture Design Course and the first permaculture teacher training course ever in India, both to be offered before the IPC.
India! It conjures up images of exotic locales and noisy streets. Of wildlife and humanity in rich, epic stories. Of IT and VVVIP’s, Nuclear arms, and Super Deluxe Executive buses (a Volvo). Of spices, colors, and markets bursting with activity. Of beaches full of hippies and Bollywood dance numbers. However, what is India really like? Is there more than worn out images and stereotypes? What will one actually find and actually experience while there? How can one navigate all of its densities, diversions, and diasporas for interest, fun, and safety? In the following series, we will give a brief, though informed, introduction to traveling in India, as well as information about culture, environment, and society that are essential for responsible and appropriate travel in the complex and crowded reality that is modern day India.
India is both a place of familiarity and singularity, of contrasts and contradictions. If you think of every possible thing that happens in all the countries of the world, all of it will also happen in India. India is like every other place on the planet, yet nowhere else is like it. And though every place has its uniqueness, India’s difference is different from any other place’s difference. It is like that. It contains the most amazing and beautiful situations and happenings, as well as the most brutal and ugly of realities. You can be walking down the street with the smells of heaven wrapping you in bliss, then with the next step have the most disgusting, vile smells smear themselves across you, literally.
During my first year in India, I had my particular iteration of this struggle. I wanted to move through India with the least stress and strain possible, to have relaxed exchanges with those I encountered. However, my expectations, my assumptions of viewpoints, and my direct nature caused it to feel like every interaction was thick with resistance, with a deliberate density that pulled, pushed, and grappled with me. It seemed a way of life. I was quickly getting worn out. Then, an American friend that was living in India at the time told me, “Whatever energy you put out will immediately be reflected back to you.” This insight changed my experience immediately. There were still challenges, but now I was relaxed about them. I was able to not take things so personally. I had more space and acceptance inside of myself to be more active rather than reactive.
This was my first understanding for creating the experience I wanted while in India: the baggage you carry with you is the baggage you will have to deal with. And, India is more than happy and capable of immediately, directly, and repeatedly putting it into your face until it is dealt with.
This also contains another reality of India that is very different from the West. In the West, we like to hide things away. Our trash, piping, wires, old people, sickness, death, and so much more are hidden from sight. In India, everything is visible, everything is in your face. While this can be challenging for a Westerner, it is also something to appreciate and deal with.
The last ‘reminder’ in this introduction to traveling in India is really the starting point of the journey. And, it is very permacultural. The place we must start, and the thing that we should have with us the entire journey, is fundamentally and always Awareness; knowing where you are and what is happening. While this should be true anytime and anyplace in the world, all self-respecting and authentic travel primers will specifically and directly remind the reader of this. You are responsible for yourself, and you are going to have to make decisions for yourself. You are the one on the journey and in the play. The best outcomes are created from thoughtful and continuous observation. You will be in a different place, different culture, and having a great time. The deeper you look, the more you will find, learn, and gain while more safely and more easily moving through, and returning from, your travels. In India, there will be more than a lot of new things, amazing things, and crazy things going on around you. How you interact with them is up to you and will create your experience.
Over the coming months we will offer insights and practical advice to prepare you for a trip to India, for the IPC or any adventure.
By Rico Zook, Edited By Nina Osswald
RESOURCE LINKS and ADDITIONAL READING
Aranya Agricultural Alternatives: An environmental and developmental organization and host of the IPCIndia 2017.
Article on the history of permaculture in India:
Permaculture India Network (public Facebook group):
Permaculture India [Aranya Foundation] (closed Facebook group):
Sulins: A platform for sustainable living projects in India.
Bhoomi College: Courses, weekend programs, conferences and workshops on ecological living outside Bangalore.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE): Online portal and publisher of the fortnightly Down to Earth Magazine.
The Alternative: Online magazine on alternatives and sustainable living.
Scroll.in: An independent news and information portal.
Better India: A “good news” website on social, economic and ecological developments.
Indiamike: Possibly THE most useful internet forum for India travellers.